As I sat waiting in the open-air conference space at the Vail ValleySalvation Army headquarters in Avon for formally, Mountain Harvest Coalition’s weekly coffee-catch up to begin, I found myself full of curiosity as to what impact more dedicated participation on my part would bring to the group. I came across this assemblage of community change-makers a couple years ago when I was invited to attend their spring summit to speak about a garden project I was facilitating for a local elementary school. Since then, this group now known as Bare Roots, an assemblage of committed volunteers passionate about food security, sustainable food systems and policy, has become a well-spring source of inspiration.
I came to the Vail Valley 4 years ago to work for a non-profit science and sustainability education center, where I continue to coordinate an after-school science enrichment program for elementary school girls. Although in line with my passion for teaching the sciences, there was something missing, some purpose I was not yet fulfilling. So, I began implementing sustainability best practices into my curriculum and sought opportunities to help foster sustainable development in schools and throughout the community, taking on a bit more than my regular daily duties in order to spread awareness and understanding about this movement I cared so deeply about. Fast forward a year and I found myself presenting briefly about my school garden project at the annual Harvest Summit, a gathering of master gardeners, local food businesses, land managers, non-profit representatives, and a variety of other entrepreneurs in sustainable development. This gathering, put on by group volunteers, prompted engaging dialogue on how to best support and serve one another in endeavors relating to sustainable food systems and how to engage and educate the community at large in these initiatives. There was a general feeling of hope and perseverance that was quite infectious and I was immediately motivated to be part of this network of inspiring people.
My involvement with this group has been slow and steady. Some members became great allies for me in starting the school garden, providing hands on help, curriculum and other resources and connecting me with other passionate community members. In return, I began volunteering my time at the community gardens supported by the group. Another year of building relationships and learning more about the work with Salvation Army Vail and other collaborative partnerships, I decided I wanted to be more directly involved. At my first official meet up, I was introduced to the main group, made up of interns, AmeriCorps VISTAs, super moms, entrepreneurs, and educators. The group is small, but fierce. In roughly 10 years of operation, they solidified their major fiscal partnership with the Vail Valley Salvation Army, started a community garden in Avon to support the “Produce for Pantries” program, built a green house on site, created a regional food shed map, connected community gardens and local gardeners together, raised support for local farmers and amped up their “Growing Gardeners” pre-school program. This spring, they will once again be hosting AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a program that engages 18- to 24-year-olds in team-based national and community service with a focus on sustainable food system development, education and outreach. With dirt on their hands and full hearts, this group has revolutionized the idea of nourishment as food for both body and soul.
I couldn’t be more excited to see what the future holds for Bare Roots. The group’s mission to foster healthy food access in Eagle County and the surrounding region, in support of sustainable food practice and to grow community and confidence through education, outreach and partnership, has become much more vital as we begin to see the issues of the 21st century take shape and more heavily affect our mountain community in a variety of ways. I am humbled and honored to be part of a group that supports positive transformation and equitable access to healthy food for all AND a bright sustainable future!
Interested in learning more…feel free to email the blog’s author, Nicole at email@example.com