Board Member Spotlight: Lan Spengler

Lan Spengler has been a devoted member of Big Green Colorado’s Associate Board for several years now. Her passion for connecting kids to real food is evident in everything she does, from her work on committees such as the Plant a Seed Day Happy Hour, to getting her hands dirty in Learning Garden’s like Prep Academy. We are grateful for Lan’s constant support so read below to learn more about her journey with Big Green.

How did you first get involved with Big Green?

I was first introduced to Big Green by a Regional Board member I met when I moved downtown. The member and I got on the subject of community service and I mentioned my work starting the school garden program at my daughter’s elementary school using the Denver Public School’s “Garden to Cafeteria Program”. This program, started by nutritionist Anne Wilson and Andy Nowak of Slow Food Denver, aligns closely with the mission of Big Green so my friend on the board suggested I check it out. My husband and I were invited to a Big Green event later that month and I met a large number of community members that were invested in ensuring healthy lifestyles for children in Colorado.

What is your favorite memory from working with Big Green?

My favorite memory from working with Big Green was during last year’s very first “Plant a Seed Day” at Children’s Hospital Colorado. While planting seeds with the patients, I had so many of them tell me how excited they were that the hospital was almost complete with its first garden, the Healthy Roots Community Garden. The kids looked forward to being able to visit the garden while staying at the hospital and help pick fresh herbs to be used in the hospital kitchen. Many of them happily talked about small farm stands around the hospital where they would have access to fresh foods. It was a memorable day witnessing two great organizations in our city work together with the same mission of aiming to create a health and wellness culture to improve children’s health.

What is your favorite memory from helping in the garden? 

My favorite memory of helping in a Big Green learning garden was at Prep Academy in the Bruce Randolph neighborhood. Up until that point, I had always worked with preschool and elementary school age children. I was not sure if the cell phone generation was going to be very interested in playing in the dirt. That morning, I was also introduced to hiphop artist, DJ Cavem, who grew up in the Five Points neighborhood and attended Manual High School. DJ Cavem travels the world, inspiring youth to eat their vegetables, grow their own food and live a healthy lifestyle. The students were captivated by DJ Cavem rapping about growing up in Denver and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Most surprisingly, the high school students were inspired by Big Green garden educator’s knowledge. It was so great to hear a few of them ask if there were garden programs and internships they could apply for. Each time I visit a coffeeshop nearby Prep Academy, I cannot help but drive by the school to see how the garden has changed and what the students have planted and grown. I discovered in a short amount of time that the biggest thing a learning garden provides is a great impact on the community that surrounds it. Often, I have seen neighbors strolling by Prep Academy’s garden and stop to admire the bounty of fresh vegetables growing in them.

What is your favorite recipe using veggies from the garden?

My kids named it, The Garden Celebration Salad….to celebrate planting and eating from their school garden.

It is my favorite recipe to introduce someone to eating from the garden because it’s easy and super fresh. Plus the ingredients are basic and when added together make a surprisingly crunchy, zesty, nutritious lunch or side.

Lan’s Garden Celebration Salad


•2 cans (15 ounces each) organic garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

•1 cup baby spinach, chopped

•1 medium bell pepper-any color, chopped

•1/2 cucumber, seeded and chopped

•1/2 cup fresh tomatoes(I prefer cherry tomatoes) chopped

•1 small avocado, chopped •Diced red onion or shallot for garnish (optional)


•1/4 cup virgin olive oil

•3 tablespoons lemon juice (1 large lemon)

•2 garlic cloves, minced

•½ teaspoon salt  ground black pepper to season

*for a creamier style dressing, I like to add 1 tablespoon of Tahini.


1. In a medium bowl, combine all vegetables and red onion.

2. In a separate bowl, combine ingredients for dressing and whisk together. Add additional lemon juice, salt, pepper if needed.

3. Toss together. Salad may be served immediately, or chilled until ready to serve.