Regionally, the “grow your own” concept has also blossomed, as citizens explore ways to eat more healthfully, reduce their carbon footprints and teach their children about contemporary food systems. The Colorado State University Extension Office in Norwood, serving San Miguel and west Montrose counties) has heeded the call for more regional food growing and food systems education, with a slate of upcoming programs focused on food and existing and possible sources.
Yvette Henson, director of CSU’s Extension Office for San Miguel and west Montrose counties, says a regional desire for more educational programming focusing on food became evident in responses to a survey sent out by her office earlier this year. The survey, she explains, was designed to elicit guidance from citizens about what topics the would find valuable, and to get direction about what programs the office should offer. Overall, the topic of local food growing and regional food systems was by far of most interest to regional residents.
“We wanted to see what people wanted so we could focus our programming more on those priorities. Local food was number one,” Henson said of the nearly 200 survey responses the Extension Office received back.
The Extension Office has thus committed to emphasizing local food systems and local food growing in their programming efforts, including the topics of Horticulture, 4-H, Health and Nutrition, and Small Acreage Management. Upcoming programs include a High Tunnel/Hoop House Workshop and Tour on May 8, and a three-part Organic Food Gardening Course starting on May 12.
High tunnels and hoop houses are essentially unheated, food-growing greenhouses that allow growers to extend their season by many precious weeks – an important component of effective growing at our altitude and climate, Henson explains. The May 8 workshop, which will be taught by Ed Page (PhD, CSU Extension Tri-River Small Acreage Specialist), Frank Stonaker (PhD, Assistant Professor and Coordinator, Special Crops Program at CSU) and Henson (MS, Horticulture) offers attendees an inside look at some local projects, and discussion of how to build and grow a high tunnel or hoop house. This May 8 class takes place from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., starting at the Norwood USFS office. Cost is $30, and includes lunch.
Henson will teach the Organic Food Gardening Course, designed for the more novice gardener with less growing space. Focusing on soil and compost, plant selection, seed starting and saving, water conservation, and season extension, it will be taught at the 4H Event Center in Ridgway on three consecutive Wednesday evenings (May 12, 19, and 26) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Cost is $50 for all three classes.
Henson adds that more food-related programs are on the horizon. Courses relating to “Backyard Barnyards,” or how to raise chickens, goats, and other food-producing animals in smaller settings, as well as Home Greenhouse Gardening, are slated for the future.
The CSU Extension office will also offer its popular Colorado Master GardenerSM (beginning in January 2011) and Native Plant MasterTM courses this summer.
For more information or to enroll in one of its upcoming classes, call the CSU Extension Office in Norwood at 970/327-4393.