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Growing dome provides produce for Nurturing Center

Photo courtesy Liz Alley
Andrew Parker, Rosa Gutierrez, Laurie Gutierrez, Stefani Gutierrez, Jack Parker and Liz Alley gather in the growing dome that now produces food, and educational experiences, for Pagosans at The Nurturing Center.

By Liz Alley

Special to The SUN

Picking peppers, processing pesto, stirring savory salsa and chomping on chard are but a few of the activities Nurturing Center families have had the good fortune to experience, thanks to Udgar and Puja Parsons, owners of Growing Spaces.

When Udgar approached Liz about providing Nurturing Center families with gardening space with a 26-foot growing dome, she answered with a resounding “yes!”

It made sense to both Udgar and Liz that Nurturing Center families be given an opportunity to learn how to nurture plants, and be nurtured by the fruits of their labor. To have free fresh produce available to families is certainly a blessing; learning how to start seedlings, care for them, transplant them into the beds and then watch them rapidly grow in a nearly perfect climate has been fun for everyone.

One 4-year old visitor exclaimed: “I feel so happy in here.”

This has certainly been a learning experience. One funny incident occurred when one of the Nurturing Center’s TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) fathers asked Liz if he could plant zucchini starts in one of the beds.

Not a problem, right?

Well, it is when it turns out that those zucchini were actually disguised as pumpkin plants — soon taking over the entire south end of the dome with leaves that looked like they belonged in Jurassic Park. The plants ultimately had to be removed despite Udgar’s best attempt to hang them for shade.

Produce gathered from the dome has been used for Share Our Strength’s (SOS) Cooking Matters classes and for Care and Share’s “No Kid Hungry” free summer lunch program — also providing a perfect opportunity to teach families and children about using fresh, healthy food at the Nurturing Center. These classes are important, since many individuals are not accustomed to cooking fresh produce, particularly if it is typically not added to their usual meals.

Nurturing Center staff and families will continue to reap the rewards of growing vegetables — and, hopefully, fruit from several fruit trees that were planted by a permaculture expert — at evening Nurturing Parenting Program classes during the fall and winter months ahead. Class participants are provided with a family-style dinner prior to every class.

If you have questions regarding Pagosa Springs Nurturing Center programs, contact Liz Alley at 799-2187.

This story was posted on September 26, 2012.