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Meet Craig Broek of The Table in South Denver

Today we’d like to introduce you to Craig Broek.

Craig, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
In the fall of 2010, my wife, Jeanine, and I planted the seeds of a vision for a new expression of church. I was a pastor of a suburban New York City church at the time but we both sensed it was time for something new. Jeanine was working as a farmer at a local CSA Farm in northern New Jersey and we began wondering and dreaming about what a combination of farm and church might look like. We knew a couple of people who encouraged us to consider pursuing these dreams in a new place – like Denver. We made a visit in October 2010, and within a month began making plans to make the move. Our vision then, and still today, was to present our neighborhood with a tangible expression of grace. We wanted to create a community that cared deeply for each other, regardless of belief, a community that worked together for the benefit of their neighbors and neighborhood, and a community that desired to authentically engage with God.

Of course, to do that, we needed a tremendous amount of support from friends and family – still true today – and the work that we’ve been able to accomplish is largely due to the regular financial support of those same friends and family over eight years.

Once we landed in Denver, we began describing our desire to grow food and community to our neighbors. Some people heard the word “church” and kept us at a distance. We continued to express our desire to do something that benefited the community no matter what their faith expression was. Gradually neighbors began volunteering their yard space for us to grow vegetables in. They donate the space and the water, we provide the labor and inputs and together we grow food to share with our community. Along the way, we share meals together and grow in relationship with one another. Over time we have been able to share over 20,000 pounds of fresh, organically-grown veggies with our community, and have been able to earn the trust of many neighbors who may have been suspicious at first. We continue to work to bring people together, to share food and important life conversations together. And we’re now beginning to look to expand our ability to provide safe space for our community to be together and talk while also creating long-term financial sustainability for our organization.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has been a twisting one with ups and downs as well. The greatest risk of our work is how to be financially solvent with a family of 4 in Denver. It’s an expensive place to live. So while our focus is on being available to our neighbors and working to grow as much food as we can, we also continue to depend on a good amount of fundraising to make it work. Thankfully we haven’t had to miss a paycheck yet, but we’ve been close a couple of times.

Another struggle is the capacity to keep up with multiple gardens every summer. At our high water mark, we had close to 25 gardens. That was too many and our family and neighborhood relationships paid the price. We spread ourselves too thin. This year we have 12 gardens and hope to be able to provide quality and good quantity of food while also maintaining enough sanity to be present and engaging in our relationships.

We’ve also created something that people don’t necessarily have a box for. We’re sort of church, sort of farm but don’t fit either category very well. So we do a lot of re-defining of terms and trying to show our community what we mean by our three values of community, nourishment, and grace.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
The Table is known for growing food in partnership with our neighbors and sharing that food with food banks and via the Veggie Bike. The Veggie Bike is a mobile bodega that we park at local businesses and share food with anyone who walks up. We also encourage our patrons to share food with others who may need it in an attempt to impact as many lives as we can. All the food we grow is given away for free, although people do ask if they can make donations. We always encourage people to share food or good deeds as their donation.

I think what sets us apart and what we are most proud of is that we do our best to bring people together above all. Yes, we grow food and we share it, but we are most interested in creating a community where anyone can connect.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Denver is a good place but also a difficult place. As I mentioned earlier, it’s really expensive to live here. So operating a non-profit and making ends meet could be easier in a less expensive city. But the values of our work resonate with a lot of people in Denver. We connect with people who value healthy food and with people who are looking for meaningful friendships. I think the opportunities in Denver are found in that many people are relatively new here and are looking for ways to connect. Large cities can be surprisingly lonely and we hope to alleviate that pain for people.

If someone were starting out, I would encourage them to ensure strong support from the start. That support includes financial and relational support. If they were starting out in farming, I would encourage the city to make land available or protect it. The value of land is so high that non-profits will always have a hard time making it, especially people who depend on the land to provide for the mission of their organization.

Pricing:

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.denvertable.org
  • Phone: 720-465-4421
  • Email: craig@denvertable.org
  • Instagram: @denverthetable
  • Facebook: @denverthetable
  • Twitter: @denverthetable

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