Community gardens, Casper promotes local food in schools
Casper – “In Casper and throughout the whole country we are seeing a need and desire for people to reconnect with their food and learn how to grow their own food again,” comments Jude Buchanan, secretary of Casper Community Greenhouse Project.
Members of the Casper Community Greenhouse Project and students from Star Lane Center are working together to make the greenhouse at Mills Elementary operational and install a community garden at the school to benefit the surrounding area.
“We are putting food back into the hands of people because we’ve had some generations who have lost touch with growing food and gardening,” states Buchanan. “We need people to know it costs pennies on the dollar to have good food, and we are re-instilling that idea back into people’s minds. That’s very powerful.”
The project at Mill’s Elementary started when principal Coebie Taylor-Logan saw a need and desire in her students for better nutrition. The school raised money and built a greenhouse in 2010, but it still remained non-operational.
“Mills had this non-operational greenhouse, and I saw that as a really great project for the Star Lane kids,” states Buchanan. “I talked to the faculty at Star Lane to see if they would be interested in helping the Mills kids make their greenhouse operational and use it as one of their learning projects for the students.”
The Casper Community Greenhouse Project solicited the help of Colorado Aquaponics to help the school install an aquaponics system in their greenhouse to help grow the produce.
Currently, through the aquaponics system, students are able to grow leafy greens, such as lettuce.
Aquaponics utilizes fish as a nutrient source for plants when they are grown in water.
The school also grows trays of wheat grass, which are currently available for sale to consumers.
“Wheat grass is very nutritious for juice or smoothies and is probably one of the biggest things that we are able to sell right now at the Mills greenhouse,” comments Buchanan.
Buchanan mentions in the near future they would like to grow strawberries in the greenhouse, and through the help of students from Star Lane, they have designed an outdoor garden center that will be added to the greenhouse at Mills Elementary and serve as a community garden, as well.
“We should be able to grow some root vegetables, like carrots and beets, this summer in the outdoor garden,” says Buchanan. “Most likely, we will grow tomatoes, as well.”
On May 17, the school will be installing their community garden, and all volunteers are welcome to come and join in on the fun.
The school is also starting to grow flowers through the help of Master Gardner’s and have a plant sale on May 9 in preparation for Mother’s Day.
“Right now we have four different types of flowers that we are growing – marigolds, geraniums, sweet peas and snapdragons,” describes Buchanan.
The Casper Community Greenhouse Project started in 2011 with the mission of producing fresh and healthy local food for the Casper community in a way that will educate and foster the community’s involvement.
“From our standpoint, we would like to see greenhouses become pieces of a school curriculum for K-12, all the way up into college,” comments Buchanan. “We want to keep doing projects like this with the schools.”
Danica Sveda began forming the Casper Greenhouse project in 2011. From Sveda’s efforts and current presidents Jesse Miller’s initiatives, the Casper Greenhouse is a local grassroots movement.
“The goal of the Greenhouse Project is to have multiple small greenhouses and some large ones in the Casper area,” explains Buchanan.
She continues, “We would love to build a large scale greenhouse in the downtown part of Casper and have it not only be a place where we can grow food but also be a teaching kitchen with a theater and possibly a little restaurant that is attached to it.”
“We want people to know what to do with this produce once it is in their hands. It’s all about providing and educating people with the right tools,” adds Buchanan.