Berthoud Local breaks ground at community garden, announces new features for Farmers’ Market
By Aaron Reynolds
The sign that greets motorists entering Berthoud city limits reads: “The Garden Spot of Colorado.” It may seem like an oxymoron considering Berthoud is located on what is considered a high-plain desert; however in 1906 the Berthoud Chamber of Commerce was sincere when it gave the town the moniker due to its fertile agricultural soil, and it’s a practice observed to this very date as Berthoud continues to be a hotbed for agriculture — including some special events taking place within city limits.
On April 8 Berthoud Local, “a grassroots group of local Berthoud citizens who are passionate about farming, gardening, the environment, humane and healthy farm animal treatment, supporting pollinators, producing and providing access to as much food locally as possible, as well as improving the resilience and economy of the town,” broke ground on the community garden at Pioneer Park.
The community garden has been harvested by volunteers since 2013; however many citizens were unaware of the garden when it was first introduced, largely because Pioneer Park is nestled in the Fickel Farm/Mary’s Farm neighborhoods on the east part of town. However, with each passing year interest, as well as involvement with the garden has grown, and according to second-year garden coordinator Natalie Vogt it looks better this time of the year than it ever has.
The ground breaking, or as Vogt likes to call it “the ground-readying,” was “a great effort by a small group of volunteers and several kids.” The volunteers spent time importing yard compost, shoveled and tilled the garden rows, pulled weeds as well as spread mulch that was generously donated by local arborist Anthony Frederick of Bio-mechanics LLC. Then, on April 22, volunteers planted what Vogt defined as “early or warm plants” like squash and zucchini that are able to withstand rugged weather. They’ll return Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. (weather permitting) for the second or late-planting event where more sensitive plants like tomatoes and peppers will be planted.
Vogt says there is a misconception among some of the Berthoud public that the garden at Pioneer Park is only reserved for select members. Not true, she says, as Berthoud Local “is trying to really encourage volunteers to come out and get involved as little or as much as they want.” There is always something to do, Vogt admits, and also encourages children involvement.
“If volunteers have kids, bring them,” she said. “It’s a wonderful learning opportunity. It’s always fun. There’s a strawberry patch; a raspberry patch. There is always something for kids if they are not happy just digging in the dirt, which most of them are. They can have a little snack too.”
While anyone who volunteers at the garden is certainly welcome to harvest its rewards, one of the primary purposes is to help those in need, and last year the community garden donated almost 400 pounds of produce to the House of Neighborly Service, and Vogt adamantly believes they can do even more this year.
Along with stables like squash, pumpkin, tomatoes, peppers, berries and zucchini — the community garden will introduce perennials for the first time as the committee plans to plant rhubarb and asparagus. Additionally, two rows of flowers will get some “sprinkling of wildflower mix in an effort to help the bee population and other pollinators in Berthoud.” Even though the initial ground breaking and early planting has passed, Vogt explains it’s not too late to get involved both for the late-season planting on May 13 as well as weekly garden maintenance that takes place on Mondays throughout the summer beginning at 6-6:30pm.
Also noteworthy, Berthoud Local will once again host two harvest parties, July 15, and one in the fall. The harvest parties are what Vogt says is where “people are encouraged to harvest from their garden or the community garden, something that is fresh and ready and make a potluck-style dish.” Participants then congregate in the garden and eat fresh, seasonal dishes.
Regardless of involvement, Vogt explains Berthoud Local “is always open to other community members and flexible.”
“The garden is by the community for the community. Anytime someone wants to contribute in some way, we’ll find a way to make that happen,” she remarked.
As for the upcoming Berthoud Farmers’ Market, Monica Signer, who is one of the board members of Berthoud Local, was enthusiastic to share a number of new features this year regarding the weekly event. Farmers’ Market will once again take place every Saturday at downtown Fickel Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The market opens June 24, the same day as the annual “Hops & Harley” festival organized by City Star Brewery, and will conclude September 30 with the second annual “Farm Stand Band Festival.” Both the first and last Farmers’ Market will have extended hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and one can expect plenty of entertainment.
“We will continue to host theme days where special vendors and activities are brought to enhance the market, as well as weekly live entertainment,” Signer confirmed. “The last Saturday of every month will find breweries and beer at the market.”
Among the biggest updates from the board is this year, not only will the Farmers’ Market be able to accept SNAP benefits, but also Double UP Food Bucks as well.
Signer commented, “SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, helps low-income individuals and families have the resources to eat well, and this year [recipients] will be able to use their benefits at our market to buy fresh produce and meats. The Double Up Food Bucks program enhances the SNAP benefits by offering additional free funds to those customers.”
“We are very excited to help fulfill our mission to promote local foods by getting involved in both of these worthy programs. We also have Spanish-speaking volunteers available to assist as needed.”
Signer recommended anyone interested in the schedule of theme days’ visit: http://berthoudlocal.org/farmers-market-schedule/.
You can find out more about the Pioneer Park community garden and other Berthoud Local events at: http://berthoudlocal.org/.
You can learn more about food assistance through: https://food-stamps.com/Snap-Program and https://doubleupcolorado.org/.
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