Learning And Doing – Sustainability Works

by Kris Holstrom

I’m in the middle of teaching a new class through the University Centers of the San Miguel. The charming director of UCSM approached me awhile back to brainstorm ways to spark student interest in sustainable ways and means. The class burst the seams of its first meeting room with 19 students packed in. ZERI – systems design for sustainability, PERMACULTURE – permanent agriculture (or is it permanent culture?) and RELOCALIZATION efforts are the lenses through which the class examines energy, food, water and waste – among other basic life necessities. This past weekend students chose between pruning and permaculture in McElmo Canyon and visiting the Buckhorn Garden Growing Dome near Colona. Some did both!

026 Battle Rock Farm has been producing fruit and food off and on for decades. In the past few years young blood and young fruit trees have taken root. Fresh ideas and enthusiasm are sprouting. It felt far too much like spring Saturday when students converged for a little pruning lesson and a farm tour. In my opinion, far too few folks know how a fruit tree grows or how to tell the difference between pear and peach. Who prefers what kind of “hair cut”. With sharpened pruners and lubricated loppers students translated verbal instructions by Lindsay Yarbrough and me, into action. It’s tough to make those first cuts, but as time passes and decisions made the process becomes a communication dance. “Step back and take a look and listen,” is good advice for pruning. After awhile the cuts are slightly easier to make – they begin to make sense.

Following a shared repast we gathered around a table looking at an aerial photo and topo drawings of the farm. What elements are necessary to grow food for others? What skills needed? How do you make difficult decisions? If the entire canyon is treating tamarisk, do you do the same? In the same way? What are the implications of decisions? As we tromped around the fields, up the bluff and through the tamarisk thicket we pondered the question of local food while enjoying a balmy mid-winter day in the desert.

On Sunday Buckhorn Garden Growing Dome was the destination. Just outside of Colona rests a jewel of a greenhouse. The 51’ diameter dome is entering its third spring. Today’s students were treated to a quick lesson in greenhouse design and dynamics, high tunnels in strong winds and unique tastes of the indoor winter garden. Sorrel, nasturtiums, dill, lettuce, asian greens, spinach, edible borage flowers and medicinal gotu kola were nibbled and noshed as Sunday’s storm blew in. As outside temperatures dropped the warm greenhouse environment invited lingering.

Intro to Sustainability has two sessions left. The next class in the series is Sustainable Development Public Policy: Concepts in the global approach to sustainable development, and starts Monday evening February 23rd. It will be taught be Dr. John Cramer. Contact UCSM’s Robyn Wilson at 970-369-5255 or email rwilson@ucsanmiguel.org

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