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Issue 5, January 2016
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MSTFP LOGO "Connecting our growing future with our farming heritage"

And don't think the garden loses it's ecstasy in the winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.


-Rumi
Want to be a part of the school garden movement?
 
Your contributions are invaluable to the future of Montezuma School to Farm Project and the 2000+ students we serve. Every dollar counts, from purchasing seeds to building new gardens to paying for our professional school garden teams. Together we are building a nationally acclaimed program. 
 
Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to:
MSTFP via PO Box 694, Mancos, CO 81328
Please make checks out to the "Mancos Conservation District"
and specify "MSTFP" in the subject line


OR
Donate through PayPal
Winter Garden
"So, what does a school garden program do in the winter?"
 
Do classes still happen outside?  
 
Classes continue outside until the weather becomes too unpredictable, usually sometime in early November. We grow veggie varieties that are still alive, or even thriving, in the early winter. This allows our students to interact with their living classroom beyond the “regular” growing season. We do our best to encourage proper outdoor attire on garden days so that we can stay outside as long as possible (keep in mind that kids still go outside for recess, too).  Once the wind, rain and snow truly drive us indoors, our team continues teaching inside the school classrooms.
 
How do we hold a garden class indoors?
  • We focus on cooking, using the food we have harvested and preserved/stored. Blenders, electric frying pans, electric griddles, or two-burner stoves play a key role here. 
  • We use our vermiculture worm bins to teach about the nitrogen cycle, food webs, worm anatomy, and soil ecology.
  • We use grow lights to begin indoor germination and study the light spectrum, photosynthesis or the plant life cycle. 
  • We watch incredible videos that show us what we can't see: microscopic organisms at work in the soil and on the roots, global weather patterns, time-lapse views of pollinators, photosynthesis and more.
  • We invite guest speakers to our classes to share their expertise.  This allows us to continue using our hands-on classroom as a bridge to the real world.
There aren’t many garden chores to do when it’s cold and snowy…
In the winter, how do educators spend their time when they aren’t teaching?

 
For some of our Garden Coordinators, classes slow down a little in the winter (note that CMS has 6 electives classes, which happen daily all year. No slowing down there!). Seasonality is a key component of how our work is organized and, as many farmers also do, we use winter to do things that are critical but often under-prioritized when the demands of living plants call out to us. Here are some examples:
  • Make changes to curriculum plans and lesson plans based on our experiences over the past semester.
  • Capture new lesson plans/games/demonstrations that went well over the past semester by typing them into comprehensive lesson plan formats and uploading them to an internal database. 
  • Add or adjust handouts, diagrams and procedures to go with new and existing lessons.
  • Coordinate with teachers, volunteers and other staff members to plan for the late winter and early spring.
A Changing Of the Guard
Montezuma School to Farm Project will be saying goodbye to our current Director, Sarah Syverson, as she embarks on an exciting career change. We're so grateful for all of the hard work, heart and soul she's poured into growing this tremendous program, and wish her all the best in the future. Rest assured, Sarah will be with us for the next few months through our transition to the new director, ensuring a powerful and empowering transition for MSTFP, it's staff and board, and the communities we serve. As with gardens and life, so it is with programs - change is inevitable. But change is powerful when done consciously and with clear intention.
We’re in the process of vetting and interviewing for the position currently. Stay tuned for an announcement once we make our selection. We’re excited to see who will take the reins!
Retreating to the Future!

In early January, Montezuma School to Farm Project staff retreated to a cozy space in the wintry woodlands of Summit Lake to revisit our focus, realign with each other, and renew our goals. Members of the Mancos Conservation District Board (that’s our board!) joined us in analyzing our program’s strengths and weakness, brainstorming methods to address our challenges, and advising ways to embrace the right opportunities. From here, our wonderful facilitators helped us develop our 3 year strategic plan, complete with specific responsibilities and deadlines surrounding our 1 year action items. Here’s a glance at where MSTFP will place its priorities in the coming years:
 
Acting as a key collaborator to build mutually empowering partnerships and programs locally, regionally, and nationally.
Harnessing our creativity, opportunities, and resources to develop innovate programs aligned with MSTFP’s mission and Guiding Principles.
Utilizing systems that create cohesion across all programs. Caring for and enhancing existing assets through continual evaluation.
Remaining financially secure and fiscally responsible.
Providing opportunities for career advancement, professional development, and personal growth.
 
This year in particular, there is an additional priority for our team: focus internally on capturing and sharing curriculum. This topic continually surfaced in our reflections, needs, and aspirations throughout the retreat, so we agreed to address it immediately. While our team has systems in place that allow us to quickly reach out to the community, install new infrastructure, and pilot new programs, our curriculum related systems demand attention. We collectively feel that our program will benefit from investing time to fully develop this critical piece of our foundation.


