RANGELY I The Rangely Community Gardens wrapped up a diverse and fruitful season this month with its annual pumpkin giveaway to all children in Rangely and Dinosaur.
The Gardens grew more than 500 pumpkins on site and 300 more were donated by Rio Blanco County’s Colorado State University Extension Office/4-H Clubs, led by Bill Ekstrom.
Although hundreds of pumpkins were given away to school children and preschoolers, extras were sold by donation to other community members and distributed to the elderly toward the end of the giveaway week.
“Our pumpkin giveaway has become so successful and well-loved that next year we plan to make sure we have enough pumpkins on hand to provide them all week to anyone in the community who wants them,” Rangely Community Gardens President Beth Wiley said. “They will always remain free to kids and sold by donation to anyone else who wants one.”
When an overtly large pumpkin appeared in the patch, gardeners, volunteers and visitors enjoyed ogling the 100-plus-pound behemoth all fall as it grew bigger each week. Finally it was cut and delivered to Parkview Elementary School to be raffled off during their annual Night at Hogwarts.
It took four college students to move the pumpkin, and 3-year-old winner Terran Allen, though delighted, needed help getting it home.
The Children’s Garden program, in its second season, saw an expansion in space and participation this year. With the help of a state grant written by Rio Blanco County Public Health, a group of moms led by Mary Dillon grew and harvested a variety of vegetables from early summer through fall.
Additional plots were gardened by individual children, including KJ Benson, who accomplished her summer goal of growing a watermelon. Remaining plots were planted and maintained by Gardens volunteers.
Volunteers from the community, college and high school came together in early spring to install a “food forest,” utilizing a sustainable landscaping strategy called permaculture.
The system mimics natural ecosystems to create orchards and gardens that are organic, productive, resource-efficient and low maintenance. The orchard was designed by Colorado Northwestern Community College instructor Robyn Wilson, who will continue to give oversight and guidance as the space matures.
More moms and kids as well as individuals gathered Fridays during the autumn for a second year of Garden Club, this year headed by Marisela Preciado and Sandra Guzman, last year’s participants-turned-volunteers. Along with a variety of crafts, participants went on a vegetable treasure hunt to make a salad, dug potatoes and painted signs for the Gardens’ various vegetable patches.
In addition to those who visited the Gardens, townspeople were able to enjoy local, organically grown vegetables for months this summer by stopping by Heritage Building and Home Center to purchase freshly harvested produce from bins hosted on site.
Vegetables are sold by donation only.
“It’s an affordable way to eat healthy and support the Gardens at the same time, and Heritage has been an important source of support over the years,” Wiley said. “They’ve donated a substantial amount of materials and supplies, and we owe a huge part of the construction of the Children’s Garden to Beckey and John Hume’s generosity.”
Volunteers may be preparing the Gardens for winter rest, but already they’re thinking ahead to future days of rejuvenation and renewal.
Next season will include additional fruit trees and plants added to the orchard, expanded vegetable plots grown by volunteers to be donated and sold in the community, and Rangely’s first 4-H Garden Club for youth ages 8-18 led by Garden’s President Beth Wiley.
“The growing season may have come to an end for this year,” Wiley mused, “but we are still putting the garden to bed and already planning next year’s vegetable plots.”
“Volunteers and donors are welcome aboard anytime as we prepare for next season by making garden plans, raising funds and planning activities,” she said. “None of this happens without a lot of community support!”
To learn more about how to get involved, contact Wiley at 970-274-1239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.