Leadership Jefferson County is quite literally planting seeds that will help revitalize a garden, help a school and feed a neighborhood.
Those first seeds were planted in the newly restored community garden at Foster Elementary School in Arvada Saturday, May 13.
The garden — once active with students planting, growing and eating fresh vegetables — fell into disrepair a few years ago when construction at the school caused water irrigation problems, said Debra Shirley, Foster staff member who helped coordinate the garden.
The Leadership Jefferson County Class of 2017 saw the benefit the garden gave to the school’s students and took on the project of repairing and bringing it back to life through volunteer work days and donations throughout April and May.
“It’s so incredible,” Shirley said of Leadership Jefferson County’s involvement. “With tight budgets, it’s hard to find money for the type of repairs that are necessary.”
One repair Leadership Jefferson County provided was the installation of an automatic drip watering system that replaces the old system of hooking up large hoses and dragging them around the garden.
“It would have been nearly impossible for us to find the money for that,” Shirley said of the school. “For them to come in and lend their passion, labor and fundraising is huge.”
For the Leadership class, the project was a no brainier, said Heath Rost, Leadership Jeffco member.
“We knew it was something that the community wanted,” he said.
Leadership Jeffco is a program run by The West Chamber, designed to identify emerging leaders within Jefferson County and help develop their leadership potential.
The program provides class members with a broader view of civic leadership through contact with people and institutions that shape Jeffco with monthly one-day forums expose participants to government, economics, health care, education, arts, justice system, business, regional issues, and human services.
On education day, the class visited many schools in the county. That’s when they learned of the Foster garden.
“A lot of people really found this school to be fascinating in its approach to education, its clientele, its needs an how they are addressing them,” said project co-lead and Edgewater resident Ana Brun.
Foster Elementary School serves traditional students as well as students wanting to become biliterate in English and Spanish. Students and parents may choose to enroll in a traditional classroom or a dual immersion classroom.
The garden will be used by the school for its STEM curriculum and gardening club. It will also be used for a youth farmer’s market where students can learn not only about growing vegetables but also how to run a market and make change for customers.
The before and after program, titled Project Prepare, which is run by Shirley will also utilize the garden.
The garden will also serve as a resource for those who live near the school in what Shirley calls a “food desert.”
“There’s not a close grocery store,” Shirley said. “This is an opportunity for neighborhood families to have access to fresh veggies.”
Foster families and families in close proximity to the school are invited to rent a garden plot for $10 this season.
“We’re hoping that the community will continue to support this school in maintaining the garden, helping children learn from the garden and eat from the garden,” Brun said.