Fresh lettuce, basil, broccoli, kale...
A vision of a summer garden teasing us during a snowy January, right?
Not for students at Hope Community Christian Academy at the ELHI Community Center (old elementary school) in Ignacio.
An indoor garden in the academy's upper class, for students in fourth through sixth grades, is brimming with green veggies.
The students started raising the plants from seed in October, said teacher Tandy Nossaman. In addition to learning about plants, they mix a nutrient and mineral solution with water to feed the plants and are learning some chemistry by testing the pH levels of the solution.
The project has been successful enough to send home some produce with the students almost every week, Nossaman said.
"I really like it," said academy student Grace Pargin. "I can smell the basil and cilantro." Each student was able to choose a plant for the garden. Dill, cauliflower and chard round out the garden's offerings.
"I like to watch it grow, then I get to eat it," added Tay McEwen. The students also learned how to pollinate the vegetables by hand.
The children also are learning about the challenges of gardening.
A particularly aggressive cucumber plant, for example, is sending out shoots that wrap around a nearby tomato plant, choking the stems. Pargin said she frequently loosens the cucumber tendrils from the tomato plant and jokes that she will toss the cuke plant into "veggie jail."
A small space dedicated to strawberry plants has a lettuce plant jutting out after a seed somehow went astray, McEwan pointed out. There's also a new pepper growing, and students have nicknamed it Bud. A recent strawberry crop was particularly popular.
The planter is called a Tower Garden, and they are sold locally by Louetta Phelps.
"I wanted to expose the children to fresh food because they're more nutritious when you grow your own," she said.
The planter is five feet tall and designed to supply a family with up to 20 varieties of fruit and vegetables, she said. Her mother, Shirley Engler, likes hers because she can garden without having to hoe or weed.
The planter was purchased with assistance from the Allison Grange, Allison Community Presbyterian Church, Allison Ranchettes, Engler and Phelps.
The planters cost $525, and grow lights run $219. Phelps said she can work with teachers or parents who want to raise funds to get one for their classroom by calling her at 749-1747.