We had the good fortune of connecting with Melinda Warner and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Melinda, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was raised the daughter of a baptist minister in rural Iowa. Folks from Iowa value hard work, honesty, privacy, integrity, and respect for others. I witnessed the depth of devotion, grit, tenacity and love of others through my family and the families around me in this small town atmosphere. My parents raised me to work hard and have a deep respect for others. Often my Dad worked in the church during the day, then another job in the evenings to support our family. My Mom raised five children and also worked part time. We knew they loved us and did all they could to keep our family happy, healthy and safe. Life was good growing up in Iowa. I am proud of my small town roots. As a young girl in Iowa I witnessed the small family farmer face challenges that could make or break them. The long days and hard work they put in was impressive to say the least. I remember the joy these families shared. They worked as a team. The long hard day in the fields or with the livestock was then rewarded with a hearty meal shared by all. The love of community and the willingness to join together to reach a common goal on the farm impressed upon me the importance of sticking together to see a chore through to completion and to look out for friends and neighbors. These values instilled in me from my parents, family and the friends and farmers around me helped to shape me as an adult. My role now as a volunteer garden leader in the Golden Community Garden draws upon these years of gardening and farming. My first job as a 13 year old kid was detasseling corn. This practice of pollination control was a sort of right of passage for tweens and teens. It was a tough job requiring early morning hours in wet corn fields. Being in and around the fields was at that time wet and cringeworthy. But today as I look back it was a opportunity to see, smell, hear the sights sounds of the rich Iowa landscape. My memories are deep and almost entirely vivid now. Today I lead a group of volunteers in a food bank garden. Each year the goal is to plan, prepare, plant, cultivate, harvest and share the most delicious, fresh vegetables. Harvest days are a reward in themselves as the beauty cultivated looks and smells amazing! The opportunity to share the abundance with community is a treasure. We humbly serve those in our Golden community and feel blessed to do so. Growing up in Iowa with strong values and ethics taught to me by my parents and community gave me the foundation upon which I grow today and share with my sweet daughter, Wendy.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Ten years ago as I sat in church the minister asked if anyone would like to take over the lead of a volunteer garden. I jumped at the chance to be a part of a large garden in Golden. This garden and all the many delicious vegetables are grown for the sole purpose of being donated to the food bank. The local churches got together and decided to build this garden and support the needs of our community providing better food access to those in need. Now the garden thrives and each year we donate hundreds of pounds of vegetables. We start in early March and work through October. It can be challenging due to variables like weather (crazy here in Colorado!), pests, weeds and basic organic gardening issues. Every year we are blessed with a bounty that surpasses our ambitions! Gardening is hard work. It requires dedication and love of the mission: to grow healthy food for those in need. My Iowa roots prepared me for the time and effort involved in gardening. I’ve learned to never stop learning, ask when you need help and rely on community for support. We are all in this together and when we work together to support our community everyone wins. Stop by the Golden Community Garden. You’ll be glad you did!

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Love a morning hike up North Table Mountain in Golden followed by coffee/breakfast at Cafe 13, Golden. Might enjoy an afternoon wandering around Cherry Creek North enjoying a bit of shopping at Covered and Bloom, followed by lunch or early dinner at Hillstone. Union Station and Larimer Square are favorite areas. Love to visit Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Art Museum to see a fabulous exhibit.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My parents, siblings and church community growing up nurtured gratitude, compassion and kindness to others. My husband and daughter have encouraged and inspired me each and every day. Their love lifts me! My friends (besties!) have shared wisdom, inspiration, and motivation to be the best me. My garden community at the Golden Community Garden have shared tips, tricks and physical assistance as often as I have needed (and way more)! Denver Urban Gardens, the umbrella of support for over 180 gardens in the Denver area, has come alongside me, our food bank garden team, the Golden Community Garden, and many gardeners in the Denver area teaching and training gardening and supporting the community through food access and school programs.

Instagram: melindawarner88
Other: meliowa88@aol.com

Image Credits
Ashley Ward, Sweet and Savory Studio, photographer

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutDenver is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.