Local food hero: Michelle Chapman

Photo courtesy Healthy Archuleta
Michelle Chapman.

By Rose Chavez | Food System/Food Equity Coalition

Healthy Archuleta, a local nonprofit in Archuleta County also known as the FSFE — Food Coalition, continues to celebrate the local food heroes that make up the food system in Archuleta County and the surrounding southwest region. These individuals uniquely contribute to the community’s vision for a sustainable, health-promoting and equitable local food system so that everyone has access to affordable nutritious foods. 

The effort to capture the profiles of these integral community members was initiated as part of the Archuleta Food System Summit that took place April 9. 

Today, we would like to feature Michelle Chapman who shared this narrative with us: 

“I love gardens. My mother had me weeding her garden at a very young age, which I only tolerated because it was outside and I found interesting bugs and got to sprawl in the grass, watching the leaves playing in the breeze. In the garden, I discovered the joy of eating warm ripe tomatoes and snow peas, crisp vegetables and flowers — some because they always grew well, like the Swiss chard and others because they were my favorites to eat.

“Here in Pagosa Springs, I found the soil more suited to pottery than gardening. My wonderful husband, Ken, built us raised beds and filled them with store bought soil. The first year, we added supplemental plant food and received a bounty of cherry tomatoes and greens. Since then, we have added composted alpaca droppings and kitchen scraps. Our first compost bin was built strong and solid to keep bears out. Unfortunately, it only kept me from being able to turn it; the bears and raccoons had no problem. Our new compost bin is lower and wider with a sturdy double-screened lid that props up for adding material and turning now and then. We added the second layer of wire mesh on the lid after I discovered a skunk inside. I thought it was trapped (silly me).

“We have found the best things to plant in our semi-shaded space are all kinds of greens, salad, beans, peas, beets, radishes, carrots, small tomatoes, turnips, elephant garlic and herbs. We have tried rhubarb in the shady part of the garden, out front in the sun, and now have moved it to a partially shaded spot. The sun was too hot, the shade too dark. Maybe this spot will be just right. Our home had a raspberry bush planted too close to the house. Over the years, it has spread out to get more water and sun and last year produced a bumper crop. We planted other raspberries and blackberries by the garden fence. Hopefully, this year we will have enough jam.” 

For more information on Health Archuleta, please contact us at fsfearchuleta@gmail.org or (401) 371-3227. To donate to support the work of Healthy Archuleta, please visit our website, https://www.foodcoalition4archuleta.org/donate.html.