Montezuma School to Farm Project on Unstable Ground
The Montezuma School to Farm Project, one of the top such programs in the nation, is facing a funding crisis going into its eighth year.
Interim Director Sarah Syverson tells KSJD the problem stems from a change in leadership this spring, when she stepped down after five years as director. The 2016 budget was about $260,000, which pays for six school gardens and 12 staff members serving all three school districts in Montezuma County. The staff teaches classes, oversees the gardens, and helps bring the produce to school cafeterias. The new director, who resigned earlier in December, was unable to maintain funding sources. Syverson, who has stepped in temporarily, says the project starts 2017 with only about $30,000 in the bank. She says funding is critical in coming months for seed orders and seed germination as well as growing winter produce in two high tunnels and a greenhouse. Syverson says School to Farm has trimmed its budget by $60,000 by canceling garden expansions and the popular youth farm apprenticeship program, and cutting back on supplies such as compost. She hopes to obtain new grants and develop a more sustainable model, but in the meantime the project is welcoming donations to help it get back on its feet. Syverson says, “We don’t want to lose ground – the literal ground that we’ve planted.”