Spring in the Salida School Gardens!

Students from Longfellow Elementary, Salida Middle School and Horizon’s Exploratory Academy have been working throughout the spring to transform their gardens into a thing of beauty once again! Each of the 3 SSD garden sites have seen many enthusiastic students throughout the past few weeks.  Here is a recap of some of the highlights:

Longfellow Elementary students assist with weeding the pumpkin patch bed.

·       At the Longfellow Elementary garden, 16 classes from K-4th grade, have engaged in spring seed planting activities and bed prep over the last few weeks. Lessons in plant life cycles, climate, and seasonal changes in the garden are woven into each visit.  A new rock lined bed was constructed and will house some flowering bushes and a variety of pollinator attracting plants. All the beds and garden grounds were cleaned up and debris removed.  Soil amendments and mulch were purchased and added to several beds. Through funding from SOSS, materials, supplies, garden library books, binders holding lesson plans, garden activities and resources have been purchased and will soon be at the students and their teacher’s finger tips and arranged on shelving in the garden shed. Lake Valley Seeds in Boulder donated a huge box of seeds for the garden.  Thanks Lake Valley Seeds! Check out the new hummingbird feeder the next time you are near!

·       At the Salida Middle School garden, the 5th grade classes have been assisting with annual bed prep in anticipation of spring planting.  Spring starts were planted and are growing in the classroom. A few new bird houses and hummingbird feeders were purchased and will soon be hanging in the garden. One class participated in a “Poetry in the Garden” lesson and tried their hand at writing garden Haiku. We received a generous donation of seeds from Botanical Interests to grow in the SMS garden this year.  Thank you Botanical Interests!

Horizons Exploratory students plant onions.

·       A huge thanks goes out to Horizon’s Exploratory Academy students for all their efforts at the Holman Farm site. Mrs. Ceglowski’s class has been working twice a week for the last month to plant beds, weed, prep, lay irrigation, water, and provide a variety of other essential garden needs. The success of all three of our garden sites relies on the district-wide efforts of our students and their teachers.

Celebrate National Farm to School Month!


October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate connections happening all over the country and in YOUR neck of the woods between schools and local food!

According to the National Farm to School Network- Farm to school enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education settings. Students gain access to healthy, local foods as well as education opportunities such as school gardens, cooking lessons and farm field trips.

carrot-eatersOver the past decade, the farm to school movement has exploded across the United States, reaching millions of students in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Farm to school is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity. In addition to improving child health, when schools buy local, they create new markets for local and regional farmers and contribute to vibrant communities, a win-win-win scenario!

Since 2011, Guidestone Colorado has been working with the Salida School District and LiveWell Chaffee County to develop a comprehensive Farm to School Initiative that supports the Salida School Gardens: Healthy Food, Healthy Growing Program.  Operating on three school garden sites, this program aims to be a model for food production and education integration into the schools that can be replicated throughout the Arkansas River Valley and shared with other rural communities throughout the state.

leg-gardenGuidestone’s Farm to School Initiative supports a continuum of engagement to provide opportunities for students from Pre-K through High School to engage with the Longfellow Elementary School and Middle School gardens as well as the Holman Farm site. In 2016, over 800 students participated in garden based hands on activities, lessons and service learning opportunities. Over the summer, local and visiting youth participated in garden camps, garden clubs, and a Youth Farmers Market that is held in partnership with the Salida Boys and Girls Club.

From the School Farm, the school district receives carrots, peas, kale, chard, tomatoes, spinach, beans, squash, cucumbers, and basil that are directly incorporated in to healthy district meals by school district food service staff. To help celebrate Farm to School Month, food service staff has cooked up a fun plan to engage students. Salida schools will participate in a taste test vote to decide between a carrot muffin and a healthy pumpkin bar.  The students will choose their favorite and the winning choice will be served on Halloween.

Whether you are a food service professional, a farmer, a teacher or a food-loving family, there are plenty of ways to celebrate and get involved in National Farm to School Month! The National Farm to School Network offers a variety of free resources on its website, farmtoschool.org, including posters, stickers and a communications toolkit.  You can also visit coloradofarmtoschool.org for more information and resources about Farm to School in Colorado.

To get more involved with Guidestone’s Farm to School Initiative and the Salida School Gardens program, please contact info@guidestonecolorado.org.

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Guidestone and Colorado Proud School Meal Day!

co-proudOn Wednesday September 14, we celebrate the annual Colorado Proud School Meal Day. This day celebrates Colorado agriculture and helps to educate school-children about healthy eating. Coinciding with harvest season, there is a lot to celebrate!
Colorado farms and ranches produce abundant food resources. The agribusiness in the state puts 40 billion dollars into the state’s economy and provides for 170,000 jobs.  There are over 37,000 farms and ranches in the state encompassing more than 31 million acres   (Data compiled from the Colorado Department of Agriculture img_1018website).

