Scott N. Miller
November 27, 2005
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EAGLE-VAIL - For the past few years, the greenhouse at Battle Mountain High School has been a home for junk and wayward plants. That's changing.
For the past few Mondays, a group of local "slow food" enthusiasts has been in the greenhouse - which hasn't been used for classes for several years - cleaning, clearing, and generally getting the place ready for a revival.
When the first plants start growing, probably in early 2006, volunteers will have a place to grow vegetables and herbs year-round, students will have a chance to see how organically- and hydroponically-grown vegetables compare, and Marc von Stralendorff will finally get a break.
"It's really been a greenhouse of misfits and orphans," said von Stralendorff, a science teacher at Battle Mountain High School. "It's been a lot of work. I'm happy to have someone from the community helping out."
That help comes gladly from people who see a chance to put the greenhouse to use in the cause of slowing down their lives and exploring the tastes of foods not usually found in supermarkets. But it's taking a lot of work to get the place back into shape.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw it," said Susan Mackin Dolan, the education director for the local slow food chapter. "It was full of old, dead plants. You could hardly look across it it was so full."
Now, dead plants have been pitched, and plants that can be salvaged have been re-potted. Equipment has been sorted and stacked. It won't be long until it's time to plant.
"Slow food" enthusiast Patsy Batchelder has been helping clean the greenhouse at Battle Mountain High School. After a good going-over, the greenhouse will be used to grow herbs and vegetables for volunteers and student projects.
Preston Utley/Vail Daily
"We'll start with some greens, that's a good cool-climate crop," Mackin Dolan said. "Then we can grow whatever else the science department wants to grow."
Those plants will grow in a couple of ways. Those interested in growing herbs and plants in pots can, of course. The students involved in the school's Pro Start program for aspiring chefs will probably grow some herbs.
Pat Bultemeier, owner of Head Start Hydroponics in Edwards, has signed on to help growers who want to use hydroponics - a way to grow plants without soil and using a water-based solution to provide nutrients to plants.
Comparing how pot-grown and hydroponically-grown plants start and mature is one of the things von Stralendorff wants his students to look at. Mostly, though, the greenhouse will give the valley's small but growing slow-food enthusiasts an outlet for their own gardening urges.
"I'm just an old hippie," Mackin Dolan said. "I've done organic gardening for years. I've even grown tomatoes in Intermountain."
But, Mackin Dolan said, the local slow-food group is a diverse bunch, made up of landscapers, chefs and moms like Tara van Dernoot.
"The idea of slow food really appealed to me," van Dernoot said. "I'm on an ongoing mission to slow my life down."
Slow, or at least slower, food is part of that quest. But between jobs, kids in school and extracurricular activities, slowing down is hard.
What's "slow food," anyway?
Founded in 1986 by Italian writer Carlo Petrini, the "slow food" movement aims to preserve diversity in the world's cooking and food supplies, as well as to wean people away from the "... and run" part of life. A quick way to think of slow food is that it's more about cooking and less about just heating something up. Enthusiasts champion "heirloom" strains of vegetables, and the Slow Food U.S.A. Web site has a list of local farmers who are raising "heritage" turkey breeds for holiday dining.
What 'slow food' isn't
Being four cars back of the squawk box at the drive-through.
"I try to make as much ahead of time as I can," van Dernoot said. "But some weeks are better than others."
But as people try to slow down, they're also gearing up for coming events. Local groups are required to have several events a year to maintain an official slow food chapter. There have been a few this year, and next year plans include taking part in an Earth Day celebration at the Eagle-Vail Pavilion.
"We have a lot of big ideas," Mackin Dolan said. "We'll just see what happens."