2012 School Garden Tour – 9/15/2012 – 9AM-2PM

Updated 9/08/12.

Hope you can plan on visiting some exemplary school gardens in the Pikes Peak region on Saturday, 9/15/2012. There will be gardens from the little ones to Colorado College, so there should be something for everyone. If you are looking to start a school garden, or trying to find a plot in a school/community garden in your area, or just wanting to see how gardens are being integrated into our community schools this is the tour for you.

Details are on the Garden Tour Page or at the Pikes Peak Regional Garden Tour Map.

Printable School Garden Tour Brochure

Manitou Garden Work Day a Big Success!

What a great day on April 21st at the Manitou Elementary Work Day!

Anne Johnson pulled the volunteers and plan together with the help of Mary Gressler and the Manitou Elementary Staff. Manitou Food Service Director Paula Faucette had water, fruit, gorp, and Anne provided  some Lara Bars and those volunteers loved all those snacks.  During the event, Paula said she had enough funds to order pizza for everyone so she ordered 12 pizzas and those were a big hit!

Support from the Air Force Academy cadets and UCCS was superb! 24 showed up as well as 3 from UCCS–2 students and a spouse of a student.  All of them worked so hard and in 3 hours built 3 8′ x 8′ raised beds with manufactured brick into the hillside, cleaned up 6 or 7 existing beds and put gorilla mulch on those beds, trimmed the juniper bushes in front of the school, and raked an entire hillside above the parking lot of debris and carried buckets of pea gravel that had washed down that hillside back to the playground above the hillside.

A big thank you to all who participated from PPF2S! And a special thank you to Anne, Mary, and Paula for making it happen!

Growing Trend School Gardens in Colorado Springs

Although growth has been slower than in some parts of the country, we are beginning to see a growing trend  toward school gardens in our area.  Some examples:

Harrison High School garden a cooperative project of LiveWell Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Urban Gardens, and the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region.  The urban farm produced approximately 811 pounds – donated to Care and Share Food Bank  (rainbow chard, carrots, green beans, potatoes, onions, squash, zucchini, pumpkins, herbs) Thirty  plots for community members and businesses grew tomatoes, eggplants, green beans, lettuce, potatoes, flowers, and herbs. There are also fruit trees–peach, apple and cherry.

Wasson High School.  Program developed and maintained by teacher, Dolores Higgins with the assistance of Slow Food Colorado Springs which helped with building the raised beds.  Dolores Higgins also teaches an honors Horticulture class at Wasson.

Manitou Elementary School.  Garden started and maintained by school librarian with assistance of students.  They also have a ‘woolly’ school garden to grow edible vine plants, herbs, and berries indoors  “ We have a solarium that acts beautifully as a greenhouse.  Our problem was not enough floor space but oodles of vertical space.  Woolly Pockets will fulfill our wellness and summer garden needs indoors.”

Galileo Middle School.  Currently houses a geodesic dome where produce is grown for the Good Food Project at D11 under supervision of PPUG.  Currently NOT a student garden.  The District is considering a proposal for an extensive sustainable garden surrounding the greenhouse.

Rockrimmon Elementary.  The garden was the brainchild of Michele Davis, a first-grade teacher. In 2010, she found an accomplice in parent Mary Emily Nelson, who had recently moved to the area.

“Our garden was born out of a need to teach kids about where food comes from.”  At least 60 kids are involved in the Rockrimmon Garden Club but every class has visited the garden. The young gardeners said it’s definitely worth all the work, adding that the experience is something all kids should have. When the project came together, kids applied for and received a $5,000 Green Grant from the district that they may seek again.

The garden now boasts a beautiful donated fenced garden with approximately 30 raised beds, about a third of which are rented to community members.  They also have composting and worked with Eagle Scouts to build a small outdoor amphitheater for classes, etc.  A gardening after school club takes care of the garden during the school year and over the summer.  As with most school districts, all volunteers and those renting community gardening plots, go through the volunteer screening process with the district.

Woodmen Roberts Elementary is in the process of putting together a community garden at their school.

Foothills Elementary is also in the organizing phase for their school garden.

A common denominator in these examples is one passionate person who persevered to insure the project came to fruition.  Research shows that those gardens are most apt to succeed when local school community members and neighborhood residents are involved and create a sense of community around the garden.



Agriburbia Model for School Food

An exciting example from Denver was described at the Pikes Peak Environmental Forum on February 24th by Quint Redmond from Agriburbia.  They have recently signed a contract with Denver Public Schools to develop currently unused school grounds (about 2,000 acres) into productive farm land with a goal of eventually making DPS its own provider of fresh, local produce.

