Andrew Sword stepped in to take on the executive director role for Brighton Shares the Harvest on February 1, resurrecting an effort that was due to be closed this spring.
"Our Board had decided last fall to shut down Brighton Shares The Harvest this spring, as we were ready for some space to try other things," said Linda Young, the founder and executive director for the last 12 years. "But Andrew came to me with some amazing ideas and energy regarding food security in the Brighton community, and it felt like a perfect match."
Brighton Shares the Harvest is an all-volunteer non-profit that works with local Gardners to eliminate waste and donate extra produce to local food banks, seniors, and low-income families.
The non-profit also donates seedlings so families can learn to grow their own produce and works with local retail farms on discounts and cost-sharing to provide produce for local families. The non-profit also works with several other local non-profit groups that donate produce to their programs.
Sword is a young farmer with a dream to grow with the community.
"With a whole heart, I wish to thank our outgoing Director Linda Young for her dedication to the Brighton community and for the honor of allowing me to serve our community under the Brighton Shares the Harvest banner," Sword said.
Sword was a Marine Corps veteran from 2012 until January 2016.
"In the Marines, I was in leadership positions—often in spaces that tested my ability, with the acute reminder that I was the youngest in the room," he said.
After he served with the Marines, he and his wife traveled to Washington State for a time to finish school. But he abandoned that work, realizing he didn't need a degree to do what he wanted to do. They came out to Colorado in about 2018.
"When I left the military in 2016, I distilled my experience into the framework that would guide me to today's community and stewardship," Sword said.
"Brighton Shares the Harvest is committed to lowering the barrier of access to healthy local produce for the people of Brighton. More produce, more tables, one harvest at a time."
From veteran to farmer
"My interest in working with Brighton Shares the Harvest is very serendipitous," Sword said. After leaving the military, he joined an agricultural program called "Veterans to Farmers".
"The program has a lot networking capabilities and a lot of incubator programs but what they didn't have was something that was very close to me, geographically," he said.
He learned from other farmers and from the program's executive directors that the most pressing thing throughout the season is going out every day to check on your plants.
"It takes 30 minutes, so the closer you can be to that place at any stage is going to be beneficial for you to make something," Sword said.
Sword said he heard about Brighton Shares in the newsletter he receives and learned that the program was shutting down.
"I wanted to start something very close to farming, and looking back on it now, it was very ambitious," Sword said. "I wanted to be a hub for the farming community of the Front Range, something that farmers can connect to and share resources. While I know that those things exist, I think something needs to be refined."
Sword met Young to get an idea of her experience with the Brighton community.
"I wanted to get the boots on the ground on what she saw in the community and why she started the program what led up to her wanting to dissolve the Harvest," Sword said. "We spoke through email for a while."
Young said that she had yet to make the closure official or made an official filing, so she offered Sword a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as Executive Director. Sword said he thought it over and said yes to taking the job.
"From my point of view, this is something with the community behind it, with so much love and support, and someone who was willing to fight for these values of food equity, and not to give up," Sword said.
Future for Brighton Shares
Swords said he plans to expand the program. In the past, Harvest coordinated places where local gardeners could donate and offered classes and giveaways. The group also worked to organize distributions and donations from around the area.
"We are still willing to distribute produce to the community and seeds as well. Also having classes is something that will be evolving, hopefully, we can partner with a few from the CSU Extension master gardeners in Adams County," Sword said.
He hopes to expand its work in other ways, too.
"I plan on using my resources, my connections from Veterans to Farmers, and be able to bring people to farms or bring to farmers to Brighton," he said. "It would be fun for both parties to see what happens on a working farm and the challenges it takes to make a resilient local food community.
Brighton Shares the Harvest will continue its education program, will continue donating seedlings to teach people how to grow their vegetable gardens and will teach them about Brighton's soil, weed identification, proper watering, and pests.
"We are pushing this idea of biodiversity and the importance of giving back as a person who is growing things," Sword said.
With Sword taking the new role and transitioning with the Harvest within the next few weeks, he is meeting with his Board of Directors to discuss his plans for the future and have a vote on the direction they are going.
"I couldn't be more pleased about the future of Brighton Shares the Harvest, and I know Andrew will fully support our mission of putting more fresh produce on more tables in Brighton," Young said.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions on the Brighton Shares transition updates, email Andrew Sword at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 623-806-6727 or visit the website https://www.brightonsharestheharvest.org.