Community garden in Montezuma Creek underway

Self-sufficiency is an idea that more and more Americans are embracing these days but many aren’t sure exactly how to go about it.

Residents of the Montezuma Creek area have a great opportunity to learn about, and take a step toward self-sufficiency thanks to a couple of employees from Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., working with the aid of Whitehorse High School Art students. On a small plot of land less than 2 acres in size, located a quarter-mile south of the high school along the highway, a community garden project is now underway that will allow individuals, families and community groups to grow their own crops this year. UNHS employees Lucinda Slim and Lauren Hannibal are spearheading the garden project with the support of the Aneth Chapter. The land belongs to Lucinda’s mother-in-law, Annie Oldman who inherited from her father Big John.

“Aneth Chapter officials  Helen Archie and Calvin Thomas helped us get the project started as a ‘pilot program’, to help encourage local residents to take an interest in farming and gardening again,” Lucinda  explained.

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Moving rocks… Lauren Hannibal (R) and Lucinda Slim (C) help Whitehorse Art students move rocks that will be used to create walking paths throughout the garden area as needed. Staff photo

According to Lauren, this is the first year of the program and she’s glad to see the WHS Art students involved because, if they can catch the vision of the community garden, they will talk to family and friends about it and hopefully raise interest in gardening into the future. The garden will be planted with seeds acquired through a grant from the Native Seed program, a non-profit organization that provides heirloom seeds that are native to the areas of the southwest, where they are used. Because they are heirloom seeds, the seeds can be harvested from the plants and reused the next year.

“This year we will have 12 plots available,” Lauren explained. “Next year we hope we have enough interest to expand and add additional plots. So basically, we just organized and designed half of the 1.8-acre plot available for the garden. The sizes of the plots vary and I haven’t done an official measurement but it looks like the plots are 15’x15′ and 20’x15′. The plots can be individual or family plots. There will also be smaller community plots around the perimeter of the garden area.

“The community plots are for those who want to be involved with the garden, but don’t wish to, or can’t, work the garden on a permanent basis throughout the summer,” Lauren added. “These folks can share the responsibility of a community plot with others and still be involved. The individuals, families and community members who harvest crops get to keep all of what they grow.”

She noted that the seeds being sent are for sweet corn, squash, tomatoes, lettuce, chili peppers, black beans and more. The perimeter of the garden will be fenced and planted with various wild flowers and sunflowers, Lauren said.

Whitehorse High School Art teacher Georgiana Simpson, and 130 of her students – known as the Raider Studio Scholars, are working with Lucinda and Lauren to prepare and care for the garden area. They were busy on Monday, May 9, when formal work began on the garden. Each Art class walked the short distance to the garden area and helped move river rocks to line walking paths and helped prepare the ground. As they returned to school, each student took a large rock to paint or decorate as they saw fit. These rocks will be used to help line the walking paths.

Lucinda and Lauren both say they hope families, and individual residents of Montezuma Creek, will get involved in the community garden and help raise their own crops, or crops in community plots. Along with the garden, on the hill above the garden a shade house will be built. At various times during the summer a type of farmers market will be held, without the selling of crops or other items. Instead, Lauren said it will just be an area for getting together, having fun and taking part in the garden project. Any group, organization, family or individuals who would like to be involved in the Montezuma Creek community garden can contact Lauren Hannibal or Lucinda Slim at the UNHS Montezuma Creek Community Health Center at 435-651-3291. Everyone is invited to participate. The goal is to have the garden ready to plant by the end of May.

If anyone would like to make a donation to the garden project they can address their donations to Lauren Hannibal at the UNHS Montezuma Creek Community Health Center. Monetary donations are also being accepted. To make a monetary donation contact Lauren at (435) 651-3822. If you would like to write a check make it out to Lauren Hannibal at UNHS and in the memo area write Montezuma Community garden.

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