Interns help grow Summit County community garden program
Colorado Mountain College interns are helping the High Country Conservation Center provide freshly grown goods in Summit County.
Local gardeners said it can be daunting to attempt to grow vegetables in the High Country, but it’s far from impossible. A wide variety of seeds are currently springing to life in area community gardens, including peas, carrots, potatoes, radishes and even melons — thanks to the help of local students.
“Having the students around is really integral to show the community how to make growing fruits and vegetables in Summit County more feasible, and to get more food to the people who want it,” said community gardener Kyla LaPlante.
Funding from the Colorado Garden Show and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Foundation enabled HC3 to hire Laplante and fellow farmer Kyle Wiseman. The funds are also providing scholarships for five Colorado Mountain College interns to participate in the Summit CSA program Cultivating Students of Agriculture.
The internships provide students with a opportunity to get hands-on experience not often found inside a classroom, said Jen Santry, HC3’s community programs director.
“When you are in the greenhouse planting food, you learn things you can’t in a book,” she said. “It usually takes a year or two of actually doing it to feel comfortable.”
Five interns are helping the farmers develop a Community Supported Agriculture program, or CSA. The program, piloted last year, allows community members to purchase a share in the garden in exchange for weekly supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables. The food is grown at a plot near the senior center in Frisco, and inside the greenhouse at the High Country Conservation Center grounds.
CMC interns are helping with day-to-day gardening operations, and are embarking on individual projects to help develop Summit County’s community garden programs. These projects include looking at the science of soil, managing volunteers, providing recipes to community members with CSA shares and helping local restaurants incorporate food from the gardens into their menus.
The CSA currently provides food for 25 shareholders, and 20 more people are on a waiting list. The demand for locally grown gardens is huge, according to LaPlante. The problem, local gardeners said, is finding a place to grow the food and the money to develop it.
“There’s not a lot of readily available gardening space in Summit County,” LaPlante said.
Community garden representatives hope the work initiated by local students this summer will create a platform to “feed the need” for more garden spaces.
“We hope to show that we can do this on a large scale and go for some grant funding next year,” Santry said.
Summit County garden programs help connect people to their food, and make them more self-reliant, she said.
“As a community we should be able to support ourselves. It might not be possible year round, but, in the summer nobody should be buying lettuce. This is the easiest place to grow greens,” she said. “You also get a connection knowing the food comes from the earth. There is a lot of energy to put that seed in, water it, take care of it and harvest it. You realize that food is a lot more than something you throw in the refrigerator.”
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