Vail Valley Salvation Army’s Growing Gardeners program springing back up in May |

Vail Valley Salvation Army’s Growing Gardeners program springing back up in May

The greenhouse at the Vail Valley Salvation Army in Avon is part of the Bare Roots program, which employs the tagline "grow food, grow community."
John LaConte |

Has your toddler already developed an aversion to vegetables?

Trish Esperon can help.

Esperon is the greenhouse and garden project manager with Bare Roots, a project of the Vail Valley Salvation Army. Bare Roots will continue the free Growing Gardeners program again this summer, starting May 18, thanks to a $5,000 grant from the town of Avon.

The classes are for kids 5 and younger, and will take place at 10 a.m. every Wednesday and Friday, and the last Sunday of every month, through Sept. 14.

Esperon says she can almost guarantee your kid will eat vegetables during the classes.

“With the strawberry salad, for example, it’s five ingredients and they get to watch it being made,” she said. “We’ll make celery juice using apples, beats, carrots and kale or spinach; and all the kids who don’t have allergies drink it.”


Esperon is currently studying horticultural therapy in grad school. She starts off her classes with plant-inspired calisthenics of her own creation, such as “tilling the soil,” a rhythmic type of dancing in place, and “the grapevine,” an arm stretching routine.

She sings gardening songs and reads stories such as “The Carrot Seed” by Ruth Krauss.

Once in the garden, kids will get to see how plants create some of the foods they love.

“We’ll show them the corn plants that are growing, show them a cob of popcorn and then we’ll pop it,” Esperon said. “We’ll try to demonstrate the full circle.”

Families can pop in and out for any session during the four-month program, but there will be some progression for the regular attendees. The classes will monitor plants which the kids may have planted themselves in previous classes, and they’ll keep tabs on the potatoes, pumpkins, asparagus and other plants as they grow throughout the course of the summer.

Families will also be welcome to come back with the kids while class is not in session to sample some of the goods.

“We’ll have rows of sugar snap peas that people can come back and eat, if you get them right off the vine they’re really sweet,” Esperon said.


Esperon assumes most families who experience the Bare Roots program’s gardens during the classes will want to return.

And that assumption is based on what she has seen from the gardens already this spring.

Justin George, of Gypsum, first saw the gardens while fulfilling some of his court-ordered community service requirements. He said he plans on coming back with his daughter.

“I’ve been here a few days and I’m having a blast,” George said on Wednesday, April 25.

George, an electrician, was able to figure out why the power wasn’t working in the Bare Roots greenhouse and get things back online again for the many plants currently growing in the indoor facility.

After becoming intrigued by the Bare Roots program, he said he plans on coming back with his family and will continue to offer his expertise in an non-court-ordered volunteer capacity.

“It was great to get to use my skills to help,” he said.

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