Leafing a Legacy – Our Food Forest and Orchard now features heritage Apple Trees and a dedication to some very special people

To celebrate Earth Day this past week, the Environmental Center was fortunate to be joined by committed student staff, alumni and community members to do something to give back. And boy did we ever! Following just an hour of work, our team had broadforked and tilthed two of our garden beds, planted new trees outside of the campus garden and installed five heritage apple varieties within the EC’s campus orchard and food forest.

The work was as symbolic as much s it was literal – the apple varieties were gifted to us by the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project and were all hand grafted 100+ year old trees still growing at the Old Fort Heritage Orchard, left over from an experimental orchard planted in the early 1920’s. So now we have trees from the old campus joining us on the “new” campus. This is truly a part of our region’s legacy.

The orchard now stands as a testament to legacy in one other very important way – we were fortunate to be able to name two of our trees after people who have made an incredible difference in their communities. FLC alum, Jim Carver, dedicated a tree to the memory of Della Johnson, a member of the FLC community for 25 years who, in addition to her service to the president, held our collective history. Cynthia Dott and Gary Giannini dedicated a tree in honor of their parents, Nancy and Bob Dott, ”who instilled in us a love and fascination for the natural world, and who practiced planting and nurturing new life whenever they could”. What a beautiful way to honor such incredible people and the legacy that they left.

Here is a little bit of a bio on the apples that will be joining us (and showing up in the dining hall) in the next several years:

hesn003 and hesf007 are both Wealthy: A very cold hardy apple that was introduced in 1868 by a Minnesota Horticulturist. One of its parents is a crabapple and it is a parent to Haralson which speaks to its cold hardy lineage. Excellent dessert (fresh eating) and multi-use apple, picked a few weeks early for cooking. Great in pies and makes pink applesauce. Beautiful fruit ripens in the fall to bright red across the surface. Crisp, very juicy flesh. Refreshing, sprightly, vinous flavor with hint of strawberry. Beautiful, long-lasting pink and white blossoms that make it a good pollinator.

hesz007 Hibernal: An endangered apple. Large in size, yellow skin with red splashes and white dots, flesh is yellow, crisp, and tart. These apples are good for cooking and drying. Origin is thought to be from Russia. Many Russian varieties were imported by the USDA in the late 1800’s for their cold hardy attributes. Ripens late, winter apple.

hesu004 Northwestern Greening: A popular old winter variety most especially excellent in pies. Keeps all winter and improves in storage. Ripens late turning from green to a waxy yellow.

hese002 unknown: we did not test this tree as it looked the same as another tree we did test which is a Virginia Crab; once we see apples on the tree we can confirm

Come out to the campus orchard to learn more about our apples at any point.Little girl planting up an apple tree Dedication Plaques Picnic table_Leaf a Legacy Orchard star

Automated Rainwater Harvesting & Irrigation Project is A GO!…pending rain

Senior Engineering Design team –Trujill Sandman, Refreeno Harvey, Paloma Juarros, Emily Dellenbach and Ryan Walker—supported by Dr. Christie Chatterley have successfully designed, constructed and installed our very own, one-of-a-kind Automated Rainwater Irrigation System, or ARIS. This system, which captures rainwater from the roof of our student-designed and built building, uses programmed sensors in the soil to deliver water to one of the EC’s campus garden beds when it becomes to dry. The new system provides us with a much-needed supply of back-up water when the irrigation breaks…in addition, it has been designed to provide us with the needed water to grow food for an extra month and a half each year! This means that we can provide more student-grown food to campus diners, thereby addressing – in a small way—an existing gap in campus food security. Now all that we need is rain….

Swing by the EC garden at any point to check out the Automated Rainwater Irrigation System and learn more about our Campus Garden Grown program!

My Letter of Hope

On a cold night in late December last year, I was snuggled up on my couch and catching up on the news.  I saw a headline that a freak weather system had caused the North Pole to reach a temperature of 40 degrees, 50 degrees Fahrenheit above normal.

I froze (no pun intended).  It was warmer on the North Pole than even here in Colorado.  Unbelievable … In one article a climate scientist said that if there was ever a call for action to do something about climate change, this was it.

I agreed wholeheartedly.  But what?  I couldn’t sleep that night.  The restlessness came from concern for the future of my 4-year-old son.  I often read him colorful books about animals from around the world – he loves learning about those animals.  Sometimes I read him those stories with a lump in my heart, wondering if many of them would exist very much longer with conditions changing so quickly.

