Organizer Betsy Rapp leads the Transition Steamboat Urban Garden Tour past John Fielding’s goats Saturday morning.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Organizer Betsy Rapp leads the Transition Steamboat Urban Garden Tour past John Fielding’s goats Saturday morning.

Group takes educational tour to visit Steamboat gardens in action

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Transition Steamboat Urban Garden Tour attendees visit the Community Roots Garden on Saturday morning.

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About 30 people participated in Saturday’s Transition Steamboat Urban Garden Tour, which visited five gardens across Steamboat.

— Though the chill of a looming winter blanketed the Yampa Valley on Saturday morning, remnants of the summer gardening and produce season still hide away in several urban gardens in downtown Steamboat Springs.

At John Fielding’s home, several tomato plants hanging in a naturally lit atrium still were weighed down with plump, red fruit, which he showed to a group of about 30 people on the Transition Steamboat Urban Garden Tour.

“What this tour is about is places to grow things,” Fielding told the group. “And in this climate zone, that’s not easy.”

He explained how he’s transformed his house at 13th and Oak streets into a hub of sustainable urban agriculture. He’s had to deal with trying to capture sunlight, keeping bears and foxes out of his livestock pen and keeping his efforts energy-efficient.

He hopes eventually to grow a citrus tree in his house without using any fuel.

On the five tour stops, the group was introduced to a variety of land uses to produce food in an urban setting.

The tour was one of three events this weekend organized by the local sustainability group Transition Steamboat that focused on how to locally produce food. Betsy Rapp, who organized the tour, said it was important for those interested to see urban gardening in action.

“There was some great gardening going on in Steamboat Springs,” Rapp said. “We wanted (the tour) to be educational and give people ideas for more possibilities for their gardens.”

The other seminars focused on aquaponics and permaculture.

Mike and Carolyn Toughill, of Eagle County, traveled to Steamboat this weekend specifically for the aquaponics seminar.

“I’ve been like a kid on Christmas all week,” Mike Toughill said.

The two got the gardening bug when they first planted a pasture for their mules. Now, they plan to expand into growing their own vegetables, grass-fed beef and trout.

“We’ve got a lot of big dreams,” said Carolyn Toughill, who carried a notebook and several agriculture books to each garden.

They agreed that the nutritional and health aspects were an important motivator to grow their own food on their land in Eagle.

“We’ve been frightened and aware of what’s being put in our food chain,” Mike Toughill said.

Another stop on the tour was a visit to the Community Roots Garden, where Kassi Sell talked about how the first year of the community garden went and possible plans for the future of the county-owned land at Sixth and Oak streets.

Sell, a master gardener with the Colorado State University Extension Office, said the tour was an educational and motivating event.

“It shows that it can be done,” she said. “It’s starting the process of re-skilling people to do things they were meant to do.”

Some on the tour already were gardeners looking for ideas. Others did not have a garden, or had one long ago, and were looking for the inspiration to start one.

“It’s awesome,” said Karen Vail, a horticulturist who went along on the tour. “I just love how diverse all the things are that we’ve seen. There are just so many different ways of gardening. You can pick and choose how you want to use it.”

Third on the tour was the Fourth Street home of Antonio Marxuach and Lisa Sadler. The pair showed the group the first-year biodynamic garden in their front yard, which they sacrificed a sod lawn to create.

Marxuach described how their biodynamic approach to gardening includes topsoil preservation and compost, and how it yielded some successes and some failures.

In their yard, just as in Fielding’s home, there were a handful of tomatoes still ripening on the vines.

But it will continue to be a work in progress as the two figure out what works and what doesn’t in their front yard experiment with sustainable urban gardening.

“We are learning,” Marxuach said. “And we’re learning by doing.”

— To reach Nicole Inglis, call 871-4204 or e-mail ninglis@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

John Fielding 4 years, 2 months ago

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The ability to produce some of one's own food was the focus of this tour. However there is another aspect that deserves additional emphasis, that of feeding the soul. I am reminded of my late wife's amusement at my efforts to grow vegetables, a lot of work for a few dollars worth of produce. She dedicated her time to those plants that are simply beautiful, and better able to thrive without extraordinary means. There were few times in her life that she was more at peace than tending her garden.

That is why my new wife acquired the goats. While we appreciate the food value of the dairy breeds, their primary function is to feed the spirit. Our boys are adopted from foster care, and due to the types of neglect and abuse they suffered in their birth home are considered to be very much at risk of becoming sociopaths, first threats to then burdens upon the community. The interaction with animals teaches patience, perseverance, and an appreciation of the interconnectedness of life. Much research confirms the tremendous effectiveness of this therapy.

A comment by Antonio during the discussion of his compost reminded me of something I have often often noticed in tending my own, that the scent can stir a primordial memory. In that magical mixture, more alive than inert, is the stuff of which we are made and to which we shall return. Our distant ancestors lived in it. It a similar evocation of echos of forgotten ancestors that one may experience from the aromas of a tidal pool, something within us remembers.

"Man does not live by bread alone".

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John Fielding 4 years, 2 months ago

. Sorry for the duplication. I don't actually go sniffing compost That frequently!

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paul potyen 4 years, 2 months ago

John,

As always, you speak with insight and intelligence. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas--both in this forum, and during our time at your house on the garden tour.

Paul

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Guy 4 years, 2 months ago

Congratulations to everyone on the Transition Steamboat team. It's exciting to see the organization continue to "take root," and the impact that you're having in the community. Very nice piece Nicole.

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