It’s harvest time in Edwards
Vail, CO Colorado
EDWARDS, Colorado – Squatting down on the ground, Todd Rymer smiled as he plucked a bright yellow nasturtium and popped it into his mouth.
“They’re great – try one,” he urged. “They’re kind of spicy at the end. You put a few of these on a salad and it goes from $2.95 to $8.95.”
The flowers were just the beginning of a recent tour of the organic vegetable garden, chock full of a plethora of brightly colored edibles with everything from purple bush beans, eggplant and kohlrabi to zephyr squash, carrots and bok choy. There’s an entire bed dedicated to lettuce, and another for heirloom tomatoes with fun names like Orange Paradise and Black Krim.
There’s a spiral herb garden in the center overflowing with fragrant herbs – three kinds of basil, bee and lemon balm, parsley and more. Six-foot-tall sunflowers are planted along the perimeter of the garden, acting as a wind break for the vegetables below.
“We’ve really tried to have a variety of things so people can see how many different things can grow here,” he said.
Rymer and a handful of other people built raised garden beds at the Colorado Mountain College campus in Edwards this spring and planted the garden soon after. Not only has the garden yielded plenty of healthy food this season – “my wife is sick of lettuce,” Rymer said – it’s also proved to be a useful teaching tool. A few weeks ago Rymer had some of his culinary students trek out to the garden to harvest lettuce and squash to use during a practical exam.
Though Rymer doesn’t think twice about picking a ripe green bean from the stalk and putting it directly into his mouth, some of his students aren’t so comfortable with the practice.
“There seems to be this dichotomy even among my students that food is something that doesn’t exist until its delivered to the back dock,” Rymer said. “What I’m trying to do is make people understand the process. Consumers are co-producers and need to think of themselves that way. You vote with your dollar in how you want food produced.”
This semester, which starts Monday, the school is offering two new certificate programs in sustainable cuisine – one for culinary students and one for professionals already in the restaurant industry.
“Colorado Mountain College created these certificates in order to help future chefs and restaurateurs learn about the issues, challenges and opportunities involved in creating sustainable food service operations,” Rymer said.
“Our current food system relies on importing our community’s food and degrades our health, security, economy, soil, water, air and relationships,” he continued. “This program offers students the opportunity to learn about these issues and alternatives that can improve the quality of our health, community and environment.”
The garden is the first step in Rymer’s master plan, which includes eventually raising bees, chickens and rabbits at the campus. With the school’s upcoming expansion, a 500-foot greenhouse will be added onto the building, and another garden will be constructed, Rymer said.
“We hope to be producing a lot of food for our classes,” he said.