Greener Pastures: Summer means local food in valley |

Greener Pastures: Summer means local food in valley

Cassie Pence
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

Special to the Daily

Ask a longtime Eagle Valley gardener (or farmer) when to plant, and June 1 is always the answer. It’s our unofficial gardening start date here in the mountains – a time when we feel we’re safe from killing frosts.

So for those of you who have yet to plant, you’re not too late. The time to sow is now. Summer means local food; so let June 1 also serve as the unofficial start date to celebrate the season’s bounty. Whether you grow your own or seek out farmers, here are some upcoming events to get the party started.

Starting today until Friday, Sowing Seeds Director Sandy Story will sell plant starts at Brush Creek Elementary from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the greenhouse. A Vail Valley Foundation program, Sowing Seeds teaches children how to grow food and how to eat it. Ranging from preschoolers to fifth-graders, students learn all about the origin of food through hands-on activities at least once a week during the school year (there’s a summer camp, too). It’s an integrative curriculum, so teachers of all subjects can use the greenhouse as a catalyst to discuss the food cycle, the natural environment, smart food choices and, in general, sustainable living. The Sowing Seeds kids grew the plant starts, and all proceeds benefit the program.

Where you buy your plant starts makes a huge difference in the success of your garden. Your plant starters should be grown in a greenhouse close to home or on a local farm so they are acclimated to our climate. Otherwise, you might have a very sensitive plant on your hands.

No matter where your plant starters were grown or how heirloom your seeds may be, experienced gardeners know when it comes to success in the garden – it’s all about the soil. Soil gives us life, but it’s easily Earth’s most valuable and underappreciated resource.

Jeff Lowenfels, author of “Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” not only understands the magical world of dirt, he knows how to make your soil healthy in order to grow great veggies. Vail Symposium, in partnership with Colorado Mountain College’s Sustainable Cuisine Program, hosts Lowenfels on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. at CMC in Edwards for “Teaming with Microbes,” a public lecture, and on June 9 at 9:30 a.m. for a hands-on workshop.

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Friday evening’s lecture will include discussion about soil, composting and organic gardening. His Saturday morning hands-on workshop will take place in the CMC gardens and greenhouse area and will guide participants through the process of preparing soil and beds and planting your own organic garden. Lowenfels is a leader in the organic-gardening movement and has been called “the Cal Ripken of North American garden columnists.” His weekly column has run in the “Anchorage Daily News” for more than 36 years. Tickets are $15 for reception and lecture, $30 for garden workshop or $40 both. Register with the Symposium at 970-476-0954.

A permanent farmers’ stand in Edwards with a mission to engage, educate and excite the valley community about eating locally, Ripe will open June 5 for the summer season.

Located at the Northstar Center in the parking lot across from Cafe Milano, Ripe sells fruits, veggies and other Colorado products, such as quinoa and honey, sourced from farmers along the Western Slope.

“I have been chatting with our local farms – new and old – to discuss the upcoming opening of Ripe, and it sounds like we have a very plentiful spring about us. The farms are producing brilliantly and abundantly, and we are planning on sharing everything they have to offer on our opening,” owner Gretchen Schramm said.

Ripe will be open five days a week – Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. They purchased a new scale that calculates price per pound in hopes of streamlining checkouts. For more information, check them out on Facebook.

With all the community gardens popping up (Brush Creek in Eagle, West Vail, Eagle-Vail and now Minturn), there will be a lot of people with a lot of veggies to eat this summer. What should I do with all these greens?

One of the most nutritious ways to prepare those freshies is raw, and on June 7 at 5:30 p.m., West Vail Community Garden presents a class on raw foods, superfoods and high virbrational nutrition with Chef Andi, “The Carrot Lady” and Steve Dickman, owner and founder of High Country Kombucha. There will be a presentation, discussion, raw-food demo and tastings.

The event takes place at the Grand View Room in the new Information Building in the corner of the Lionshead Parking Structure. A $10 suggested donation will benefit the West Vail Community Garden. For more information, email westvail RSVP is encouraged.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She owns Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company, and is actively involved in the Eagle-Vail Community Garden, the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability and Slow Food Vail Valley. Contact her at