A greenhouse under construction near Manna, Durango’s soup kitchen, will increase the fresh ingredients available for meals served to Durango’s poorest residents.
The garden supplied Swiss chard, garlic and kale for a spaghetti sauce Monday, improving its flavor and nutrition, Manna’s Executive Chef Seanan Culloty said.
“I am just packing in all that stuff wherever I can,” he said. “... People can be picky about greens.”
The greens are just a sampling of the 1,000 to 1,500 pounds of produce expected from the garden this year.
Similar fresh produce will be available in greater abundance next year to help prepare the thousands of meals Culloty will serve. Last year, the kitchen served 59,079 meals, said Ann Morse, Manna’s executive director.
The produce is also needed for Manna’s free Wednesday market and to help fill emergency food boxes, Morse said.
In addition to boosting production, the new 800-square-foot greenhouse will provide job training to Manna clients interested in working in greenhouses, said Brooke Frazer, Manna garden and food security programs manager for The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado. The Garden Project is a nonprofit that manages the Manna Garden and other community gardens in the area.
The greenhouse will also allow The Garden Project to raise plants for sale and to host educational events, Frazer said.
“I think for us the most important thing about the greenhouse is that it will contribute to our ability to create our own earned income and promote education,” said Lexie Stetson-Lee, executive director of The Garden Project.
The greenhouse is expected to be finished in the fall, so it will be ready for seedlings in the spring, Frazer said.
Previously, The Garden Project had to start plants for all its programs in donated space at commercial farms outside of town, she said. The greenhouse will eliminate that practice, she said.
Next summer, the greenhouse is expected to be full of herbs and vegetables that flourish in warm temperatures, such as tomatoes, eggplants and basil, Frazer said.
The Moniker Foundation, a Colorado group, and Frank Sinton, former Dalton Ranch developer, funded the greenhouse, made with hempcrete, an environmentally friendly building material. Sinton and his son, Jake Sinton, have been overseeing and working on construction of the greenhouse, Stetson-Lee said.
Frank Sinton is interested in sustainable design and demonstrating how hempcrete might be used in Southwest Colorado, Stetson-Lee said.
Hemprcete is made from hemp hurds, the interior of hemp stalks, and lime. The greenhouse is believed to be one of the first in the area to use hempcrete, which will provide insulation in the walls that receive the most shade, Frazer said. The exterior hempcrete walls will be coated with a lime plaster to protect them from the elements, she said.
The sunny sides of the building will consist of plastic that can be rolled up to provide ventilation, she said.
When complete, the greenhouse will likely represent about a $50,000 donation from The Moniker Foundation and Sinton, Stetson-Lee said.
“It’s a beautiful example of a family giving back to nonprofits they are committed to and creating this sustainable piece of architecture,” she said.