Local educator is working with the town of Silt to bring a youth farm to Garfield County
While Glenwood Springs resident Sara Tymczyszyn was attending college to study Spanish, she began mentoring teens. During a field trip, she realized how much she didn’t know about where most of her food was being grown.
The field trip sparked a passion for Tymczyszyn that continues today as she works with the town of Silt to start a farm project for youth in Garfield County.
After moving to the Roaring Fork Valley from Indiana, Tymczyszyn spent time teaching at Glenwood Springs High School where she worked with new students to the school arriving from other countries.
“Through that experience I felt like there was totally room for this job training program that I had run before, and I want to be out on the land. I’d love to provide another outlet for youth to get some hands on experience. I ran a job training program for teenagers in Salt Lake City, and that’s what this is based off of,” Tymczyszyn said.
“And also to help provide this community with healthy produce, because there is definitely a lack of it.”
In April she began mobilizing to start a farm project.
“The concept is to hire teens to work on a farm, they earn a stipend and get some job training experience,” Tymczyszyn said.
“We do some farm work and also throughout the summer weave in workshops around cooking, or different job skills, talking about different social issues that come up.”
Tymczyszyn hopes to follow the model she used in Utah, where she hired five teens in a crew and one college leader for each crew.
“They would work together doing farm work during the day, and then also work offsite at either a food pantry or soup kitchen,” Tymczyszyn said.
In July, Tymczyszyn was connected with the Silt River Preserve, and she has been following through with the board of trustees for the town of Silt.
“I received council approval from the board of trustees a couple weeks ago,” Tymczyszyn said.
“Now I’m moving forward with a land lease, incorporating with the state of Colorado and mobilizing the project.”
The preserve sits on 133 acres on the south side of the Colorado River outside of Silt. Tymczyszyn said she asked for a stewardship of 5 acres.
She is currently working on land lease terms and models with the town of Silt.
“It feels really positive and we really want to work together,” Tymczyszyn said.
She said she believes it will be about a month out before things are finalized.
Her long-term plans will be to actively farm 3 1/2 acres and be able to employ about 35 youths.
“Next year in 2020 I’m hoping to run a pilot project where I’m on a half-acre to an acre, building out some systems and start vegetable production in that area,” Tymczyszyn said about her short term plans with the farm.
She is in the process of working with Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley, and their sustainability department to write a job description for crew leaders and plans to start recruiting this winter.
Tymczyszyn just incorporated with the state as Highwater Farm Project, and is ready to hit the ground running come next April. The plans are to grow a lot of mainstream vegetables including tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuces, radishes, kale, onions and garlic.
Tymczyszyn plans to donate 25-50 percent of what’s produced to local food pantries including LIFT-Up, and is already connecting with local farmers to see what varieties they think will work well in the area.
“One of the coolest things about farming that I love to experience is there is an immediate reward. It might take a couple week to see something improve or something grow, but there’s this tangible thing – you can look back and say, ‘I did that’ or ‘I harvested that,’ you can see that.” Tymczyszyn said.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.