Dear Eartha, I have never planted my own veggie garden before, but I took the leap this year! Growing my own veggies already brings me so much joy and now my lettuce is growing like crazy. Is there anything I can do with my extras?
Hats off to you for taking your first dive into gardening in the High Country and double kudos for thinking about not letting food go to waste! Lettuce, kale, and other cool-season veggies thrive in our short mountain summers, and it sounds like your first growing season is already off to a great start! If you ever need general gardening information to keep in your back pocket for future years, the High Country Conservation Center’s website contains information available to you at any time of the year. Whenever you feel the urge to grow your gardening knowledge go to HighCountryConservation.org, click on Community Gardens, and find high-Alpine gardening guides and videos.
As you are experiencing firsthand, gardening is a fun and satisfying experience. I personally am giddy when I first see my seeds sprout. Not only are you starting to benefit from the fruits (or veggies) of your labor, but there are also other health benefits from having a garden. Did you know that there’s a natural antidepressant in soil? It’s true! It has been proven that while digging in your garden you are inhaling the mycobacterium vaccae in the soil. This bacterium increases serotonin produced in the brain. So, by getting your hands dirty, you’re also making your brain happy. This means gardening can be a wonderful way to reduce anxiety and increase emotional well-being.
If you consider where the food in our grocery stores currently comes from and all the energy involved in growing, harvesting, and transporting that food, it is even more satisfying to eat food directly from your own garden. While I am jazzed that you are looking for ways to reduce food waste, I also applaud you for diving into locally grown options because it cuts down a lot of other waste, especially transportation (The average commute of a veggie in the United States is 1,500 miles!).
Grow to Share
To get back to your question, the easiest way for you to share your surplus is through Grow to Share, a program that provides local produce, nutritional education, and hands-on growing experiences to qualified families in Summit County. Grow to Share first began in 2014 with the partnership between High Country Conservation Center, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center, and Summit County Women, Infants, and Children to reduce food waste in community gardens. Today, thanks to support from individuals along with organizations like St. Anthony Summit Hospital, the Alexandra Storm Foundation, the Anschutz Family Foundation, Nourish Colorado and the Slifer Smith & Frampton Foundation, High Country Conservation Center’s farmers have resources to grow food specifically for families in need. Local gardeners like you can join in by sharing your extra homegrown veggies. In 2021, Grow to Share reached 172 families and donated 1,459 pounds of produce!
How can you donate? Gardeners are encouraged to simply harvest their veggie surpluses, bag them up and drop them off. There are three main drop-off locations in the county. The first is the Dillon Valley Elementary Garden, located behind the school at 108 Deer Path Road in Dillon. Bring your veggies to this location on Monday mornings from 7-9:30 a.m. Another option is Leslie’s Community Garden in Dillon located at the corner of Lake Dillon Drive and Tenderfoot Street behind the Summit Stage bus stop. Drop off on Monday mornings from 7-10 a.m. The final drop-off spot in the county is at Nancy’s Garden, near the Senior Center in Frisco at 83 Nancy’s Place. Drop-offs are accepted from Sunday afternoon through Tuesday morning. Look for the cooler by the shed and be sure to bag and label your produce. Donations are picked up between 8:30-10 a.m. on Tuesdays for distribution.
While gardening brings you healthy veggies and happy bacteria, it can also bring you a rewarding opportunity to minimize food waste and share your hard work with our community. Sharing good food with local families is a great way to be involved in the community and give back. Best of luck on your new high-Alpine gardening adventures, I’m rooting for you!