Garden Project: Manna hosts annual feast featuring harvest from local growers

Introducing students to the satisfaction of raising their own garden crops is the goal of the Garden Project of Southwest Colorado, now in its 17th year.

With gardens at Needham Elementary, Manna and at 30th St. and 6th Ave., and smaller plots at all the other schools, the appreciation of garden to kitchen begins at a young age.

Thursday evening at Manna is the Garden Project’s annual fundraiser, where 120 guests will enjoy locally provided greens, vegetables and meat (two lambs are 4-H projects) under a tent.

The Garden Project’s harvests won’t be on the menu, however, as their bounty went into school cafeterias earlier in the growing season, and frost in recent nights took a toll. But, almost everything served will be local.

The Durango Herald is a proud sponsor of the Thursday dinner.

Manna’s culinary class students are preparing the meal under the instruction of a chef instructor. This year’s culinary program is in its eighth week, about half way to graduation, and the four students will be both in the kitchen and serving. There will be a silent auction as well.

During the growing season, the Garden Project has a weekly work day at Manna’s garden and hosts a weekly Manna market. Later this month local farmers in the county will visit the various school garden locations to guide the students in putting their gardens to bed. Farmer Days is that activity.

There are too many stories nationwide of youth who are puzzled as to where lunch and supper come from beyond the grocery store. Not at Durango schools.

The Garden Project is a modest undertaking that requires plenty of teacher/parent and student collaboration in showing what happens when seeds, soil, fertilizer and water come together and the result is carefully nurtured. All involved learn how much better fresh produce tastes when it picked just before being consumed.

At Needham Elementary, when vegetables are ready to picked, there are signs urging patience for the harvest that is destined for the cafeteria.

In the Garden Project, Durango youth are learning by doing, and the results are very visible. That is the best kind of learning, with clear, and tasty, success.

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