It”s no coincidence that the Common Grounds coffee house logo is similar to the Irish Claddagh ring. The logo was developed by Lisa Rogers and family who opened the first Common Grounds (in Highlands neighborhood), in 1992, as a non-smoking alternative to the Denver bar scene. In tune with her Irish heritage, she incorporated the symbolic “hands of friendship” element of the ring with a welcoming cup of coffee. In the middle of her java inspired entrepreneurial pursuits, Lisa worked to get her MBA from University of Denver, Daniels College of Business, and still found the time to stay connected with her “inner green” through Irish set dancing, volunteer for Celtic Events, and squeaked in a side trip to the “Emerald Isle” that lasted four years. It was there, that her affinity for her favorite color began to move in a different direction “Vertical! Ballymaloe is a family run guest house accommodation, restaurant, and cooking school, in large country house on a working farm in east Cork, Ireland. Lisa lived nearby and was inspired by people whom were big proponents of local produce and farm products. When she returned home to Colorado she missed not having farms around, knowing the farmer or the source of quality locally produced food. Lisa wondered about the possibilities for significant food production in her urban Denver ” “do we even know what our own environment is capable of supporting?” is a question she asked. Her answer came last October as she watched an interview of Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc. ( “He said things in those thirty seconds that just hit me ” like, we can grow food in the city, we can grow it vertically, and that we can grow jobs.” Lisa gave a brief example of Vertical/Urban Farming and of multistory greenhouse which have been built around the world from Israel to Dubai. “On the south side of your building, up and down, becomes a greenhouse and the rest of your building you have living space…Another way to go vertical is not to plant on the ground, but instead you plant in greenhouses and you use every inch of space ” you have shelves going up as high as you can reach and you have pots hanging down from the walls so you turn a 2000 square foot space into 5000 square feet of growing area.” In addition to helping providing our city with a long term system of producing safe, quality, and accessible foods, Lisa gave an impressive list of potential environmental and life quality benefits that communities can reap by using urban farming techniques: Turning unused vacant lots into attractive, safe urban farms; Improving storm water collection; Composting the 30% of the waste stream that is organic waste; Cleaning up soil that is contaminated; Reducing air pollution; Reducing urban cooling energy requirements as a result of adding plants to the environment; Increasing biodiversity (Lisa gave one example: “We grow Tilapia fish, recycling the water to feed the plants. By the time the water circulating through all the plants returns to the fish it is clean and bubbly again making a closed system with really healthy plants and fish.”) Lisa and company have set a goal of 500 urban green houses in Denver over next five years, with them developing into community urban agriculture complex with year-round farm markets, cafes serving the produce grown inside, classrooms and business incubator space, an edible garden open to the public, seasonal festivals bringing together food and people. Not shy about rolling up her sleeves to make her vision happen, she has been busy educating people and locating projecting funding and entrepreneurs. “We”ve been talking with the City, making presentations, educating the City Council members on what Urban Agriculture and we”re hopeful that the new zoning coming out will allow for much Urban Agriculture.” In these harder financial times, the job creation aspect of urban farming is compelling to many, points out Lisa, “One farmer manages 100 acres right now in agriculture, but if you go into urban agriculture it switches 100 farmers for one acre ” and those are serious jobs,” This can be achieved from the reduction of expenses through the absence of chemical fertilizers, packaging and transportation costs. “For every one dollar spent on produce, 65% goes to transportation, pesticides and fertilizer, and 35% goes to packaging.” With Irish passion rising in her voice she continued, “For 40 years the farming industry has had a loss -every year! And it one of our strongest industries ” What a Joke! It”s not, it”s like Detroit telling us auto making is one are strongest industries, it”s not! This is about the business of farming ” this is about taking all those family farms that have sort of disappeared from America and bring them to the city, because guess what, that”s were they live now. And we have to bring the food to us, because right now we are getting our food from between 2 to 6 thousand miles away. So when you hear that it is only point two percent of our food that we are producing in Colorado that we eat ourselves- point 2 percent that”s really dangerous! During the Swine Flu outcry there were people on the radio saying that people should be stocking-up, that if the U.S. closed its borders to Mexico we would have about 2 days of fresh food in reserve.” “Go vertical, get in close and save money!” For more info:

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