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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Local food hero: Kristen Roth

By Rose Chavez | Food System/Food Equity Coalition

Healthy Archuleta, a local non-profit 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 Kristen Roth of Archuleta County, who shared this narrative with us: 

“I have been an on-and-off lifelong gardener. I grew up in the Bay Area where gardening was easy — the climate, the soil, the access to good seeds and plants made gardening a breeze. My dad was an amazing gardener and my mom was a wonderful cook, incorporating all of the fresh produce and fruit we grew into our daily meals. While, as a child I never enjoyed the ‘chore’ of watering, the fond memories I have of the peace and quiet (so desperately needed after a stressful day at school), the sun, smells and sounds of the garden, and the delicious family meals created from the food we grew, have inspired me to grow gardens of my own throughout my life.

“Since moving to Pagosa Springs 24 years ago, I have had both successes and struggles with my gardening experience. The climate, being arid, dry and breezy can make keeping things watered and burn free challenging. I solved some of this by using hoops and protective cover over my shade loving plants such as kale, lettuce, cabbages, chard, beet, carrots, broccoli. The cover also helps keep my garden fairly safe from insects, deer and difficult weather (heat waves, hail storms, strong winds). I also use raised beds as they help ease the physical strain of gardening as well as helping to keep the ground dwelling, tunneling animals from snacking on the roots and vegetation. I always start the bottom of the bed with tightly woven metal lathe, rolled up the sides of the raised bed. I have also found that it is imperative to start with good soil and keep amending with compost every year. I throw all of my kitchen veggie scraps (never animal/dairy products) into the three compost bins (made of chicken wire bent into a tube) in my yard next to my greenhouse dome. The bear does intrude from time to time, but so goes life in the forest. I have a hand built (thank you, husband) bee habitat (for mason and leafcutter bees) to aid in pollination. And I will always welcome the wasps into my dome, as they are helpers as well. Finally, I never use anything toxic in my garden — if I struggle with aphids and mildew, I take that as a cue that perhaps I am trying to grow wrong foods for the environment. I found that growing peppers and eggplant in the dome was not meant to be in my area. But herbs and chard are always a great success.

“This year, I plan to try out a new system based on the book, ‘All New Square Foot Gardening: Grow More In Less Space.’ Author Mel Bartholomew is an international master gardener with well over 25 years of experience. The book is based on his extensive hands-on knowledge of soil (he has a special mix that is supposed to be very drought free), garden layout and seed spacing. The way he has you organize the layout and planting of the garden promises to make the whole experience so much simpler. I am adding three new ‘square foot’ garden beds (4’x8’) and am hoping I am not getting in over my head. (Anyone want to partner up and share the harvest? — seriously.)

“Finally, I harvest for my family and include a donated harvest for the FS/FE food distribution center, which distributes my produce and other ‘backyard growers’ produce to the local food pantries which then distribute the food to those who have limited access and means to fresh, locally grown food. The whole idea of Archuleta Food System/Food Equity Program or FS/FE (part of the larger organization, Healthy Archuleta Inc.) is to help create an equitable distribution of a healthy, local, sustainable food system in Pagosa Springs. If you are interested in joining the ‘Backyard Growers Group’ (whether you’re a passionate gardener, a new gardener or a hobbyist), please contact me at kristenroth0@gmail.com. No harvest donation is too small.” 

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

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