Once upon a time there was a little girl. That little girl grew up as most little girls do. She played and she dressed up and she ran and she frolicked. She ate cookies and cakes and chips and sandwiches, and as she got older, she ate the things that were brought to her grocery store. She ate the foods that came in boxes and cartons and individual wraps of plastic. She defrosted and reheated and toasted and microwaved. And for that little girl, now grown into a woman, all was right with the processed foods and with the world. Until one day, when her destiny called upon her from the heavens and the earth (or at least the soil) via a horticulture class. On that day, whether she knew it or not, she began a path to a new life. She moved from Flagstaff, Arizona to the Great Plains, finding a home in the beautiful city of Denver. From there, her path took her into the mythical Forest of Food, a lush, bountiful place known for its picnic clearing. And as she ventured forth, ready to sit and eat her lunch, she came upon a large stone, but it was no ordinary stone. This one held an embedded squash that not even the strongest or smartest in all the land could extract. And inscribed upon the stone were the words:
Whoso Pulleth Out This Squash of this Stone, is Rightwise Queen of Urbiculture Community Farms.
From that day forward, Candice Kearns Orlando was the queen of Urbiculture Community Farms, a Denver-based urban food gardening organization that plants delicious food in front yards, back yards and any other place where land is offered up for good use. Candice is the Executive Director and head gardener, and at only 32 (she was 29 when she took the throne) Candice is a young, and energetic leader, and one helluva of Queen, if we can extend that allegory for a bit longer. It’s not just that Candice likes playing in the soil. The truth is, she loves playing in the soil and turning seeds into plants and plants into delicious, wholesome, healthful food. Her reign supreme doesn’t end there, though. It’s not enough that she has led Urbiculture Community Farms to 11 plots (as of the end of 2011) growing food, comprising 16,000 square feet of growing space. Queen Candice of Urbiculture is an egalitarian queen. She knows from experience the cost and difficulty that comes with trying to put healthy food on the table, and she’s not afraid to say it:
Organic food is so expensive, you go to some markets and an organic tomato is $4.00. I can’t afford that.
See, Candice isn’t leading Urbiculture’s mission to grow food in front and backyards just because its sustainable or neat. She’s doing it because everyone deserves to eat well, not just eat. It’s a health thing, for all people, as Candice fights to get pesticide-free foods into the mouths of the hungry. Yes, 30% of Urbiculture’s food goes to enrolled families who are low income. This isn’t a Marie Antoinette situation. That’s because Candice Orlando just isn’t an ordinary leader, and no where near the stodginess of royalty. You can feel Queen Candice’s energy emanating from her in waves of bright, happy, helpful, light. And the people who work with her agree. For something as truly work-intensive as gardening, Candice has helped bring in dozens upon dozens of volunteers, including a lot of kids.
Yea, verily, Candice Orlando didst not stoppeth there, for Urbiculture does more with its food than simply grow it and distribute it to supporters. The noble and thoughtful Queen Candice also promotes: a program that gives food to women and children from abusive situations, gardening at elementary schools, bee hive revivals, and the harvesting of fruit trees that many neighbors forget bear delicious fruit. See, Candice Orlando’s tale shows that even from the least likely beginnings a great leader can come, borne by destiny, to usher in a new era. She has received coronation by the Earth and may her hard work continue. Processed foods are dead. Long live the Queen.
In 2012, Queen Candice received a GROW (Girls Recognizing Outstanding Women) award from the students at GALS (Girls Athletic Leadership School) in Denver, so we're not the only ones who think she's amazing.