Big thanks to Bill Stanley for donating the house space for our retreat! 
Proudly, a Program of the MCD
 
In early January, Mancos Conservation District board members and manager participated in MSTFP’s strategic planning retreat.  As the backbone of our support system, they’re involved with our organization's functions in numerous ways, often unseen and unknown by the masses. We’d like to take a minute and shine some light on their involvement.

From educating our staff to educating our students, this group’s willingness to share knowledge and experience benefits us (and truly the whole community, too) immensely throughout the year. They’re experts in the field of soil and water conservation practices, among so many other things. This coming year, we look forward to the professional development sessions they'll be hosting with our staff.

You might also spot these folks volunteering at our fundraisers, reviewing our Drought Curriculum (no small feat, and boy, were they thorough), and serving as our Ombudsman. They graciously let us borrow everything from their animals to their technology, helping us teach our students and communicate with everyone from community members to funders. They allow us to use their meeting space and their outdoor storage space – anyone who has tried to run a continuing operation without these things knows their value is almost beyond measure. We are so grateful to have this board and their manager on our team. 

The MCD has a volunteer board - if you see any of them, please thank them for dedicating their time and support to the future of our water and soil!

March 17th, 18th and 19th
Montezuma County Fairgrounds, Cortez

 
This is a regional event you won't want to miss! Montezuma School to Farm Project will partner with local producers and educators to coordinate the Children's Agricultural Learning Facility (CALF) at the Ag Expo. Thursday and Friday, we'll be hosting fieldtrips for students and giving them the opportunity to learn from an array of local experts about animals, growing, and homesteading/trade skills. Outside of the fieldtrips, CALF is open to the public. Stop by with your little ones! Even if they came through their school, we'll have lots of other stations for them to dive into!

The Expo runs from 9AM-5PM on Thursday and Saturday, and from 9AM-6PM on Friday. More sessions are added to the schedule all the time, so be sure to check back as the event gets closer. 

Huge thanks to the Four States Agricultural Exposition Board for inviting us on as collaborators for this awesome event!
AmeriCorps Spotlight: Patrick Alford
 
Why did you decide to join AmeriCorps?
A few friends told me of their experiences with AmeriCorps and, although these friends were all in very different work environments, the two common threads through all of their experiences were meaningful work and personal growth. This knowledge, coupled with hearing all of the positive experiences of Montezuma School to Farm’s current and past AmeriCorps members, painted the opportunity to work with MSTFP through AmeriCorps as a great opportunity. My year of service thus far has been nothing short of that.
 
What is your favorite Colorado activity and why?
Each week I seem to have a newly discovered favorite activity here, so this is tough. I think my favorite one through and through has to be backpacking. It leaves me feeling small (in a good way), focused, and restored.  And sometimes very sore.
 
Have you tried any new veggies since coming to MSTFP? 
I tried tatsoi for the first time here! Frost and snow is no match for this stuff. Great winter green. 

What has been the most rewarding part of your AmeriCorps experience?
So far, I’d say one of the greatest rewards is being able to witness the excitement students have in the agriculture class, whether it’s from trying a new food, making connections in class material, or simply getting to dig a hole. The other greatest reward is having the ability to experiment with new agriculture techniques and step into the role of a student myself. I recently began working on a biomass heating project at the Cortez Middle School.  I saw a video of Ben Falk at Whole Systems Design heat his greenhouse with a giant mound of compost by running a tube of water through the pile and then through the soil.  I was instantly hooked, explained the idea to our director, and she told me to go for it.  Researching different heat transferring methods, the optimal pile composition for sustained heat production, and tube layout schematics has been, and still remains, a tremendous learning experience for me.  The students are just beginning to learn about the concept and I am more than excited to have them start working on the design and construction process.   
 
Why is your service important to you?
With all of the systemic issues in our world today, I think service is among one of the most productive ways to enact change. In addition to the feelings of purpose and meaning it provides me, I also consider my service to be an obligation I have to humanity. I feel like I’ve received too many opportunities and gifts to not be focused on giving back and paying it all forward in some way.

Care to share a new years resolution (for yourself or for the garden)?
My resolution for the garden is to get some permanent chickens and a chicken tractor out in the CMS production area. My personal resolution is to get more sleep. Need those zzz's!

If you were to swap the equipment needed to play any sport for things typically found in a garden, what would that look like?
Jousting with wheelbarrows and sunflowers. Maybe tomatoes for added ammunition. It'd be a good time.
THANK YOU To our Local Support
 
Mancos, Dolores and Cortez School Districts
City of Cortez
Town of Mancos
Mancos and Dolores Conservation Districts
Mancos Valley Resources
Tierra Madre Herbs
Cliffrose Garden Center and Gifts
Kiwanis Club of Mesa Verde
Dolores Rotary Club
Coutts & Clark Western Foundation
First Southwest Bank
 
Sponsor Logos
Thanks for reading!
Until next time, follow us on:
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For more information contact:
Sarah Syverson, MSTFP Director
970-903-8831
syversonsarah@yahoo.com


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