So in the middle of that cold, dark night, I felt the one immediate thing I could do was write to my representatives in Congress.  I had time on my hands, my favorite pen and a yellow legal pad.  I started writing straight from the heart and straight from my fears.  Almost as an after thought I wrote one to President Obama, too.  Why not ‘eh?

I got canned responses via email and snail mail from the representatives.  Months went by.  Then just last Tuesday I was about to walk into my house when I noticed a large envelope at my doorstep.  The return address said “The White House”.  I wondered if it was some kind of joke.

Inside the envelope was a short letter and someone had scribbled a signature at the bottom.  “I can’t even tell who this is from,” I thought!  Then I looked, and stared, and looked again, and stared again, “Holy socks on a rooster! This is a personal letter from the President!”  It was signed in real ink, and he made references to my original letter.

The thought that my chicken scratch on a piece of yellow legal pad paper had made it to the desk of the President brought me to tears.  Somebody was listening … And not just anybody, the President of the United States was listening!  Maybe Democracy works!  Maybe there is some hope for climate change and all the challenges we face.

You can bet I will be framing that letter.  I certainly can’t stop taking action now.


Deb Moses

(EC Coordinator Note: Deb is an avid Environmental Center Supporter, FLC staff member, musician, mother, and overall exceptional human!)letter of hope

Bananas for Apples

Hello world!

My name is Kaidee Akullo, and I am a freshman and proud member of the Real Food Challenge Team!

In my first few weeks with the Environmental Center family I have been able to connect with and relate to someone in each team. This alone has shown me that being part of the EC will provide me with a community like no other.

I am looking forward to becoming environmentally conscious, knowledgeable and well-rounded through my interactions with individuals, communities and organizations through the EC. I recently had my first outreach experience, and I just finished working on a short film for our Vote Real campaign.

My first experience tabling with the EC has been completed and was a success! This year at the Durango Apple Days festival the EC had a table where the Local Food Security Team paired with Cream Bean Berry to make apple ice cream flavors.

I was able to help serve enough scoops of Almond Milk Apple and Apple Pie flavored ice cream to bring in $500 to the EC. At the festival we educated the public about the events the EC puts on and how we are impacting the Fort Lewis community.

My next tabling event was more specific to my team. The Real Food Challenge team went out chatting with and educating people in preparation for our Vote Real event that opened on October 10.  I will table next at the Wellness Fair on October 12.

Vote Real was a huge success last year as we were able to permanently shift 240 pounds of local pesticide-free potatoes into the Sodexo dining plan. This means that the Real Food Challenge percentage has increased 1.3%, and the potato purchasing is contributing $11,000 to the local economy!

To keep the momentum going we are excited to be implementing new marketing techniques. Coming soon is a Vote Real video and Snapchat updates about who we are and what we do. I am personally super excited about the little movie because it is my first one! Our team will soon be official directors and filmmakers with new videos for each campaign season.

I am super excited for the Wellness Fair as it speaks to my background and curiosity about wellness and food. At the fair I will be able to present and discover how sustainability and real foods are associated with wellness.

This issue is one I feel the constant need to share and discuss becuase it relates to the health of our society. The correlation between wellness and eating right is uncanny. Even on a simple level when one eats in a balanced way they feel well and are able to be productive. This productivity leads to development of the whole community.

Real food guidelines are intertwined with the idea of starting from the bottom in order to benefit societal success because humane, ecologically sound, fair, and organic foods help us scientifically and socially grow.

To be able to incorporate real food with wellness is an awesome way for me to bring existing knowledge forward to shape future learning.

Happy learning and growing!


Kaidee Akullo (Left) and RFC Team member, Louie West (Right) scooping up Cream Bean Berry at Apple Days!

Kaidee Akullo (Left) and RFC Team member, Louie West (Right) scooping up Cream Bean Berry at Apple Days!

Sunnyside Meats: The Sunnier Side of Meat Processing

By Zack Bukovich, Environmental Center Local Food Fellow

Sunnyside meat

Working as a Local Food Fellow for the Environmental Center at Fort Lewis College, I have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity of getting up close and personal with many of La Plata County’s diverse and successful producers.  This summer alone I have had the pleasure of walking the long rows of Mike Nolan’s Mountain Roots Farm, touring the various garden plots beneath the dueling buttes at Twin Buttes Farm; and I have even been towed around in an old wagon by none other than Dave James himself as I received a detailed, behind the scenes look at the practices that make James Ranch successful and sustainable.

