Students at Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs build greenhouse | PostIndependent.com

Students at Yampah Mountain High School in Glenwood Springs build greenhouse

Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado ” Tim Kalmon is eager to grow his own food, but he and his fellow Yampah Mountain High School students are learning that there’s a lot of work that goes into it before you can take that first juicy bite out of a tomato or crunch into a fresh-from-the-dirt carrot.

Kalmon, a freshman at the alternative high school in Glenwood Springs, also got to drive a tractor for the first time.

“This is the stuff I like to do … anything that involves building things,” he said in reference to one of the latest school projects ” construction of their very own greenhouse.

“It’s better than sitting in class,” he said. “I learned that if you put your mind to it, you can get a lot of things done in a short amount of time.”

Indeed, within a couple of days last week, students ” with the help of teachers including project coordinator Susy Ellison and valley greenhouse gurus Michael Thompson and Jerome Osentowski ” had assembled a greenhouse dome at the school campus on Midland Avenue.

Efforts to build the 22-foot diameter growing dome were funded by a $10,000 National Environmental Education Foundation grant, as well as a $5,500 grant from the Aspen Skiing Co. Environment Fund. Rick Pickard of Globe Excavating also donated services for the excavation work.

The total project cost will be about $20,000, Ellison said, with the remainder coming out of school funds.

The dome construction itself helped students learn about architectural design techniques, she said. But the main goal is to teach students about food and culture through the newly developed Global Supermarket project.

“We will be integrating environmental concepts across the various curricula,” Ellison said. “It’s a way to show kids the possibilities of growing your own food and being able to eat fresh greens and tomatoes.”

Adds Kalmon, “It’s good to know where your food comes from and actually know what you’re eating, and that it didn’t get messed with somewhere along the line.”

The Yampah greenhouse is the beginning of a much larger project, coordinated by Thompson and Osentowski through the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute in Basalt and the Fat City Farms agricultural education program, to build a greenhouse at every school in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Next up is a proposed 42-foot-diameter greenhouse and outdoor garden at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, which would expose students to agricultural education during the school year and where Fat City Farms plans to establish its summertime community supported agriculture (CSA) farm school. The proposal goes before the Re-1 school board next month.

“Every kid in school should have to walk no more than a couple hundred feet to learn the growing arts,” Thompson said. “Our thinking is that our future, and their future, will be very much involved with food growing.”

The current system of growing produce on large farms in California and other places and shipping it long distances to supermarkets across the country is unsustainable and increasingly more expensive as energy costs rise, Thompson said.

“That kind of system isn’t going to work in the future,” he said. “The costs of shipping will go higher and higher, and we’re already seeing some of the problems with food-borne illnesses resulting from large agricultural operations.

“Trust in our neighbors and ourselves to grow our food in the future is going to make more sense,” Thompson said.

Helping the Yampah students build their greenhouse was a joy, he said.

“It was so much fun to watch as groups of 20-some-odd kids went to work,” Thompson said. “I’d be doing some piece of work, and I’d have three kids at my elbow asking, ‘Can I do that?’ I just thought, ‘Here come the greenhouse builders of the future.'”

Thompson, Osentowski and other presenters will be back at Yampah on Friday, May 1, for a greenhouse and agriculture presentation.

“We’ll spend the day talking about food and sustainability,” Ellison said.

The public is invited to come check it out, between 9 a.m. and noon Friday. Community volunteer help is also still needed to finish the greenhouse, including construction of a walkway and retaining wall, and preparing the garden beds inside the structure. To volunteer or for more information, contact Susy Ellison at 945-9463, ext. 112.

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

jstroud@postindependent.com