Growing and thriving

by | Oct 8, 2018 | Fall 2018, Inside Mines | 0 comments

A geographic information system tool designed by Mines students is helping GoFarm, a Golden-based nonprofit, improve access to healthy, local food in Jefferson County.

“GoFarm has benefited so much from the students’ creativity and eagerness,” said Eileen O’Rourke, founder of GoFarm. “One of the things I’ve been so delighted with is the talent and enthusiasm of the students in GoFarm’s mission—there’s a real awareness of why local food systems are so critical.”

This summer, two new pickup locations for GoFarm’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) program opened in Arvada—the first locations that GoFarm selected using the data from the Mines GIS project. 

“Humanitarian Engineering and GoFarm share a commitment to bringing social justice to communities in need—in this case, food justice to communities that lack healthy food choices,” said Juan Lucena, director of the Humanitarian Engineering program at Mines. 

GoFarm is growing its CSA using a three-pronged approach—one distribution point is located in a high-income area, one in a low-income area, and then both are connected with as many nearby farmers as possible. The container in the high-income area helps subsidize the low-income one, both sets of customers know they’re helping farmers in their own community and the dollars all stay in the local economy.

“Originally the idea was that I wanted to present an approach to our community partner, Centura, to strategically rank 12 of their sites as potential locations for our next distribution point,” O’Rourke said. “What I wanted to know was could we integrate the various selection criteria such as market capacity, farm locations and greatest need for food access to determine the optimal location for GoFarm mission expansion.”

Mines students populated the tool with data on population density, income, land availability and existing food retailers. “You put all the data on the map and then you rank each site based on how well they line up with the criteria were looking for,” said Natalie Haber, a junior in civil engineering.

For GoFarm, the tool worked even better than expected, and they’re already using it to plan future expansions.