The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado

We're growing a healthier community, one garden at a time! By supporting school and community garden programs in La Plata County, students develop healthier eating habits, food-insecure families have access for fresh food and neighbors build self-sufficiency skills. Thank you for your support!

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Farm to School - School Gardens




At-Risk Populations
Children (4-12 years)


Our youth gardening programs include:
- After-school programs like Dirt Club & Garden Team
After school program feature a weekly theme such as, Be a Water Hero, Beneficial Insects, Plant Parts. These programs also include snacks, art activities and hands-on work in school gardens. Dirt Club broadened the age range of students who could participate during Spring 2016 with an extra after school program targeting older students (3rd - 5th grades) called Garden Team. Also new in spring 2016 was Garden Squad which targeted Miller Middle School students to work in their school garden.

- Farmer Days
Brought local Farmers into the schools to lead lessons with elementary school students.

- Garden Based Science Lessons
Lessons were offered to each grade (K - 5) at 9-R (7 elementary schools total), provided by a Garden Educator who came to classrooms, and cover Colorado Academic Science Standards that the 9-R science curriculum department identified as needing extra support.

- Garden to Cafeteria/Taste Tests
Give students the opportunity to taste and reflect on a vegetable. The goal is to connect students with food from the garden, and increase their likelihood of trying fresh fruits and veggies at home or at lunch.

- Junior Gardeners Summer Camp
A three-week summer camp where students work in the garden (harvesting, washing, weeding, sowing seeds), creating art projects, cooking, and working with guest presenters on topics like: cooking, uses of edible weeds, pollinators, composting, vermicomposting, and garden yoga.


Evidence of Program's Success

After-school programs provided 929 education hours to 315 students.

Farmer Days connected over 1,300 students at Riverview and Needham to local farmers. At Needham, students helped plant their school garden during spring 2016 and they put their garden beds to rest during fall 2016 with local farmers.
Riverview students worked with local farmers to put their beds to rest for fall 2016.

School Garden Classes reached 408 students with 6 lessons connecting the garden to International Baccalaureate themes during the 2015/2016 school year (September - May).

"Having a garden at school definitely helps keep the interest in our garden alive and well! So happy she is getting 'garden impact' both at school and at home". -Parent

""There were great connections! Kids were engaged!" - Teacher

Reached 829 students through GTC and Taste Tests (approximately 400 unduplicated students). These programs really let us connect with our goals of having students actually eat healthy food.

Community Gardens


Food, Agriculture & Nutrition 


At-Risk Populations
General population
Young Adults (20-25 years)


We support community gardens with leader trainings, resources, workshops, and garden network benefits like discounts at nurseries!

For example, the Ohana Kuleana Community Garden, started in 2013, is intended to provide space to grow an abundance of healthy food for a diverse community, while also providing a place where people can gather to learn and share ideas or to relax in a peaceful and beautiful setting. Ohana Kuleana are Hawaiian terms that means "Community Responsibility: we all own each other's actions."

The garden is on a half-acre plot with over 12,000 square feet of growing space (4,500 sf berm surrounding the garden and 7,500 sf of plots). There are 45 plots available to be rented for the season (May-October)

Monthly workdays & potlucks bring garden members together to share in hard work, harvest, and laughter.

Workshops provide education on organic gardening methods for the whole community.

In May 2018 we installed a new garden at Peaceful Spirit Treatment Center in Ignacio to provide a space for horticultural therapy for their clients facing addiction.


Evidence of Program's Success

22 School and Community Gardens in La Plata County since 1998

Thirty-five (37) member groups gardened in forty-five (45) 150-sf plots.
76 adults total.
Organization Plots -
Riverview Elementary - 3 Double Plots
SW Center for Independence - 1 Double Plot
Cultivation Station (TGP - Dirt Club) - 1 Full Plot
Pediatric Associates of Durango - 1 Full Plot (paid in full)

Over 2,600 lbs. of produce harvested (2,649 lbs), up from 1,500 pounds in 2014 and 2,500 in 2015.
877 participants reached, 641 unduplicated participants. Including 522 youth
121 participants reached through 12 education workshops
4,723 educational programming hours provided, up from 1,400 hours in 2014 and 3,400 in 2015.
Riverview Students spent 3,787 educational hours in the garden through their science classes
237 educational hours at workshops
367 volunteer hours contributed by 234 volunteers

Are Community Gardens worthwhile for our community? "Yes! Everyone benefits - the gardeners benefit by working outdoors in the soil, learning new skills and knowledge; their families benefit by eating the healthy, fresh, food that they grow; the students learn how to garden and get to eat the fresh food too."

