Littleton's Shepperd Community Garden


By mid-September, Littletonites are ready for a cooler breeze and a shift in our mindset. The transition from summer to fall brings on a sense of strength and fortitude. As a gardener, I’m drawn to the measure of life as these summer colors fade, and I focus my efforts on sharing the fruits of my labor. This season, I’ve had a healthy harvest from my little garden, and it has brought about an intentional commitment  to save foods for myself and others into jars for the future. Still, the story of fall is one of strength earned and the sacred relationships that are formed when a garden brings us together. This month, we are focusing on the Shepperd Gardens a.k.a. the Pea Patch and how it has had a positive ripple effect on our Littleton community.

Our community gardens are relatively new, but Littleton’s farming history goes back to the late 1800s. The Highline Canal was completed in 1882 and it provided improved irrigation to local farms east of the Platte River. It also gave them the possibility for larger scale farms with a greater variety of foods. In the late 1890s, local orchards reached their peak and put Littleton on the map as the beekeeping capitol of Colorado. Historically, Colorado’s harsh and short growing seasons required many locals to make great sacrifices and forced Littleton to make more improvements to city ditches and canals. However, it also helped Littleton residents discover a unique, communal strength amongst the difficulties in the rise and fall of our seasons.

The Littleton Community Gardens include the Shepperd Gardens (2171 W. Shepperd Avenue) and the Berry Gardens (703 W. Berry Avenue). They continue the Littleton tradition of cultivating the earth and bringing residents together with community improvement projects, while also donating thousands of pounds of food to 3 local food banks and our local GraceFull Café. Jeremy Major, the Grounds and Open Space Horticulturist for the City of Littleton, says that their “ultimate goal with the pea patch, moving forward, is to build stronger communal ties within the garden that will hopefully spread out to the rest of the community.”

The community gardens are already spreading communal ties through donations to GraceFull Café. These donations have a tremendous positive effect on their ability to serve Littleton, by providing warm and scrumptious meals to members of our community. Megan, the assistant manager at GraceFull, says, “Jeff Baessler is a resident that maintains a plot in the Pea Patch and grows specifically for GraceFull.  At least once or twice a week, Jeff brings by beautiful produce that we are able to use in many ways.  Over the summer, it’s been really special to feature local veggies in the weekly menu.  Recently, we had poached cod with local tomatoes for a lunch special and it was as gorgeous as it was delicious!  The peppers, squash and other vegetables add nutrition, beautiful color and extra love to our meals!”  There’s no question that gardening brings people together, but when the fruits of our labor bring our community together over a hot meal, it can be life altering. The impact of our Littleton community gardens has an even greater effect on us as a community than we may realize, and we see the pay-it-forward in action through generous donations from the gardens, and people like Jeff.

In addition to providing hot meals and a place to gather, GraceFull also uses those food donations to serve families experiencing food insecurity in the Littleton Public School District. Megan explains, “Once a month 22 families come by the café to pick up a partially prepared meal package.  The package focuses on seasonal produce and includes a main dish, healthy snacks and GraceFull menu staple items.  In the month of September, families picked up homemade pizza dough, sauce, cheese, pepperoni, salad greens and dressing, homemade applesauce (a neighbor brought honeycrisp apples from her tree!) and GraceFull pancake mix.  We were able to share freshly picked cucumbers and heirloom tomatoes from the Pea Patch which was such a wonderful and appreciated addition.”

Jeremy foresees many inspiring changes to the community gardens in the coming years and says, “next year we have hopes of incorporating educational sessions throughout the year on subjects like compost, cover crops, insects, etc. through local groups like A1 organics, Denver Botanical Gardens, and more.” He is most excited about the “serious interest from the gardeners to set up a children’s garden next year.” Through some of these programs, he hopes to foster a greater connection between gardeners and the Littleton community.

There is something so incredibly humanizing about the changing seasons, especially in community gardening. The change forces many of us to shift our focus from gardening to helping our community. While Littletonites anticipate this shift from the blissful chaos of summer to the focused intentionality of fall, let’s draw our attention to how our garden harvests can impact our entire community like our Littleton gardens.

If you would like to get more involved with the community gardens of Littleton, call Kelsea with the City of Littleton at 303-795-3766.