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Local schools get sustainable

Growing (food) despite budget cuts

By Ellen Metrick, Editor
Published: Wednesday, March 9, 2011 6:08 AM CST

While school budgets are being plowed under across the state, a local organization has donated funds to help schools grow. Food.
Michael Goller, the Telluride School chef had installed a miniature garden in his kitchen that included grow lights and a hydroponics system. Kris Holstrom of Tomten Farm helped him set it up, and got to see it in action, and decided the rest of the area schools needed something similar.
“I was impressed with the system that Michael had set up at the Telluride School,” said Holstrom. So, she ordered five new units, without the hydroponics, to go in Ridgway, Norwood, Nucla and Naturita schools, plus one other.
Holstrom’s organization, Southwest Institute for Relocalization (SWIRL), along with Telluride Foundation, donated the funds to buy the shelves, grow lights, timers, seeds and other necessary items to help the five schools get growing. Earlier this week, Holstrom went to work with a small group of people to put one of the systems together, “to make sure I can do it,” she laughed.
Holstrom hopes to get the units set up in the next week or so, and “at least get some sunflower greens going before spring break,” she said.

Denny Johnson of Redvale’s Paradise Farms, originator of the locally-popular and still-growing “baby sunflower greens” will share his sunflower green-growing knowledge with the schools to help make sure that part of the project is successful.
Jenn Dabal, head of the Norwood School kitchen, said she wants to grow arugula, along with the sunflower and other greens. Both Dabal and Sheila Henderson, Norwood School food service administrator, are excited. Henderson was looking for good soil, and Dabal had a space cleared in the kitchen two weeks ago, when they first received the news that they would be getting one of the units.
“It’ll go right behind the line,” said Dabal, “right where the kids can see it every day.”
Holstrom sees the growing systems as “a quick way to get some local food going in the schools. With all the budget cuts, if we can help build a learning environment and something that contributes to the lunch system, well, we can’t beat that.”

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