Dear Eartha, Every summer I start my vegetable garden with the best intentions for healthy eating. And despite finding a ton of new ways to enjoy kale, here I am again, with more greens than one person can possibly handle. Any suggestions for planning my garden differently next summer?
At our altitude, vegetable gardening is difficult — congrats on your thriving garden and on your healthy eating habits! If you’re guilty of trashing some of that summer bounty, keep in mind that Summit County has a great option for donating those extra greens. It’s called Grow to Share, and I’ll get to those details shortly. In the meantime, know that your struggle with food waste is not unique. In fact, the U.S. wastes more than 119 billion pounds of food each year. Meanwhile, 34 million people in our country face hunger. Pretty crazy, right? So let’s get back to that local solution.
You’ve got kale
Once you learn what grows well in Summit County — kale, lettuces, chives, sugar snap peas, beets, radishes and more — it’s easy to throw down seeds and find yourself a little overwhelmed with the results. That scenario is exactly why Grow to Share got started: to reduce food waste among local gardeners. The program allows gardeners to donate their extra veggies, which are distributed to local families along with cooking tips and recipes.
Today, Grow to Share is a partnership between the High Country Conservation Center and Summit County Women, Infants and Children. Donations from gardeners are combined with food grown by High Country Conservation Center farmers, and it’s all divvied up to support 30 families weekly throughout summer. Interested in contributing? It’s easy!
Produce donations are collected on Monday mornings. That means you’ll want to harvest on Sunday evenings or Monday mornings to maintain peak freshness. Shake off excess soil and bag the dry produce. Bags and labels are provided at each drop-off location, or you can simply write the crop, harvest date and garden name or location on a clean plastic bag of your own. Come Monday morning, drop off your donations at one of the following locations:
- Nancy’s Garden (83 Nancy’s Place, Frisco): Donations are collected from the cooler on Mondays at 9 a.m.
- Dillon Valley Elementary Garden (108 Deer Path Road, Dillon): Donations can be dropped off from 7-9 a.m. on Mondays.
- Medical Office Building (360 Peak One Drive, Frisco, behind the hospital): Donations can be dropped off from 7-9 a.m. on Mondays.
- Frisco Transfer Center greenhouses (1010 Meadow Drive, Frisco): Drop off donations any time before 2 p.m. on Mondays.
Questions on donating? Get connected with a farmer by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gardening as therapy
As you suggested, a little planning can help you time harvests throughout summer so that you have a more manageable crop. HighCountryConservation.org offers up videos, planting dates and loads of tips on high altitude gardening. Given our short growing season, however, you may be eager to get your hands in the dirt and plant all you can as soon as the weather allows.
As it turns out, vegetable gardening does more than support healthy eating habits. A recent study from the University of Colorado revealed that people who started gardening significantly reduced their levels of stress and anxiety. Plus, study participants who already struggled with anxiety benefited even more. In short, planting all you can as soon as you can, and growing some extra food for donation, is good not only for your own mental health but also the health of local families who benefit from Grow to Share.
Don’t have your own space for gardening? You can get your hands dirty by helping in the Grow to Share gardens, which has locations in both Frisco and Dillon Valley. Volunteers are needed every Monday through Oct. 2 for harvesting, preparing donations, weeding and general cleanup. Visit HighCountryConservation.org/volunteer for details.
Given the mood boost that gardening provides, and the ease of donating veggies through Grow to Share, you may find yourself planning for a little — or a lot of — extra kale next summer.