Gardening plan taking root at Roaring Fork High |

Gardening plan taking root at Roaring Fork High

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Courtesy Fat City Farms Students from Aspen High School work at the Ute City Farm site in Woody Creek. Roaring Fork High School students in Carbondale may find themselves involved in similar labors.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” A plan to build a greenhouse and gardens at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm school and student learning center earned praise from the Roaring Fork Re-1 school board Wednesday.

“I think this is fabulous,” board member Bill Lamont said before the board voted 5-0 to issue a letter of support for the project. The board will follow up with a memorandum of understanding regarding the use of school facilities to establish the farm school project.

“Carbondale still has a large agricultural heritage, and I believe there is a core interest to continue that heritage,” Lamont said. “I also hope this is something that could migrate to the other high schools in the district.”

One of the project leaders, Jerome Osentowski, who runs the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute on Basalt Mountain, said he has already been approached by Basalt High School about establishing a greenhouse operation there as well.

The project at Roaring Fork High will involve a greenhouse and outdoor gardens where Osentowski and his partners with the nonprofit Fat City Farms farm school program plan to expand their efforts.

Fat City Farms has been operating a CSA farm school at Ute City Farms in Woody Creek but has wanted to establish a downvalley location that would have a longer growing season.

Osentowski and one of the other partners in the project, Michael Thompson, also have a longer-term goal to build a greenhouse at every school in the Roaring Fork Valley. Recently, they helped with the construction of a 22-foot geodome greenhouse at the alternative Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs.

CSA is a method where farmers grow food based on subscriptions from local customers to buy a certain amount of produce.

“This will be a school to teach people how to be CSA farmers ” how to set it up, and how to get members …,” Osentowski explained.

During the school year, the facilities will also be used for school-based applied science education programs. In fact, having a working greenhouse and gardens on site will offer a variety of academic applications, RFHS Principal Cliff Colia said.

“The educational benefits are many,” Colia said. “We’re excited about any community partnerships we can have that will give students an authentic learning experience.”

From May through September, the greenhouse and fenced-in garden area would be maintained as a CSA farm school and working CSA.

The project is seen as a potential magnet to retain and draw students to RFHS who might otherwise choose to go elsewhere for high school, which has been one of the Carbondale school’s challenges in recent years.

It also could keep some of the school’s Latino students, who make up about 60 percent of the student population, from dropping out of school, Colia pointed out.

“A lot of these kids come here from the rural parts of Mexico and Central America where there is a huge agricultural heritage,” he said. Ag-related programs offered through the school could be a way to keep those students in school, he said.