The Urban Farm is a 501c3 non-profit organization located in Denver, CO
The Urban Farm, originally known as Embracing Horses, began as a horsemanship education program in the summer of 1993, when the founders started a small after-school program at a private boarding facility for fifteen inner-city children. The program was designed to provide at-risk children with a farm experience they could never otherwise have and to teach them a thing or two about horses.
In May of 1998, the program moved to Stapleton and adopted a broader mission – to provide agricultural and environmental education to urban children, youth and their families. That first summer was a challenge as The Farm site had no roads, no electricity, no running water and no buildings. A dedicated staff, group of motivated children, hundreds of volunteers, and an impassioned Board of Directors have transformed The Farm’s 23 acres into an education center with modest but utilitarian facilities that are home to more than 250 farm animals.
Since that time, The Urban Farm has exploded from a small program serving a few hundred children a year with very little public presence into a program providing direct programming for approximately 3,000 children a year and with a highly visible public presence. TUF now features a 20,000 square foot indoor teaching barn, a 20,000 square foot Children’s Garden with a greenhouse, 24 horse paddocks, many small livestock enclosures and a 5000 square foot education and office building adjacent to the Farm site.
Role of an Urban Farm
The purpose of The Urban Farm is to improve the lives of children living in high risk, urbanized neighborhoods by helping to create a sense of positive self-regard and self-reliance, a strong work ethic, and hope. An underlying value of TUF is that urban children, youth and their families will be exposed to the positive values of farm life — respect for the environment, appreciation for animals and plants, team spirit and the satisfaction of hard work leading to a job well done. A side effect of TUF is that kids find a sense of belonging and independence, in short, a sense of community. Children from all manner of circumstances find a “level playing field” at The Farm. A visitor to The Farm once remarked, “At first I thought you were trying to give kids a glimpse of farm life, now I see that you are trying to give kids a life.” TUF is a place where children can quietly grow up.
The Urban Farm is many things to many people. We make it possible for people to have a sense of the country in the city. Children whose families cannot otherwise afford to own a horse and all the land that is necessary to keep that animal, can still pursue their passionate love affair with equine (and swine, and bovine, etc). Children can learn about where food comes from (besides in a package from the grocery store). City kids can learn about the impact of their actions on our community’s efforts to conserve water, preserve open space, and protect wildlife while at the same time ensuring quality, clean, nutritional production of food. The Urban Farm has been an influential and outspoken proponent in the development of multi-use trails throughout the Stapleton and surrounding communities.
Since TUF began, the vast majority of kids continue to return year after year. National studies on the factors that inoculate children and youth against the pressures of the 21st century show that connectedness to a positive social group, relationships with caring adults who have expectations of youngsters, exposure to role models who demonstrate goal setting and planning toward successful acquisition of those goals are critical resilience factors. The Farm offers these connections and relationships in a myriad of ways that are the natural byproducts of children and adults working, learning, and growing together. Documented results of TUF’s programs have shown that our participants:
Of course, if you talk to the kids and their parents about the lessons learned, they would give a more personalized accounting of how the Farm affects them. The sense of community and belonging is something that almost everyone remarks on. Kids always talk about the relationships with the animals as being crucial. Many talk about the deep caring relationships they develop with the staff. One young man shared that the adults at TUF are like second moms – “you kick our butts when our moms aren’t around!” We think that was a compliment.
We have found that TUF provides a launching pad for our kids into science fields. The Farm has been particularly successful at directing girls and youth of color into science-related fields – biology, natural resources, veterinary science, zoology, etc.
Finally, the relationships that the kids develop with each other are long-lasting and powerful. Those friendships transcend racial, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers. Even as kids grow up and leave the relative safety of home and TUF, the Farm remains as a touchstone for them as they go to college, move away, join the military, and start families of their own.