This week however, marked a shift in my escapades into the country.  This time I exchanged the sunshine and cool breeze for fluorescent lights and air conditioning, my ragged work clothes for a long white smock and a hairnet, for this week I visited Sunnyside Meats.  Though it may sound like an unappealing change, my visit to Sunnyside Meats had been long anticipated.  For good reason of course; Sunnyside is an essential piece to the local food puzzle here in La Plata County.  Having a USDA certified meat processing facility has made small-scale meat production affordable and reasonable for ranchers in the area.  Without it, most ranchers and farmers would have to drive the 200 miles to Monticello, Utah to get their livestock processed.  For some farmers who harvest their livestock weekly during the high season, this would severely cut into their profit margin, making it nearly impossible to sustain their farming practices.

This lack of locality was, as owner Holly Zinc relayed to us, severely harming the farmers in the area, and many began to consider dropping the occupation altogether. As a longtime supporter of local agriculture, Holly’s father recognized this problem and began working towards a solution.  Being the engineer and innovator that he was, Holly’s father made the decision to invest his time and effort locally, where he worked to design Sunnyside Meats.  And coincidently enough, as time went on, Holly began to take an interest in the business.  After attending CU Boulder, working in the meat department of a local Boulder grocery store and auditing the meat sciences program at Colorado State, Holly herself had developed an interest, as well as the skills and knowledge to take over and develop Sunnyside.  Eventually, in a mutual agreement between father and daughter, Holly took over the business where she still stands today.

This was the introduction Paula, my fellow Local Food Fellow, and myself were given when we sat down at Holly’s desk to learn the preliminaries before setting out on the tour.  After this debriefing, we were taken out to where it all begins, the ‘drop off’.  Here the livestock are dropped off and shuttled into the corrals that eventually lead to the killing floor.  These corrals, however, are not your average corrals, for they have been specifically engineered and designed by Holly’s father to operate cleanly and efficiently, while also providing comfort and ease of access for the livestock.  The corrals are lined with water that flows out of thick pipes as drinking water for the livestock, and the doors of the corrals are designed to mimic that of a revolving door so that one can control the direction of the livestock by revolving the door instead of using harmful methods of shocking and prodding.  Along with this, there is plenty of room for the livestock to move around, for Sunnyside makes a point of not crowding the corrals.

After moving through the drop off, we were brought to the heart of the action, the ‘killing floor’.  Now, I will say that this room is the most difficult to enter if one is squeamish…There are carcasses being skinned, organ meats being examined and of course this is where the livestock are slaughtered.  However, despite this, the room is exceptionally clean and surprisingly free of unpleasant odors. There are three to four workers in this room, three of whom rotate between slaughtering, skinning and processing the meat, while another, the USDA certified inspector, inspects the meats to ensure that they are free from any abnormalities or diseases.  Coincidently enough, while we watching these workers hurrying this way and that, clad in their long white frock coats, a cow was lead into the room to be slaughtered.

Now, I will admit that upon entering the facility, I was a little wary about seeing a slaughtering.  However, once I was on the killing floor, learning the stages and processes behind harvesting livestock I thought; why should I turn my head from such a crucial step in the process?  If I am going to eat meat and gain a full understanding of our local food system, I might as well face the reality of the process, no matter how gory.  So I did, and to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I had made it out to be.  The actual slaughtering is very quick, and for the most part, painless for the animal.  It all begins with bringing the animal in to a closed coral so the butcher can get close enough to stun the animal accurately and precisely-to ensure that the animal feels no pain.  The stun gun when placed correctly, quickly inserts a rod into the brain of the animal, rendering it in insensible.  When this happens, the animal immediately loses all sense of feeling and cognitive ability, and therefore loses control of its limbs.  It drops down to the ground and the butcher quickly ties up its ankles up to a big chain that hoists the animal off the ground to be weighed and transported.  The animal is then placed over a trash bin where it is quickly cut and bled out.  At this point, the slaughtering of the animal is complete, and it is moved down the line to be further processed.  Like I said, it is a rather quick process, the entirety of it lasting between five and ten minutes.

