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Nonprofit hopes to plant community garden in Cortez

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Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017 8:24 PM
A greenhouse like the one David Nuttle hopes to build in Cortez.

The Cortez City Council voted Tuesday to express its support for a nonprofit that wants to build a community grow space in town.

Needful Provision, Inc., a nonprofit based in Dolores, is applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to create a garden in Cortez that could be used to grow crops for local food pantries and provide training to young people interested in farming. The application asks for a four-year annual $100,000 matching grant to fund the estimated $800,000 project. After a presentation from project director David Nuttle, the council voted unanimously to authorize a letter of support for the grant application and to consider approving an “urban farming planning council” to help with the project next year.

Nuttle said he hopes to score one of the USDA’s Community Food Projects grants, which are awarded to projects designed to help increase affordable food production for communities with high poverty levels and food insecurity. He said Cortez’s low wages and high unemployment rate compared with the rest of the state, combined with the high percentage of families that rely on food stamps and free school lunches, could qualify it for the grant.

“As far as food security is concerned, you’re in the pits,” he said. “People are insecure from a food standpoint. ... We’re trying to step in and help.”

The program also requires grantees to demonstrate self-reliance and a long-term plan. Nuttle said it would help with that goal if the city would organize a committee to permanently oversee the garden. In order to meet all the qualifications for the grant, he said he needed a letter of support expressing the city’s resolve to at least consider creating such a committee.

City Manager Shane Hale recommended the council sign the letter, saying Nuttle’s plans line up with many of Cortez’s long-term goals.

“I did read through our (Comprehensive) Plan, and we did have quite a bit of similar policies in our Comp Plan,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of merit to the council at least considering creating this urban farming committee.”

Cortez’s Comprehensive Plan, a list of long-term plans based on feedback from residents, includes several policy goals related to local food. One such goal, which was quoted in the council’s support letter, is to “promote opportunities for agricultural curriculum and other agricultural learning opportunities such as a community garden for residents.”

If his project is funded, Nuttle said he planned to build a greenhouse that could produce fresh crops year-round. At least 10 percent of those crops would go to the Good Samaritan Center, which currently provides food to more than 500 people per month. Nuttle said he also planned to work with organizations like 4-H, local schools and colleges and the Southwest Farm Fresh Coalition to provide training to students who want to learn more about urban farming.

The council’s letter of support said the city would discuss the potential urban farming committee during a workshop in January.

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