Picking pecks of peppers

Picking pecks of peppers

Columbine Christian kids reap harvest from new garden

Driver, who teaches first- and second-graders at Columbine Christian School, three years ago began growing basil, cilantro, oregano and rosemary in pots as an introduction to botany.

This year, they have a 50-by-75-foot garden that produces an abundance of lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, jalapeños, cucumbers and purple bell peppers. Watermelons and pumpkins are coming on, and onions and garlic are being planted.

Things took off last winter when Driver began a collaboration with Bo Maloney, owner of J. Bo’s Pizza & Rib Co. The kids supplied him with free basil and then the bounty of the garden as the program expanded.

Maloney responded by giving Driver’s class growing lights and seeds.

Then parents and students leveled a plot of weedy ground and prepared the soil for planting. Driver’s husband, Dan, installed a drip irrigation system and Simon Gnehm, who had a son in Driver’s class, milled logs left for some reason at the school into boards to build raised garden beds.

“I’m interested in helping, I think, because a third-grade teacher took an interest in me,” Maloney said. “Laura (Driver) shows the same interest in her students and inspires them.”

Maloney is not stopping.

“As a second step, I’m buying four 55-gallon composters so the students can make their own dirt,” Maloney said. “The third step is going to be getting a greenhouse so they can grow year-round.”

The garden project now involves almost all elementary students, Driver said. They plant, weed and harvest, providing Maloney free basil and vegetables and selling the rest to neighbors. Students also will make soil with compost that Maloney donates and oversee the composters.

Third-grader Ashley Powers, 8, has two years of growing under her belt. She learned the secrets of the seed cycle in two years with Driver.

“I’ve learned a lot about seeds,” Ashley said Tuesday as she and other students made the weekly harvest. “I liked herbs, but I like broccoli and watermelons and pumpkins better.”

Driver said the Neighbor to Neighbor project teaches students that food is grown by people and doesn’t magically appear in markets.

“Our program, which we call Neighbor to Neighbor, shows students how to turn a plot of barren ground into a productive garden,” Driver said. “I want my students to be knowledgeable about what it takes to grow.”

daler@durangoherald.com

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