The cultivation of knowledge |

The cultivation of knowledge

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” A campus-based Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, complete with a greenhouse and outdoor gardens, is envisioned as a way for Roaring Fork High School to offer something unique for its students.

A group of Roaring Fork Valley agrarians recently approached several area schools about setting up such a program, and RFHS Principal Cliff Colia along with several parents were more than willing to jump on board with the proposal.

“Any time you can get students working with authentic projects, that’s a good thing,” Colia said. “It’s a great way to get buy-in from the students on something that’s relevant to what’s going on in the valley. And, we’re excited at the opportunity to have some community partnerships.”

Some of the best learning experiences are when students can work directly with community professionals, he said. As a campus-based program, a CSA would offer a variety of academic applications.

Colia said teachers could utilize the greenhouse in the school’s applied biology program and other science classes.

“And it would be right out the back door,” he said.

The proposal was to go before the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education Wednesday, but instead was postponed until the April 8 school board meeting.

A CSA in and of itself offers a lesson in economic localization, said one of the proponents, Jerome Osentowski, who owns and operates the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute near Basalt.

“It works like a subscription garden, where farmers grow vegetables and people sign up to pay up front for a guaranteed box of vegetables,” said Osentowski, who along with partner Michael Thompson also operates Eco Systems Designs.

“A CSA can also arrange to have meat or honey delivered by another local supplier. It just depends on what members want to buy into,” he said. “For the students, you don’t sit in a classroom and learn about a CSA, you’re in the field doing the actual work.”

Through the Permaculture Institute, Osentowski offers classes on greenhouse design and growing techniques, as well as outdoor gardening that’s suitable for the mountain climate. He said it has long been his goal to teach gardening to younger students.

“It makes sense to connect students and the larger community to food they eat, and the CSA model is the most viable way to teach it,” he said.

Osentowski and Thompson helped establish a pilot CSA program at Fat City Farms in Woody Creek last year, which utilized students from Aspen High School to help grow and harvest the vegetables.

But the growing season there is limited, so they wanted to establish a program farther downvalley. When RFHS showed an interest, they met with the grounds crew to find the best location on what’s a fairly new school campus. They also located a greenhouse that the city of Glenwood Springs was willing to donate.

“During the school year we would turn over the greenhouse to the kids, and any school in Carbondale could be part of it,” he said. “Science teachers could use it as a learning project, and the school could grow its own vegetables for the cafeteria.”

Osentowski said there are several grant possibilities to help fund the project, such as through the Future Farmers of America program.

“There are lots of opportunities out there, because no one’s really done this before,” he said. “I like it because it’s taking what we’re doing down to the village level.”

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

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