Love of LiftUp’s new greenhouse already growing, an effort to reduce local food insecurity
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Russell Goodman, food bank manager at LiftUp of Routt County, is happy to admit that he gets a little excited when it comes to talking about lettuce.
“As a chef, actually I think it’s exciting to talk about lettuce,” Goodman admitted. “In the history of our region, and the history of Routt County, how we interact with food has been a part of the evolution of our community…”
The local relationship with food — how it’s grown, presented, saved and shared — lends to the “uniqueness” of the county, he said. Goodman’s hope for the food bank is that it disrupts the way food is grown locally to become another element that will express regional identity.
He also hopes that the food bank’s nearly-finished greenhouse will provide more food and choices for families in the local communities.
Food is distributed by the food bank through a number of ways, including a once-a-month formal shopping visit from its shelves, Goodman explained. But there’s a walk-in section that has been a main focus for Goodman since he started his position with the food bank.
“It seems like a really important resource to try to alleviate what we call food insecurity,” he said.
Goodman, who started at LiftUp of Routt County in November, explained that food insecurity is when a person modifies their behavior surrounding what, and how, a person eats as the result of the anticipation of not having enough food in the future. The best way to alleviate that insecurity, he said, is to be able to provide, or at least make a person believe, that they have an abundance of food. He feels the greenhouse can play an important role in that.
“We can’t ensure that every single person in our community has an individual pantry stocked well enough to know that, on any given day, they can find something to eat,” he said, “but we have this section where anybody can come in, anytime that we are open, and it is a shared pantry that we try to make reflect abundance.”
The walk-in section of the food bank doesn’t adhere to restrictions on self-reported income or number of visits per month. “Every single day that we are open, anybody can come in and take the things that we have,” he said.
The project featured 12 repurposed bathtubs that are used to grow a variety of vegetables, as well as PVC pipes elevated and installed horizontally for smaller plants to maximize space. There are also vertical PVC pipes filled with salt-based phase that holds the day’s heat, helping to cool the greenhouse, which is then released after sunset to provide heat through the night.
Goodman said the greenhouse, and the surrounding 16 outdoor raised growing beds, produce many of the items in the walk-in section.
The raised beds this summer were made possible thanks to a grant from the Moniker Foundation, as well as Paonia Soil Co. that produces large bags of high quality soil used to grow peas, cabbage, kale, tomatoes, beans, Alpine strawberries, squash, carrots and more.
The philosophy to reduce waste, and the desire to provide healthier and better tasting alternatives, is well reflected in the LiftUp of Routt County Greenhouse.
The greenhouse project began in August 2017 when LiftUp broke ground by installing a climate battery, and has since been working to complete the many other parts of the project.
The completion of the structure has been helped along the way by grants from Alpine Bank and the Colorado Garden Foundation. United Companies has also helped with in-kind services and the rocks that were used for the climate battery, which will provide cooling in the summer and heat in the winter once electricity has been connected to run the fans.
But Goodman said he didn’t want to wait to start producing food.
“I arrived in November, at which point, everything was covered in snow,” he said. “As soon as we were able to dig our way into the front door of that thing, we began the process of using it. I know that there is a distinction between finishing all the engineering and all the different temperature control mechanisms, but I have not let any of that deter me from simply growing food, which is what we have been doing since the very first thaw.”
Goodman said he is thrilled with what the greenhouse and gardens have been able to produce after being put to use in the spring and excited to see what will happen when the final details are finished.
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