The Montezuma School to Farm Project on Thursday said it has received funding to expand its programs to the middle and high schools in Mancos and Dolores, and invited the schools to participate.
Executive Director Gretchen Rank, speaking to the Dolores school board, said a continued partnership between Dolores School District Re-4A and School to Farm would help students get outside, where they would face less stringent COVID-19 restrictions and would be less likely to catch or spread the virus.
The Montezuma School to Farm Project teaches local students about sustainable agriculture, conservation and health through classes in outdoor gardens.
School to Farm works with the Southwest Conservation Corps to create learning opportunities for middle school students in Cortez. Serve Colorado AmeriCorps members also could help as teaching aides, Rank said.
Through an internship with School to Farm, high school students from Cortez learn about soil health, develop a plot of produce and sell it at a farmers market.
During the 2019-20 school year, Dolores elementary school students spent more than 2,800 hours in gardening classes. The garden, located behind the elementary school, includes herbs, fruit trees, a garden pond, a greenhouse, a five-bin compost system, a wash and food preparation station, a beehive, two outdoor learning spaces and a pavilion.
The School to Farm project also provides Dolores students with more than 90 tastings of healthful food.
“We keep the recipes easy to replicate at home, so kids can teach their parents,” Rank said.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the School to Farm Project won’t hold its third grade restaurant cooking and nutrition lessons, Rank said.
Members of the district’s Board of Education expressed interest in expanding the program to higher grade levels.
The district provides $9,600 in funding to the School to Farm project each year. The local school buy-in encourages other partners such as Great Outdoors Colorado to contribute grants to the project. Last year, School to Farm had a budget of $50,000 for Dolores, Rank said. This year’s budget has not been completed and will depend on several outstanding grant applications.