Community gardens connecting people with their food sources across county | VailDaily.com

Community gardens connecting people with their food sources across county

EAGLE COUNTY — From West Vail to Eagle, residents are connecting with their food by growing it at community gardens across the county and fostering a more sustainable culture.

Organic gardens are sprouting up across the Vail Valley, providing people the opportunity to grow healthy food, create beauty and nurture relationships with like-minded gardeners of all ages.

"It's been a nice place to meet people," said Shannyn Sullivan, a gardener in the Eagle-Vail Community Garden. "I'll come here thinking I'm going to water but end up talking with people."

Community gardens are currently in West Vail, Eagle-Vail, Avon, Minturn and Eagle, with a group of residents in Edwards looking to add one there.

"People are growing food that they think they can take home," said Jenny Lorch, president of the Eagle Community Gardens. "Some people just graze out of their garden."

People are growing potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, spinach and much more for their plates, Lorch said, and Eagle has a gardener with a beehive.

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"These are carrots," said Ayse, 7, tending to a plot at the Eagle-Vail garden with her sister Leyla, 4, and Sullivan. "These are beets. I think that's cabbage, or something. The community garden is pretty much to learn how to plant stuff and helps you get healthier."

"This one is all white!" Leyla screamed after picking a strawberry from the communal plot in Eagle-Vail.

In a world filled with ignorance about where food comes from, connecting people of all ages with their food sources is as much educational as it is practical.

"It's important to them (Ayse and Leyla) to have that awareness and be part of the process of growing food and gain an appreciation for what it takes to grow food," Sullivan said. "Getting your hands in the dirt and dirty is a new experience but life-changing for some people."

Growing at high altitude has an effect on gardening.

"If you're careful, you'll be OK," Lorch said. "You just have to know when it's going to frost."

And, while Sullivan and her team planned out their plot, there are some unexpected plants growing.

"It's a grab bag of what you get in the plot because some seeds from other plots come in," she said. "We have some cilantro that wasn't planted. This might be corn, I really don't know."

COMMUNITY FIRST

Community gardens across the valley host events, for both garden members and the public, throughout the growing season, including dinners, activities for kids and the Wednesday Afternoon Clubs.

"Technically you could go to a garden every Wednesday and partake in workshops and some socializing," Sullivan said.

Donating extra food to local food pantries is also becoming commonplace in community gardens.

Sullivan is part of a team in Eagle-Vail that helps get food to Produce for Pantries. Her job is to bring out the coolers, ice and bags that gardeners can use to donate some food to locals in need.

"That's when you know the Vail Valley is home," Sullivan said of the community giving component at the gardens.

For more information about community gardens in the Vail Valley, visit their individual websites.

"We pretty much plant stuff," Ayse said with a mouth full of freshly picked strawberries.

Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and rleonhart@vaildaily.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.