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Beverly Grant of Mo' Betta Green MarketPlace talks about food deserts and urban agriculture

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Urban farmer and entrepreneur Beverly Grant grew up in northeast Park Hill in the 1970s. She saw Denver's eastside go from being a thriving, middle-class black neighborhood to a food desert -- a community without a grocery store. And more recently, she's watched as longtime residents of Five Points, one of Denver's oldest African American neighborhoods, have been displaced by gentrification, moving out to Montbello and Green Valley Ranch. See also: Dahlia Square could become a garden spot -- but right now plans are sowing dissension

The changes in the area moved Grant to found Mo' Betta Green MarketPlace, a traveling farmers' market servicing various eastside neighborhoods.

When Grant first heard the term "food desert," she felt sad that the community she loved could be defined by such jargon. "We are not a food sovereign nation," she says. "It's hard when you can go to the store and get anything you want year round -- food flown half-way around the world. It's contributing to a breakdown in health."

Guided by the old adage "You are what you eat," she decided to build a business growing and selling locally grown, organic foods. Investing in sustainability and health produces true wealth, she says. As more people build community gardens and raise chickens, goats and bees in their back yards, she believes the culture is turning its back on industrial agriculture and returning to off-the-grid living -- which is not just a trendy concept, but the way things used to be.

She has trademarked the term "integrus" to describe foods that have a traceable origin, that are organic, local and delicious. Growing vegetables in hoop houses and fish in aquaponics systems are two examples of systems she admires. "With 80 percent of the world's population living in cities, urban agriculture is not a fad," she says. "It presents a creative challenge to us all to figure out how we can create food production in small spaces year round."

Find me on Twitter: @kyle_a_harris


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