Here in Salida, Guidestone’s Farm to School Initiative supports the growing and procurement of locally grown, healthy foods for district cafeterias, and fosters educational opportunities and curriculum connections both in the classroom and through experiential farm and ranch field trips.  In addition to the Holman farm site which produces food for the school district’s meals, Guidestone also provides support and maintenance of the gardens at Longfellow Elementary school and Salida Middle School.

img_1040On Wednesday, meals served in the Salida School District will feature produce grown at the Holman Farm site.  After school on Wednesday at both Longfellow Elementary and the Salida Middle school freshly picked carrots will be served up to students as we talk about Colorado Proud Day and the benefits of healthy eating.  Come join us at 3:45 at either of these sites for a healthy, delicious and nutritious snack and celebrate the bounty of harvest season and the abundant foods that Colorado has to offer!

Farmhands Reflections and the Promise of a New Season

Today I saw the first green shoots of chives and yarrow emerging from the garden. Across the road from where I sit (in the Visitor Center of the Hutchinson Homestead and Learning Center), I see baby calves frolicking in the fields between nourishing themselves with their mothers milk. I can’t help but feel excited about the rejuvenation of life and endless Farmhands program possibilities for 2016!

Since planning efforts for summer 2016 programs have been in full swing lately it’s given me some delbert and kidstime to reflect and reminisce about last summer.   We kicked off our Farmhands summer camp 2015 fun with Farm Camp at Moonstone Farm and we capped off the season with Jr. Rancher Camp at the Hutchinson Homestead and Learning Center. In between, were 2 solid months of experiential fun and adventure on local farms and ranches throughout the Upper Arkansas Valley.  Our programs were chock full of participants last summer, sometimes requiring waiting lists.  Returning kids from previous summers and brand new campers joined our Farmhands family filling our days with rich and memorable experiences. All together we had 511 participants during our June and July Farmhands programs. We hope they all enjoyed their time on the farm and ranch last summer as much as we enjoyed having them and we look forward to seeing them again in 2016!

Last summer, Andrea Coen and myself were the primary instructors for our Farmhands programs 19896065221_fbb19b3048_oand we were so fortunate to be assisted by our first ever Farmhands Intern- Riley Ceglowski.  On summer break between her sophomore and junior years in college Riley jumped right in with a cheerful and enthusiastic spirit. We so enjoyed Riley’s positive outlook, able assistance, and fun energy throughout the summer.  Here are her own words about the work we do:

“Teaching children about how farms and ranches were run in the past

will assist them in understanding and

 appreciating things such as gardening, raising animals, and respecting the land”.

 We continue to refine how we structure our programs to build on the knowledge and skills our campers gain in previous years. We strive to provide a continuum of learning opportunities so that our youngest pre-schooler to our middle school participants can graduate to the next level of learning options within our agricultural community.  Please fill out this short survey to give feedback on programs you would like to see.  Click here to:  Take Our Short Survey Now!

Registration is now open on all of our summer 2016 programs.
Click HERE to learn more and to sign up today!

*Register by May 1 to receive early registration discounts.
Prices increase 10% after May 1.

Guest instructors are vital to our program.  Their varied skills are essential to our lively and dynamic programs.  Large animal vets, ferriers, fiber artists, historians, leather-workers, gardeners, and cowboys helped to provide context for traditional skills still being used on farms and ranches today. A huge thanks goes out to these volunteers who gave their time so selflessly. Lastly, not one of these programs could have taken place without the support of all our Farmhands participants and their families.

If you are interested in sharing your skills this summer or would like to volunteer at one of our camps please contact Karen Fortier: karen@guidestonecolorado.org.

Farmhands Programs Summer 2015

DSC_0646Do you want to learn about Animals on the Ranch? Or try your hand at Traditional Skills ranchers would have used “back in the day” such as roping, leatherworking, or fiber arts work? Maybe Farming is more of your thing?  Our summer 2015 Farmhands for youth ages 5-12 has something for everyone! This year’s line-up is a blend of some of our tried and true favorites with some new twists, combined with some new offerings.

New this year are some programs specifically designed for younger or older youth.


You will find that some of our offerings are for the full range of 5-12 year olds, while others are for either 5-8 year olds or for 9-12 year olds. Our programs will take place at the Hutchinson Homestead and Learning Center,  Moonstone Farm, The Morgan Center, at the Meadows Farm in Buena Vista, and at the Salida School Garden.  For more information or to register CLICK HERE!

Like the bluebirds returning in the spring, sightings of Guidestone staff in area schools increases this time of year.  Our elementary Farm to School classroom visits and field trips are upon us, and for our older students there is a wide variety of service learning opportunities!

Contact Karen Fortier, Director, Farmhands Education Programs at Karen@GuidestoneColorado.org