’Tis the season to get busy with events galore

While I may be a very season-focused person – can’t wait to ski when it’s October; itching to start gardening in February; dying for days when jumping in the river feels good in April; and longing for the crisp fall mornings somewhere around July – my Extension career dictates another type of seasonality.

From January to about April, my life revolves around the classroom. Colorado Master Gardeners, Building Farmers, Food Retreat, four or five workshops and the start of the Backyard Food Production Series all center on my organizational (and voice projection) fortitude.

Come May, the phones start to ring, and the random samples of leaves, insects, fruit and the occasional 40-pound bag of soil and turf find their way to my desktop. Hopefully, they don’t find their way to the bottom of the pile where the overripe strawberry – half-eaten by some mysterious creature – or the Ziploc bag full of now-dead aphids, make for a rude awakening. After five years on the job in La Plata County – and thousands of inquiries – I have concluded that the number of “unknown causes” (insects, bacteria, fungi, virus, rodents and neighbors) can be whittled down to just a few dozen culprits. Kind of like one of those “choose your own adventure” books we read as kids – even if you make the wrong decision, if you keep reading, you’ll probably come out with the correct pest (or princess, depending on the book).

Now, toward the end of July, I start to enter the oh-my-gosh-so-time-consuming Season of Events. Don’t get me wrong, I love assisting with the coordination of these events, and I truly feel that “agritainment” should be Webster’s word of the year for 2012. It’s enjoyable to watch a 20-year-old or retiree find out how they can correctly cook a kohlrabi or shishito pepper (Iron Horse Chef); or a young couple recently transplanted here as they discover how to grow vegetables or raise chickens at their new house (Tour de Farms); or even a grandfather and grandson sharing quality time as we trick them into doing work while they think they are having fun running the apple press (Homegrown Apple Days Festival).

The first of two Iron Horse Chef cooking competitions will start at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Durango Farmers Market. Now in its fifth year, this fun spectator event will pit the seasoned veteran Warren Smith from Manna Soup Kitchen against young-gun Marcos Wisner, a Colorado native, who most recently started the culinary wonder of Foundfood. While the primary purpose of the Iron Horse Chef is to showcase the agricultural and culinary highlights of our area, I also find it somewhat intriguing that both of these chefs have made a point to make amazing food with what is given to them.

For chef Smith, he is the master of making great food from what is donated to the Soup Kitchen, while chef Wisner is part of a new culinary movement that believes great food is everywhere – you just need to know where to look (or forage) for it.

So come to the Durango Farmers Market on Saturday to root for your favorite chef.

Oh, and what is the fourth season? That’s the dreaded “reporting season,” which typically lasts all of December. But we’ll get to that later.

parmenterdm@co.laplata.co.us or 382-6464. Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.