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C’dale author explains how gardening changes lives

Locations: News Published

By Lynn Burton

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

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• Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut;

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• The University of California, Davis;

Coming soon:

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• The Carbondale Branch Library;

• The Tattered Cover book store in Denver.

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• Canada in March.

That’s a bit of Illené Pevec’s past, current and future speaking schedules, after New Village Press published her book “Growing a Life: Teen Gardeners Harvest Food, Health, and Joy” last September.

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“I’ve had a lot of traveling,” Pevec told The Sopris Sun this week.

Her Carbondale presentation at the library at 3 p.m. on Feb. 18 includes a PowerPoint presentation with voices from teens she interviewed starting in 2006, plus testimonials from local high school graduates Kayla Henley and Raleigh Burleigh, and Pevec’s own readings.

Pevec’s 407-page-book is the dissertation for her Ph.D. in environmental planning and design at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which she started researching in 2006. Her decision to “go book” (so to speak) came after she heard Steven Ritz’s live TED Talk in 2012 on the work he does with youth in the South Bronx via the Green Bronx Machine.

“I was so inspired by him that I knew I had to write this book so that articulate, passionate, and persuasive youth voices could reach the greater public,” Pevec wrote in her book’s preface.

“Growing a Life” has 25 chapters, based on interviews across the United States, with titles such as: “The Green Bronx Machine,” “Sowing Seeds for Success” and “Gardens Grow Healthy Youth.” Chapters 9-11, respectively are: “Colorado Rocky Mountain School: Work Crew Gardeners,” “Roaring Fork High School Grows Food for Lunch and Sustainability Education,” and “Teen Mothers Garden at Yampah Mountain High School.”

Chapter 10, which focuses on Roaring Fork High School, starts out with a lengthy quote from a student named Dash, who says in part, “We live in a world where we don’t interact with our food at all. We just buy it and eat it. We do different jobs … just to make our … complicated system work, when it was pretty great back before things got complicated. So, when we get a chance to go out, work with things and garden and get our hands dirty, it really brings us back to our roots. …”.

Chapter 10 goes on to describe how two nonprofits, Central Rocky Mountains Permaculture Institute and Fat City Farmers (of which Pevec is director), collaborated with a nearby ranch in 2007 to run an organic agriculture program. The upshot, following negotiations with RE-1 school district and Town of Carbondale and related agreements were finalized in 2009, is the Roaring Fork High School greenhouse that grows food for school lunches. Other contributors to the greenhouse project included the Carbondale Rotary Club (labor, cash and machinery). In 2014, the book states, an assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture visited the garden and commented on how well the garden, academics, school lunch and school efforts are integrated towards sustainability.

Pevec interviewed more than 80 student gardeners for her book. Those interviews were spread across inner cities (such as the Bronx and Oakland), suburbs, small towns, and Taos, New Mexico. One observation she made across the board is that gardening brings students together regardless of their backgrounds. For example, in New Mexico, Hispanic and Native American Indian students don’t necessarily always get along, Pevec said. But in gardens where both groups were working, “ … there wasn’t any conflict. They value the traditions of farming and agriculture. Gardening brought them together.” Gardening even bridges students “cliques” that are so prevalent in high schools.

Gardening can even change lives. When Pevec gave a presentation at the University of California-Davis, one student said he got involved in gardening when he was 15 years old. “ … now he is majoring in plant science (at UDC).”

“Growing a Life” is sometimes available at the Carbondale Branch Library (this week there was a waiting list for the two books). The book is also available at Dandelion Market on Main Street in Carbondale, and from Pevec herself at 963-2054.

Next steps:

What: Presentation of “Growing a Life: Teen Gardeners Harvest Food, Health, and Joy”;

Where: The Carbondale Branch Library;

When: 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18;

Who: Author Ilené Pevec Ph.D;

How much: Admission is free;

More info: 963-2889.

Published in The Sopris Sun on Feb. 16, 2017. 

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