The idea of a community garden grew
out of a book study that was looking at environmental and sustainability issues.
The book study was called Brown Bag Book Buddies, and was led by Dr. Paul Newendorp. The study was sponsored by the United Methodist Church in Estes Park, CO. Originally, 28 participants met and discussed books like Bill McKibben’s Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Allan Weisman’s Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth, and Rob Hopkins’ The Transition Handbook, as well as many others.
These book studies began in 2009 and members continued to educate themselves on these subjects. After one profound study someone mentioned that we needed to put our money where our mouths were and put our learning into action. A brainstorming session occurred as to how we could make a difference. Soon, the idea of a community garden emerged. We began doing our homework, and found that many high elevation gardens around Colorado are successful, including Vail, Aspen, Summit County, Salida, Steamboat, and Grand County. So why can’t we?
We are now progressing toward a real live community garden, with a Groundbreaking ceremony on November 6, 2015 to mark the official start! High elevation gardening is a unique challenge, and one community garden will not cause Estes Valley to become food independent. However, through education, hard work, and the sharing of knowledge, we look forward to the fruits of our labors.
2016 Gardener orientation was held on March 24 and March 26 at the Library. Raised plot frame construction began in March; the first load of soil/compost mix was delivered on April 5. Some plot holders began planting in mid-April. Kids' area and Gathering Space construction/installation in progress June - October. The 2016 growing season was quite successful for the gardeners in our 67 rental plots.
2017 A 100+ mph windstorm in early February destroyed the fence along the west side of the Garden. Thank you, Estes Valley Recreation and Park District and Town of Estes Park, for permission to expand the Garden westward 26 feet to allow an additional 22 garden plots. Fence reconstruction and new plot frame building were completed during April-May with over 53 volunteer person-days. The gardening season started on time with minimal crop damage from the heavy May 18 snowstorm. New gardeners this season occupied 21 of the 90 plots. The Garden hosted a Mountain Bluebird family and the rain gauge, part of a national network of precipitation reporting stations, was installed. Green beans, sugar snaps, zucchini, onions and potatoes were harvested for the Crossroads Ministry Food Bank.
2018 An excellent growing season, with bountiful veggies, herbs and flowers. Trellises were constructed around the Gathering Area for climbing vines. Four areas designated “Pollinator Gardens” were planted with locally native flora to attract and nourish the butterfly and bee population. An education corner was added in the tool shed, with field guides on butterflies and maps of the Pollinator Garden plantings. Four educational programs were held in the spring, plus a seed exchange in collaboration with Estes Valley Library, and the annual “garden bounty” potluck in July. We welcomed new gardeners for 22 of the 90 plots. Crossroads Ministry Food Bank’s harvest included potatoes,
onions, green beans, wax beans, peas, radishes and carrots.
2019 We welcomed new gardeners for 29 of the 90 plots. Five more plots were converted to tall frames, for a total of 12, and the drip irrigation system was automated with timers. Three education programs were held in partnership with Estes Valley Recreation and Parks District Senior and Adult Activities; the third annual seed/plant exchange was held in collaboration with Estes Valley Library; and despite wind and rain the annual “garden bounty” potluck in August was a success. On August 23 the Garden received an “Estes Bright Spot” Award from Estes in Bloom. The bounty of this year’s Garden was boosted by a wet spring and summer, and the Crossroads Ministry’s Food bank volunteer gardening team harvested lots of potatoes, green beans, lettuce, zucchini squash and cucumbers.
2020 There were 23 new gardeners this season. Late spring and early fall snowstorms put a crimp in the growing season (as did the COVID-19 pandemic), but crops were bountiful despite the cold start and finish.
Receiving an AARP Community Challenge Grant allowed us to add a handwashing station and to convert 6 existing plots to taller frames for gardeners who need easier access. Also part of the AARP Grant, the drip irrigation was extended into the common-area perennial beds to reduce the need for watering visits to the Garden, and signage boxes were added to each gate for updating Garden access policies. Over 95 pounds of freshly-picked produce was delivered to Crossroads Ministry’s food bank throughout harvest season, from gardener donations and the 5 Crossroads-dedicated plots that were tended by EVCG volunteers.
2021 Despite wet spells, dry spells, wildfire smoke, munching critters... the Garden was beautiful and bountiful. There were 20 new gardeners, 13 sponsored plots (5 individuals, 8 for organizations), and a large population of hungry Wyoming ground squirrels, pocket gophers and voles. Due to continuing COVID-19 public health restrictions, the April and May educational programs were via Zoom, but the annual “garden bounty” potluck was outdoors at the Garden in August. Approximately 80 pounds of fresh veggies and herbs were donated to the Crossroads Ministry Food Pantry during August and September -- beets, carrots, kale, radishes, Swiss chard, summer squash, basil, parsley, and 19 pounds of onions
2022 This year we had 27 new gardeners, 20 sponsored plots (11 individuals, 9 for organizations), and again an invasion of the usual small 4-legged critters. Despite their digging and munching, the garden looked amazing all summer thanks to early-season rain and perfect growing weather in June and July. Volunteer teams were very active and did a great job with water monitoring, pest control and garden appearance. In July a group of 20 youth volunteers from Iowa, through YM360 Generate SERVE, spent 3 half-days days constructing a new tall garden plot, painting the garden shed, installing the sandbox and “bridge” and staining these new items for the Children’s Area, and weeding the main pathways. We are grateful to YM360, based at YMCA of the Rockies, for these hours of labor to help us improve the Garden. Gardener orientation and the spring educational programs were via Zoom, but there were several story time programs in the Garden – three by EVICS Family Resource Center and one by the Library. In September, Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s after-school Explorer Camp visited the Garden with a group of kindergarteners, then the following week with older kids. They had fun doing a scavenger hunt (checking off items, not picking them!) and color bingo; this year’s very tall sunflowers were a big hit with the little ones. We continued the Garden’s annual donations of produce to Crossroads Ministry’s Food Pantry, estimating approximately 30 pounds donated during July through early October – including carrots, kale, radishes, lettuce, Swiss chard, summer squash, basil, parsley, cherry tomatoes, and onions. We also made good progress on diversity and partnering initiatives that will continue to be a priority in 2023.
The Book Readings:
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Jared Diamon
Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? - Alan Weisman
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet - Bill McKibben
Hot, Flat, and Crowded - Thomas Friedman
Jump Time: Shaping Your Future in a World of Radical Change - Jean Houston
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit - Daniel Quinn
My Ishmael: A Sequel - Daniel Quinn
The Conundrum - David Owen
The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future - Thomas Berry