The Colorado Master Gardener Program: Planting Gardens, Growing People
The Colorado Master Gardener Program
in La Plata County
In La Plata County, 60 CMG volunteers performed 2,400 hours of volunteer service to foster successful gardening in La Plata County. This number has been on the increase over the past 4 years, with a renewed interest in the presence of CMG volunteers in our community. The CMG volunteers made almost 5,000 contacts annually, including 880 youth contacts.
Community Outreach Projects
- Small Acreage Workshops – LPC Extension hosts and organizes approximately 2-5 Small Acreage Workshops every year. Topics have included irrigation, fruit tree production, vegetable production, organic weed management, greenhouse construction, and beneficial insects. CMG volunteers assist in setting up, running errands, assisting in hands-on activities, and breaking down.
- Tour de Farm – This year was the 4th Annual Tour de Farm and riders have two routes to choose from – a leisurely 5 mile in-town short route tour and a 30 mile long route loop in the Animas Valley. The Tour will feature presentations from farmers and garden directors and share ways you can support area efforts to strengthen our local food system. The Tour will travel along the Durango bike path system and county ‘safe-routes’ and culminate in a delicious seasonal lunch made by Zia Taqueria. CMG volunteers assist in the planning, coordination, and the event. The biking event is planned to occur in early September, but planning is expected to begin in mid-June. CMG volunteers also assisted in being tour leaders, answering gardening and environmental questions.
- LPC Iron Horse Chef – Extension has organized the Iron Horse Chef events over he past three years. With assistance from CMG Volunteers, we have successfully organized and put on 6 events over those 3 years. The competition is a series of challenges pitting two chefs against each other and against the clock. The chefs will have an hour and a half to shop and prepare dishes – all at the Durango Farmers Market.
Over the last two years, we were able to demonstrate how important supporting local agriculture is to the community, as well as educating attendees (approximately 1000 people watched at least a portion of the event) on the benefits of eating locally grown food. We have also been able to showcase multiple restaurants that support local agriculture through putting locally grown vegetables, fruit, meat, and other items on their menu.
Volunteers are utilized for pre-planning and for the date of the event. The Iron Horse Chef will occur on two Saturday at Durango Farmers Market. We need volunteers for each of these dates AND for pre-planning and bi-monthly organizational meetings. Volunteers are critical to the success of these events. We also have two CMG volunteers design a cookbook based off of the events.
- Durango Farmers Market – CMG volunteers assist in 25 Durango Farmers Market Events. Duties at the market include educating folks that come to the booth on a number of topics and pointing them in the 'right direction'.
- Apple Days Festival – This free to the public family event showcases and celebrates the apple, and provides opportunities for residents and tourists alike to learn what they can do to promote and practice food security and sustainability. Over the past two years, the Apple Days Festival has become a highlight of the fall season, and is a fantastic event for all ages and members of the family.
Much like other events, CMG volunteers are critical in the success of this event. They are utilized in helping pick apples (we collect approximately 5,000 pounds), as well as day of event activities.
Festival events include:
- Apple pressing – help us, and the Bootleggers Society, press apples so they can brew it into our very own, “Insider Ale” which is then sold to raise money for this year’s festival
- Kid events – we will have a cardboard castle, pumpkin painting, an apple slingshot, and face painting
- Live music – live music from local bands
- Edible trees and shrubs to buy and plant
- Local food
- A Beer Garden highlighting brews from our local breweries
- Educational tents and workshops, including tasting from many of the area’s local apple trees
- Pie eating contest
- Get Growing Article for Durango Herald – LPC Extension writes a bi-monthly article called 'Get Growing' and the hope was that it would be written by me as well as CMGers. This is a great opportunity to get some great visibility for you, the program, and horticulture in general.
It is relatively short - 300 words - comes out on Thursdays, and will run from April to maybe October. If you are interested please let me know. You will send me the article and I can do some edits to it, and I will send it on to the paper. Even if you have a good idea for an article that is not currently pertinent (read: harvesting apples) still feel free to write it and I can hold it until the fall. If you wrote an article, go ahead and enter your hours on THE FOURTH FRIDAY OF EACH MONTH.
- La Plata County Fair – Wednesday would be for assistance in setting up for flower show and getting the area ready for judging. Wednesday through Saturday would be to assist in the Horticulture room, answering questions and keeping the place neat and tidy. Sunday would be assistance in breaking down the displays.
- School and Community Gardens – A major push of 2010 (and into the future) is working with school and community gardens in La Plata County. Currently, CMG volunteers are very active with assisting in the construction, maintenance, and implementation of gardens at: Needham Elementary, Fort Lewis Elementary, Animas Valley Elementary, Riverview Elementary, Escalante Middle School, and Columbine Christian School. At a number of these schools, CMG volunteers are also active in curriculum development and educating the students. Volunteers are also active at a garden located adjacent to the Soup Kitchen, as well as three community gardens.
- Durango Public Library Demonstration Garden – In 2011, we are expecting CMG volunteers to be a major contributor to Durango’s first Demonstration and Plant Select Garden, located at the Durango Public Library.
Education for Volunteers
- Basic training for CMG volunteers is provided at the La Plata County Extension Office with a combination of distance education classes and local presenters. The interactive classes classes meet on Thursdays, January through April.
- La Plata County Extension offers CMG volunteers a variety of continuing education opportunities, including assortment of gardening classes and small acreage symposiums.
- CMG volunteers: 60
- Annual volunteer hours: 2,200
- Annual value of volunteer time: $48,400
CSU Extension, La Plata County Office
2500 Main Avenue
Durango, CO 81301
- Darrin Parmenter, County Director and Horticulture Agent