The CRMS Garden Program 2020 Year In Review
It was quite the year for our garden crew – from having to pivot what we planted to running a Plant Sale like no other in history, to harvesting and donating fresh vegetables to the local community. Here’s a look back on the 2020 CRMS Garden program.
The Organic Garden Learning Center hosted a student Service Crew from January until March when students left for Spring Break. During this time, students learned the basics of winter gardening. We studied, amended, and prepped the soil by adding compost and aeration in the greenhouses. Students grew fast-growing sprouts, greens, and radishes for the kitchen and plant and cared for tiny seedlings for the annual plant sale. We learned to take cuttings from plants to clone them as well as to dig up and divide plants to sell at the plant sale.
In the spring, I welcomed our Garden Crew! Christina joined as the garden assistant, and Stephanie and Isabel joined us as our garden interns. During their time here, they received hands-on, practical knowledge of gardening and small farm food production from soil to seed to harvest.
The Garden Crew missed the students from March through May, but during this time, it was busy! We hosted a successful plant sale, selling nearly 8,000 organic plants for local gardens. The sale was held in a different format than in past years. Rather than one jam-packed weekend in May, we held the plant sale all month long and allowed sign-up times for socially distant shopping. Our local community came out in force as many people focused on home gardening as a safe and healthy activity during the pandemic.
From June through August, we prepped, planted, and cultivated four acres of organically grown vegetables, herbs, perennials, berries, and fruit trees. Since school was closed during the spring and summer, we had to pivot our crop planning to grow more storage crops like onions, winter squash, and potatoes. We also planted fewer summer crops like salad greens, lettuce, and cucumbers.
In September, student Service Crews joined us again. Students were engaged in learning garden maintenance, integrated pest management, harvesting, and post-harvest storage procedures of vegetables during the first quarter.
The Garden Crew, with the help of student service crews and occasional volunteers, grew approximately 19,000 lbs of produce to use in the Bar Fork Kitchen, filling our freezers and root cellars with organic produce to use throughout the school year. The harvest and post-harvest are intense, with 80% of the years’ produce coming in all during just a few short weeks. Twenty-six students and three faculty members worked in the garden during All-School Service Day – a huge Harvest Day in early September. Before the vegetables can be put into storage for the schools’ use, they need to be harvested, sorted, washed, and cured. It’s “all hands on deck.” Many student groups and community members stepped up to help. We worked with Fiona O’Donnell Pax, the Bar Fork Kitchen Manager, to process and preserve the harvest and properly store and organize food in our root cellars and freezers.
Due to social distancing regulations, the Annual CRMS Harvest Dinner became a Harvest Picnic Lunch in advisory groups. A delicious garden menu was created and served by the kitchen staff. It included roasted vegetable lasagna, herb garlic bread, kale & beet salad, carrot cake cupcakes, and grape lemonade.
Our community partnerships were enhanced this year as well. We took part in the Roaring Fork Farmers and Ranchers Collaborative Tool Library and rented a Potato Harvester, increasing yields, efficiency, and quality. Our relationship with LIFT-UP, our regional Food Bank, continued and CRMS donated approximately 2,000 pounds of fresh vegetables to families in need in our community. We also continued to improve the CRMS composting program. As a collective group, we composted 9,000 gallons of food waste from the Bar Fork, continued building healthy soils, conserved water with innovative farming techniques, and conserved resources with solar energy.
The CRMS Garden program has a lot to be proud of, and we’re looking forward to what we can accomplish this next year.