August 8, 2009

Suburbitat: How our Children’s Garden Grows.

This summer at High Plains Environmental Center we are growing a 1.3 acre vegetable garden.

The garden has been grown by volunteers, some adults but mostly children and the produce from the garden (expected to exceed 12,000 lbs.) will be distributed to Loveland area families by the Loveland Foodbank and the Loveland House of Neighborly Services.

We have a part-time community garden coordinator, Susan Singley, who has been the driving force behind the garden. Her position (as well as seeds, irrigation and other garden expenses) is funded by the Beanstalk Foundation, CanDo (Coalition for Activity and Nutrition to Defeat Obesity) and donations from individuals ranging from $5 to $500.

Next year we hope to go out to create gardens at local schools.

When economic hard times hit during the Great Depression, people fell back on their agrarian roots—gathering wild plants to eat, picking wild berries and growing backyard gardens. Relying on their farming backgrounds, people knew what to do. These days many people don’t know how to do the simplest things for themselves. Many of us have lost the basic skills and knowledge that our fore bearers carried with them for…over 10,000 years!

Along with the garden we have created a “Wild Zone” where our Sarah Fox, outreach director for HPEC, has been leading summer camps. At the camps kids have made art out of found object such as grass and sticks. Kids have made mudpies, and boats, and printed with stamps they made out of vegetables.

The kids have also had a chance to run around and breathe the free air. Recently I got a tour of the wild zone by a group of 8-10 year olds. “This is treetop heights” they told me, leading me through the upper branch district of the willow grove. “And this is the land of sinking logs,” they told me as they led across a bridge that bobbed and sunk into the murky water.

I felt honored to be brought into their world. It was like being adopted into a rain forest tribe.Through them I saw a piece of land that I know very well, with new eyes. In the world of children everything is alive, and everything tells a story. 

The kids left left things that they made, tied to the trees. These offerings reminded me of the ones that I saw in the West of Ireland last a summer. The note in the tree say’s “I like the garden that feeds the food bank, it’s so cool…I imagine kids learning to try new veggies.”









The best thing of all is that this where the land stewards of the next generation will come from. I grew up catching turtles and snakes. There was no big plan, I simply followed what I loved and ended up here at the environmental center. I am certain though that if I never knew there were ponds full of fish and turtles out there, I would not have become an advocate for them.

Jim Tolstrup is the Executive Director of the High Plains Environmental Center in Loveland, Colorado. HPEC works with developers, businesses and homeowners, to promote the restoration and conservation of Colorado’s unique native biodiversity in the suburban environments where we live, work and play. www.suburbitat.org

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