"I became a member to do something that would be good for my health and that could offset the effects of a sedentary life. It worked and in addition, I got delicious food."

"I think community gardens are essential for Durango and La Plata County. So many people are looking for community, a sense of belonging, being a part of something bigger. Gardening gives people a sense of home. And accomplishment, the gardens set people up for success (generally, we all lose a couple plants now and then). I think everyone should have access to a garden to bring people together in their community."

"I socialized more often than I had been used to, and I think it's been good for my health and happiness."

"Socially I was able to make connections with people I would normally never have crossed paths with."

"Planning menus around what I harvested allowed me save on produce costs. I was also able to can salsa and freeze veggies for a future use."

"This year was my first gardening experience, and due to the immense support in terms of resources space and community, I imagine I will continue gardening forever!"

"The most meaningful part of being in the garden for me was the evening talks with other folks who were there watering. We chatted about work, our plants and everything in between. It was really neat to be a part of such a varied space."

Food Security & Manna Garden


Food, Agriculture & Nutrition 


Alcohol, Drug, Substance Abusers
At-Risk Populations
Unemployed, Underemployed


The Manna Soup Kitchen Garden grows for meals at the soup kitchen which serves homeless and struggling families. Weekly workdays are organized throughout the season.

- Manna Market: Free Produce Stand
The goals of the Manna Market were to redirect fresh produce from the waste stream (stores, farms, gardens) and into the kitchens of food insecure families, help community members add more fruits and vegetables to their diet, and empower people to take charge of their health through diet and nutrition.

- Manna Culinary Arts Workshops
The goals of the Culinary Arts Workshops are to provide the Manna Culinary Arts Students with an introduction to "farm to table" and to enhance students' education with gardening and self-sufficiency skills.

In 2016 four workshops on the following topics were offered: Beginning Gardening and Plant Identification, Mushroom Foraging, Fermentation: Kimchi + Sauerkraut, Introduction to Canning.


Evidence of Program's Success

1,335 lbs of produce harvested, an increase of over 450 lbs from last year
6,260 lbs of produce distributed at the Manna Market free produce stand, from 670 lbs in 2015 (distributed as garden shares in 2015)
1,211 participants reached
1,057 participants served at the Manna Market
566 total educational programming hours provided
577 youth hours provided (youth educational programming hours + youth group volunteer hours)
938 total volunteer hours contributed by 351 volunteers
The Garden Project provided over 40 garden workdays
12 new raised beds were installed
4 workshops provided for the Manna Culinary Arts students and 3 additional workshops provided for community members.

Manna garden volunteer, "This is my therapy, I come here to get my hands dirty!".
Manna client, " I like to walk the labyrinth and be in the garden when I'm having a hard time".

The Manna Market distributed 6,260 lbs of produce to 1,057 clients at the Manna Market free produce stand. The food waste at Manna Soup Kitchen was drastically reduced according to Manna kitchen staff. WIC conducted a survey of Manna Market clients to gather more information and 92% of the surveyed participants agreed or strongly agreed that the produce from the Manna Market helped their families eat healthier than they would otherwise.

Youth Manna Market client, "As a teenage vegetarian in a struggling family, this market helps me eat much healthier".

Roberta Shirley family, "We have started to attend the Manna Market to get produce for making baby food. Everything helps!".

Manna Market client, "Our kids have been enjoying these apples in the lunch at school everyday. Thank you!".

Manna Market child to mom, "Mom can we get some kale?". The Garden Project has found that children help to create healthy eating habits in their household.

Manna Culinary Arts Program Manager MacKenzie Miller said, "It's beneficial for our culinary students to learn self sufficiency and gardening skills in order to not only help their future customers eat healthier but to also eat healthier themselves. Because many of the culinary students are former Manna clients it's important that they learn how to eat healthy on a budget".

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