Northwest Colorado Food Coalition: Gardens are where the magic happens |

Northwest Colorado Food Coalition: Gardens are where the magic happens

Megan Walker/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

This summer at Yampatika, camp naturalists have been busy teaching children about the soil from the tiniest bacteria to the native species that flourish here in the Yampa Valley. The campers are learning first-hand what healthy ecosystems looks like.

The onsite gardens at camp have been a great place for kids to dig into the experience and get their hands dirty — but the lessons are much deeper than that.

Gardens are where the magic happens. Have you ever heard a child exclaim in excitement when they find a worm in the garden or notice a bee on a flower? This palpable excitement about that fuzzy (or slimy) creature allows us to facilitate a relationship with our campers, so that we can plant the seeds to understand the connection between small life forms and the health of our gardens and our bodies.

By learning what it takes to make a seed sprout, the campers have not only learned something about the pace of life but have also begun to understand a bit about the resources and effort required to support our needs and the importance of agriculture and ecology in our lives.

In addition to this type of learning, the garden is a treat to the senses. When we garden, we feel the different textures of soil, flowers, vegetables and leaves. These things also provide us with rich, earthy smells. To appreciate a fresh tomato or carrot from the garden that tastes as amazing as it smells is as enjoyable as listening to the birds or buzzing of insects attracted to the colorful display of a garden in full bloom.

Better yet, gardens are accessible to community members of different generations, abilities and cultures. Having places in our community where we can share all of this and learn from each other is extremely important as it keeps us connected to our roots and reminds us how interconnected everything in our environment is.

Gardens are works in progress, and ours here at the Legacy Ranch are no different. This year, our focus in the garden is on improving the soil, so we can grow vegetables of an even better quality next year. Campers have participated in tending the gardens and planting cover crops and other beneficial vegetation. This encourages the campers to think about the future and how the work we do now will help us next year.

From the small moments like observing or watering to projects like Eagle Scout projects or greenhouse construction, these gardens are a source of much learning and pride for community members of all ages.

Whether you engage in projects big or small, we hope that you will come to love this land as we have and that you continue to come back and be part of the process for years to come. And whether your harvest this summer is four raspberries or four bushels, the reward will be so sweet.

Megan Walker is a summer camp naturalist with Yampatika.

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