The Montezuma Farm to School project will continue to grow in 2014, thanks to a $40,000 grant.
The $40,000 Colorado State Conservation Board (CSCB) matching grant will help fund farm field trips, summer camps, in-class farmer visits, school gardens and after-school programs, project director Sarah Syverson said.
The Farm to School program aims to involve students, teachers, local producers and parents in a dynamic approach to sustainable food production and conservation.
"One carrot at a time, one kid at a time, we are making a difference in students' conceptions and connections to their agricultural heritage and their growing future," Syverson said.
In addition, gardens at Dolores, Mancos and Cortez schools help teach students about soil and water conservation methods and practices.
It's vital that specific curriculum concepts in math and science are incorporated around drought education and resilience, considering the region has been in long-standing drought conditions for more than a decade, Syverson added.
"We want to provide practical, hands-on experiential education about our region's agricultural challenges and needs," she said.
"For the Montezuma Farm to School project, the task of interweaving water and watershed education into the garden classes is taking on more and more importance," Americorps volunteer Harrison Topp said. "When in it comes to raising responsible Colorado citizens and the future agrarians of Montezuma County, these lessons are imperative."
Topp said several local students are grasping those lessons as evidenced by a recent poster contest sponsored by the Mancos Conservation District, Dolores Conservation District and Colorado Association of Conservation Districts. The contest - "Where Does Your Water Shed?" - called for students to answer the question by creating informative posters.
"I learned we use a lot of water, everyday, for everything," said Mancos sixth-grade contestant Kaytea Mayhan.
Mayhan explained for her poster she simply counted the number of times she turned on the water.
"I turned the faucet on over 30 times a day," she explained. "I've got to start thinking about that and doing it less." In 2014, Topp said the Montezuma School to Farm Project would do more to educate students about drought conditions.
"We hope these lessons will inspire students to engage in the conversation about how, as residents in an increasingly arid region, we can adapt to promote resilience," he said.
Syverson said the latest grant is welcome news following the decision by Livewell Montezuma to pull back its funding for the program. The Mancos Conservation District joined forces with the Dolores Conservation District to apply for the $40,000 matching grant. Both the City of Cortez and the Town of Mancos have stepped forward to help match the grant.
With a $140,000 operating budget for fiscal year 2014, the Montezuma Farm to School project has reached more than 1,600 students and produced more than a ton of produce for school cafeterias since its inception four years ago.