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 planted delicious food in front yards, back yards and any other place where land was offered up for good use. Candice was the Executive Director and head gardener, and one helluva of Queen, if we can extend that allegory for a bit longer. It’s not just that Candice liked playing in the soil. The truth is, she loved playing in the soil and turning seeds into plants and plants into delicious, wholesome, healthful food. Her reign supreme didn’t end there, though. She knew from experience the cost and difficulty that comes with trying to put healthy food on the table, and she was 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 wasn't leading Urbiculture’s mission to grow food in front and backyards just because its sustainable or neat. She did it because everyone deserves to eat well, not just eat. It’s a health thing, for all people, as Candice fought to get pesticide-free foods into the mouths of the hungry. You can feel Queen Candice’s energy emanating from her in waves of bright, happy, helpful, light. And the people who worked with her agree. For something as truly work-intensive as gardening, Candice helped bring in dozens upon dozens of volunteers, including a lot of kids.
Yea, verily, Candice Orlando didst not stoppeth there, for Urbiculture did more with its food than simply grow it and distribute it to supporters. The noble and thoughtful Queen Candice also promoted: a program that gave 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.
UrbiCulture Community Farms merged with Groundwork Denver in 2016. Since then, Candice has continued to work and advocate for local food and urban gardening, and has made films on food systems, and women's rights.