By: Visit Denver
September 7, 2012
DENVER, CO – August 15, 2012 – Basil and beans, peppers and parsnip, radishes and raspberries — these are just some of the 2,000 plants now growing at the Blue Bear Farm at the Colorado Convention Center, one of the first farms ever planted on the grounds of a convention center, and certainly one of the largest. The 5,000 square foot farm is located on the sunny south side of the Center, where raised growing beds are blooming with a bumper crop of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs…all of which will be used by Centerplate chefs to deliver natural, healthy, and delicious dishes to convention delegates.
The first year, the downtown Denver urban farm is expected to yield a crop of 1,800 pounds of tasty fruits and vegetables, growing to 3,000 pounds next year, and ultimately 5,000 pounds. The farm can grow an astonishing variety of veggies, with 64 tomato plants, 41 zucchinis, 108 cabbages, 80 spinach plants, and 82 squash, among two dozen other plants. Two beehives will create fresh honey while fruit trees and berries will help make succulent salads and desserts.
“The chefs at Centerplate are going to have a field day, hitting the garden in the morning to pick fresh cilantro, kale, oregano, sage, rosemary, tarragon and thyme to use in all their convention center catering,” said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The Blue Bear Farm (named after the famous 40-foot Blue Bear sculpture that decorates the other side of the convention center) grew out of Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock’s Denver Seeds Initiative. This project has the mission of creating a local fresh food economy that spurs job creation and provides all Denver neighborhoods with access to healthy and affordable food.
“Centerplate is committed to delivering one of a kind, locally relevant hospitality programs for each community, and we’ve taken this community commitment to a whole new level with the Blue Bear Farm, blending tremendous local business opportunities with good-for-you new foods” said Centerplate CEO Des Hague.
The real winners, according to Scharf, will be convention delegates who bite into Colorado Green Chili, vegetable Paninis, fresh homemade salsa or a variety of salads, all made with vegetables and spices grown at the Blue Bear Farm. “When people think of Denver and Colorado they think of nature, the outdoors, clean air and big skies,” Scharf says. “It’s right on brand that we will also have some of the healthiest and best tasting fresh ingredients in our convention center kitchens, all grown right here on the property” he said.
The Blue Bear Farm is also a unique event space where attendees can enjoy a bite of fresh food and a sip of wine or beer, while meandering through the very garden beds that produced these tasty treats.
The Colorado Convention Center is turning into one big “green machine” for the city. The rooftop is covered with solar panels. There are two B-cycle stations (Denver’s large bike sharing program) at the Center, where delegates can hop on a bike and hit 850 miles of bike trails. In 2010, the Center received its certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings (LEED-EB), awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The achievement makes the Colorado Convention Center the largest LEED certified building in the state and one of the larger environmentally responsible and healthy meeting facilities in the U.S.
As part of the LEED process, the Colorado Convention Center made significant reductions in energy usage, as well as gains in the area of sustainable purchasing, green cleaning, building occupant comfort, and waste diversion. It is one of a few convention centers to have a full-time sustainability manager, who can work with meeting groups to give them a more “green footprint” while meeting in Denver.
In addition to their role as Convention Center hospitality partner, Centerplate also offers guests the Blue Bear Farm Food Truck, which is parked outside the convention center during major meetings. Specialties include Colorado Lamb Sliders (Colorado is the nation’s fourth largest producer of lamb) and Colorado Grass Fed Beef Sliders with roasted farm fresh Colorado chiles, and local Haystack Mountain Goat Cheese.
The Colorado Spring Salad includes tempura squash blossom, farm fresh raspberries, candied pecans, crumbled goat cheese and Colorado honey balsamic dressing. Or try their Farm Fresh Vegetable Panini made on a brioche from Aspen Bakery with grilled zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, roasted bell peppers, Blue Bear Farm Sweet Basil Pesto and fresh Mozzarella.
“The French coined the term ‘terroir,’ meaning ‘to taste the land’ – to eat foods and drink wines that have special characteristics of the region in which they were produced,” Scharf says. “With the Blue Bear Farm, we are bringing the concept of ‘terroir’ to the Colorado Convention Center, where you will be able to literally taste Colorado specialties that were grown right on the property and picked that day,” he said.