These gardens, under contract to Agriburbia, are fenced and will hire DPS students who have learned  about gardening in ‘training’ gardens at local schools.  These training gardens are those in which students plan, plant, care for and harvest the produce.  Plans are underway in one of Denver’s poorest schools to hire fourth and fifth graders who’ve learned about gardening in their school garden to earn funds in one of the ‘production’ gardens.  Plan is to offer alternative career paths to these students who might become future urban farmers.  Read more about some of these exciting programs at agriburbia.com.

Following his presentation, Mr. Redmond met with officials at Fountain Valley School which is considering emulating the DPS model here in our area.

A common denominator in these examples is one passionate person who persevered to insure the project came to fruition.  Research shows that those gardens are most apt to succeed when local school community members and neighborhood residents are involved and create a sense of community around the garden.

Details of 2nd Annual Farm to School Conference – Judith Rice-Jones

Here’s a summary of some of the highlights of the statewide Farm to School Conference last Friday in Brighton.  It was a delightful, POSITIVE experience.  I assume someone from D11 will  expand on their good news at our meeting.

Colorado Springs –Destination for Health Seekers

For much of its early history, Colorado Springs was a destination for health seekers.   Today Colorado remains the leanest of the fifty states though experiencing the same gradual increase in obesity.  For the past fifteen years the Centers for Disease Control have been tracking the growing rate of obesity across America.  Amazingly, in those years not a single state has seen the rise level off or trend down despite massive education efforts.

In Colorado we are fortunate to have a number of organizations working on this issue especially LiveWell Colorado and the Colorado Health Foundation.  We can feel pride in knowing that one of the cutting-edge examples is in our city, the Good Food Project at School District 11.

Food Service Director Rick Hughes and his staff have brought off a minor miracle in the positive changes they have brought to the 24,000 school lunches they serve every day.  This January they reached a goal of serving healthier multi-grain bread, pasta, and brown rice and in eliminating almost all highly processed foods.

At the second state-wide Farm to School meeting in Brighton on Friday, the Colorado Health Foundation announced a $500,000.00 grant to the District to develop a food hub.  Director Hughes described plans to develop a commercial kitchen and processing facility at Mitchell High School which will allow the District to purchase fresh food from local farmers which will be processed according to the stringent USDA standards for safe food for schools.  The grant will also provide for the purchase of refrigeration trucks for delivery of the food to local schools.  Hughes hopes to be able to expand this service, at cost, to other school districts and institutions in the future.

The shift to a healthier menu of fresh foods, minimally processed and without the addition of hormones and preservatives has been accompanied by a colorful educational campaign which provides monthly information to parents and to students about the food they eat and its sources.  Last fall, the District was able to provide the dessert option of a fresh, organic Palisades peach to all students who ate in the school cafeterias.

See examples of their menus at


Both District 11 and Bon Appetit at Colorado College point to the fact that they spend about 45 cents out of every dollar for food which they try to purchase locally as much as possible.  This contrasts with institutions which rely on third party providers where the figure for food is often closer to 35 cents from every dollar as those organizations have to return funds to shareholders.

In addition to providing healthy, local, hormone free food to students, by supporting local farms, the District contributes to food security in our area by helping to support our local agriculture.

At the same conference in Brighton, food service directors announced plans to develop partnerships with local farmers for fund-raising sales of their products to support school activities.  This would be a welcome change from the frequently unhealthy and calorie-rich foods that are frequently used in such campaigns.  The school district in Weld County gave a school soccer team the opportunity to shuck locally sourced sweet corn for $2.00/dozen which the team then used for equipment needs.

D11’s goals for school food are simple and straightforward:  no growth hormones, antibiotic free; fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains; free of artificial dyes; free of artificial preservatives; free of hydrogenated oils (trans fats); no added sugars including high-fructose corn syrup; food from the earth and good for the earth with minimal packaging; foods that are not highly processed; and foods that are natural or whole.

Another project addressing childhood obesity came from the Denver Public Schools which have partnered with their local Slow Food group to develop school gardens and a protocol for safe handling which allows some of the food from these gardens to be used in school meals.  Working with local geography students, the District used GIS to identify areas around Denver schools not being used as playgrounds or for other purposes.  These areas will now be contracted to local organic growers to produce food for school cafeterias.  School gardens have been shown to greatly increase the amount and variety of fresh foods consumed by students at those schools.

Pere-Green Wildcat Garden

We’re official!  The newly formed Pere-Green Wildcat Community Garden is located on the northeast corner of Woodmen Roberts Elementary School.  We held our inaugural meeting  on January 30th with over 20 future members in attendance.  The enthusiasm was high.

This has truly been a community partnership with the school donating the land and the Peregrine HOA donating the fence.  We’ll be building raised beds on Saturday, March 17th (weather permitting) so feel free to drop by to help or just provide encouragement.