Pine River Shares is taking on food insecurity in eastern La Plata County with the help of a new, sustainable food garden.
The garden’s produce will add fresh, healthy ingredients to the nonprofit’s weekly food share programs in Bayfield and Ignacio. Already, apple trees and garlic are taking root at the Bayfield Education Center, home of Pine River Shares, with the help of community volunteers and students.
“Everyone deserves access to healthy, sustainably raised food,” said Halie Forsthoff, dean of the Bayfield School District Wolverine Academy.
Last week, students at the academy, a project-based learning program, planted 20 apple trees in the garden. Community volunteers also installed garden beds near the orchard and planted garlic this spring, Forsthoff said.
The garden is part of the Pine River Shares Field to Fork project, which launched in 2017. It drew input from 200 locals to envision a sustainable food system that meets the needs of the area’s 14,000 residents.
The new garden, which uses permaculture growing methods, will be a place where residents can learn about food production at home through educational community work days.
This summer, Pine River Shares plans to install a 35-foot grow dome, which means year-round food production for food-insecure families and seed starts for the community.
“Many people do not necessarily grow up gardening or involved in food production, and this project makes this knowledge more accessible,” Forsthoff said. “Reaping the delicious benefits, or sometimes learning from the failures, teaches us many lessons about ourselves ... but also teaches us to appreciate our ties to the land.”
The Wolverine Academy students are helping to increase public awareness about food insecurity in the region, she said.
Students are researching the main factors that contribute to local food insecurity and how to solve those problems. They plan to share their findings with the public through the garden project.
“Sadly, in our nation, food insecurity tends to coincide with obesity due to overreliance on processed foods,” Forsthoff said. “Processed foods have the benefit of being cheaper and lasting longer than fresh alternatives, but the Field to Fork project aims to reverse this notion, which I believe is key to increasing food security.”
The Colorado Health Foundation provided a $25,000 grant for the garden project, while the grow dome will be purchased using money raised by local community members.