Grow to Share gardening program provides locally grown produce to families in need
The High Country Conservation Center’s Grow to Share program provides fresh, locally grown produce to low-income families in the area throughout the summer.
The Dillon Valley Elementary garden is home to the program, which the conservation center runs in partnership with the Family & Intercultural Resource Center and Summit County Women, Infants and Children.
Whitney Horner, director of Summit County Women, Infants and Children, said the program started about eight years ago. Before that, the organization leased a plot of a community garden where it would bring families for education on gardening for its supplemental nutrition program.
“We were only able to reach so many families and do so much with one small garden plot, and we really just worked together with multiple community partners to figure out how to get more food and education to families that might not have been benefiting from the community gardens,” Horner said.
Kyla Laplante, a community-supported agriculture farmer for the conservation center, oversees the program and manages interns and volunteers who work in the gardens.
Laplante said Women, Infants and Children directly connects qualified families to the program, providing them with educational resources on the produce they’ll receive. She said any food that is leftover is then brought to the Family & Intercultural Resource Center’s food bank.
According to the conservation center’s website, the program was able to donate 1,160 pounds of produce in 2020, good for 171% of what was done in 2019. Laplante said the program’s goal is to provide produce to 20 families each week.
In the past, families would attend gardening events where they would harvest their own food from the Dillon Valley garden. Since the pandemic hit last year, the conservation center started providing boxes of produce each Tuesday with educational resources and recipes.
“I think the whole component of getting fresh, organic foods into the hands of those who wouldn’t typically get it, and then closing the loop with the educational and nutritional part of it, that’s the biggest part of that program,” Laplante said.
Laplante said she currently works with a group of interns to run the garden but that anyone interested in volunteering can contact the conservation center through its website, HighCountryConservation.org.
Jen Schenk, executive director of the conservation center, said any local gardeners, whether through local community gardens or their own backyard, are also welcome to donate any excess produce they have to the Grow to Share program.
“Our sustainable food programs connect community members to local organic food, resulting in less greenhouse gas emissions and more nutrition,” Schenk wrote in an email.
Anyone interested in donating to Grow to Share can bring bagged and labeled produce to any of the nonprofit’s community garden locations: Breckenridge Garden near the Colorado Mountain College campus, Nancy’s Garden in Frisco and the Dillon Valley Elementary garden.
Horner said the Grow to Share program is able to introduce under-resourced families to new vegetables and recipes they otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
“I think this program is incredibly important because it highlights the amazing partnerships we have through Summit County and how we can really take multiple organizations and work together for the greater good of getting fresh, local produce into houses who normally otherwise maybe wouldn’t have them,” Horner said.
The High Country Conservation Center runs two additional community gardens, where locals can lease a plot to grow their own produce throughout the summer. These two gardens are the Breckenridge Garden near the Colorado Mountain College campus and Nancy’s Garden in Frisco, which are both fully booked for the 2021 season.
The conservation center also offers a 16 week community-supported agriculture program with a membership fee of $425. That program is also full for 2021, but people who are interested can join the waitlist at HighCountryConservation.org/summit-csa.
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