Following the slaughter, we were led into the ‘aging cooler’.  Which is exactly that, it is a giant refrigerated room, where the processed carcasses are hung to properly age.  This enhances the quality and taste of the meat, and makes for a pretty scary place to play hide and seek!  When in the room, one has to almost shoulder between the rows of carcasses, needless to say, I was very glad that I was wearing my hairnet and long white frock coat.  After the aging cooler, we were taken to the final stages of processing, where the body of the animal is fabricated or cut into primal (major) or subprimal (minor) cuts for variability[1] (think short ribs, rib eye, flank steak, etc.) and then packaged.  In these varying rooms, they have multiple butchers working on the various cuts, distributing them into different bins that eventually work their way into the ‘packaging section’.

We looked only briefly into the packaging section, however we were able to take a good look at Sunnyside’s state of the art packaging machine.  This packaging machine efficiently packages a good portion of Sunnyside’s cuts into air sealed plastic packaging that allows the customer to actually see the product they are buying, instead of it being hidden behind layers of paper wrap.   This viewing of the packaging machine concluded our tour and our in depth view into the processes behind meat processing.

Thinking it over, processing meat is a dirty profession.  But like all professions, someone has to do it.  And as a citizen who values responsible practices that promote the welfare of the environment, the community and sentient beings, I could not choose a better organization than Sunnyside Meats to do the dirty work of feeding our local community.

[1] “meat processing”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016. Web. 15 Aug. 2016

Spring Break, Grand Canyon Trust Style

by Mike Chizhov, Volunteer Program Associate, Grand Canyon Trust

We pull our convoy of vehicles onto the side of the farm plot, our truck bed full of shovels, gloves, and water. “Today, we dig ditch,” Alicia, one of the Arizona FoodCorps members working in Tuba City, Arizona, explains as she lays out the workday. Classic rock blares from a small portable speaker, and we get to digging.

The sun beats down on us as we slowly but diligently dig three feet deep along the 300 feet of irrigation ditch, moving over 10,000 pounds of sand and soil in the process. Many farmers only irrigate twice per year, so it is essential that these ditches are clear when they do. Last year, this ditch alone took one committed farmer over two months to clear out.

Conserving communities and landscapes

This isn’t your average spring break trip, and these aren’t your average students. This March, volunteers from Fort Lewis College and Western State Colorado University spent their spring break away from beach umbrellas and volleyball games, and instead dedicated their time to restoring springs on the Vermillion Cliffs, supporting sustainable businesses and energy development on tribal lands, and preserving traditional farming methods.

Fort Lewis College Students digging irrigation ditch

Above: Students from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO spent their spring break installing solar panels on a home in Hopi and helped support traditional farming methods around Tuba City, Arizona.

Western State Colorado University students

Above: Students from Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, CO worked on restoring springs, removing invasive species, and transplanting native plants in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.

Each year, young people contribute over 10,000 hours of volunteer work at the Trust on projects that have significant impacts on the social and ecological landscapes of the Colorado Plateau. Students contribute to research, support communities most affected by climate change, and help address the varied legacies of unsustainable development that linger on the plateau.

Learning through service and action

After we finish digging the ditch, we meet up with Leonard Selestewa just downhill of Tuba City, to clear his fields of last year’s corn stalks. Leonard is a traditional Hopi farmer living in Moencopi village, and as we leave his mother’s house, he jokes, “Don’t forget to turn off the light on your way out.” The house has never had electricity. He is doubtful that it ever will.

After we finish helping prepare his plots for planting, Leonard takes us around the property, talking about the variable flows in Moencopi Wash as a result of Peabody Coal drawing down the aquifer to slurry coal–coal that provides electricity to Southwestern cities outside of tribal lands. During one violent flood, the lower half of his mother’s property was covered with silt and water. The pick-up truck sticking out of the ground and the water marks six feet up the shed walls stand as proof of the event.

Peabody Coal has recently declared bankruptcy. So we ask, what will the legacy of coal be on the landscapes and people it has impacted? How can we act now to support those most affected by unsustainable energy production? How can we work towards a future where wildlife can migrate, flourish, and support the vital ecosystems which in turn support us?

If we are to respect the fierce urgency that these issues demand of us, these questions cannot be rhetorical.

One project, huge impact

To the 19 students that joined us on the farms, near the springs, in the washes and mesas of the Colorado Plateau, these questions are founded in real experience and knowledge of consequences.  They have learned how watersheds unite us. They have seen how water pumped to slurry coal through the Navajo Nation may dry up vital springs and severely limit the water supply of dry-land farmers, like Leonard, downstream.

Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

Our amazing volunteers contributed to one project, but their impact reaches much further than a single farmer who can now plant in time for the rains or the antelope that can now continue migrating because of water in the springs. By helping to sustain ecosystems and cultures, these atypical springbreakers participated in a movement that deeply needs and appreciates their contributions.

Join us!

Join us on a volunteer trip and help us protect and restore the Colorado Plateau! We still have space available for trips this summer and fall. If you are interested in organizing a group trip with us, please apply! Applications are being accepted through September 30, 2016 for the 2017 season.

Environmental Center and EC Dine student staff featured in the Navajo Times

This past Thursday, the FLC Environmental Center was featured in an article in the Navajo Times entitled, “FLC Environmental Center preparing Native Youth”. The article highlights the experiences of two of the EC’s all-stare Dine staff and FLC students, Kelkiana Yazzie (ENVS, 16) and Brandon Francis (ENVS, 15). Additionally, the article was written by FLC Exercise Science senior, Lane Franklin. It is a really great piece and highlights FLC and the EC’s commitment to both support and develop leadership amongst our students, as well as, serve our surrounding region: http://navajotimes.com/edu/flc-environmental-center-preparing-native-youth/.

So much gratitude to Lane Franklin for writing up such a moving article…and of course to Kelki and Brandon for the many amazing contributions that they have made at the EC…and will continue to do wherever they end up!

FLC Article


Inside Local Food Security in the Four Corners

Do you know how many days of food we have available in our grocery stores in the event that the trucks stop coming over the hill? Did you ever wonder about what a Food Procurement contract is and how it dictates which foods show up on your plate on a daily basis? To learn more about these topics and the inner workings of our Real Food Challenge and regional local food security, check out today’s radio interview with EC Coordinator Rachel Landis on our local public station, KSUT. Rachel will be available for book signings and autographs all day in the EC 😉


Duke Jackson, 2014 Local Food Fellow, waters tire-stacked potatoes in an effort to utilize space most efficiently for maximum food production in the Environmental Center's on-campus, organic garden.

Duke Jackson, 2014 Local Food Fellow, waters tire-stacked potatoes in an effort to utilize space most efficiently for maximum food production in the Environmental Center’s on-campus, organic garden.

Creating a Local Food System…and learning how to create social and environmental change along the way

The Fort Lewis College (FLC) Environmental Center’s Campus Garden in Durango, Colorado is home not only to organic veggies and herbs, but also to two Local Food Fellows. These dedicated students learn how food systems create environmental and social change….by ultimately building their own. Throughout their time in our garden and greenhouse, our Local Food Fellows discover the in’s and out’s of sustainable food production. They also distribute what they’ve produced to the people who need it the most and ultimately share their newly acquired knowledge through free workshops.

In the meantime, our Fellows’ view of the world deepens, they become stronger individuals and engage as committed citizens. Current Fellow, Kelly Ann Maes, believes her work matters because, “securing Local Food in this area is vital to the health and wellness of all community members and youth in particular as they are the future”.

This year, our Sow It Forward grant enabled the Local Food Fellows to expand what Fellow, Duke Jackson, loves the most: “creating positive change in our community”. As a result of our revitalized greenhouse and hoop structures, we have extended our growing season and can provide more food and education to individuals in need. Thank you, Kitchen Gardeners International!


Greenhouse and Hoop House Remodel Hoop Houses_S15 Squash Starts_S15 Kelly Ann & Duke Greenhouse interior

Podcast: Mother Earth Greek Tragedy, by Zack Bauer–EC Campus Sustainability Student Team

Check out Zach’s awesome podcast here!

Radio to earth….

One night in the dark dwellings of my cold dorm room, I felt an overwhelming desire to help the environment. I had just listened to Neil Young’s new song “Who’s Gonna Stand Up?”, which reminded me of everything that needs healing on our planet and how humans have the ability to fix them. This gave me so much adrenaline and passion for helping our planet that I constantly started asking myself, “how can I stand up and make a change?” This is when I realized I can turn my radio class final project into a way to help the environment. I hope to inspire people with my radio project the same way Neil Young’s song motivated me to create change.

My project is a Greek Tragedy radio play about Mother Earth. The play begins telling about the big bang and birth of our universe, with everything in peace and harmony. A planet and star match (The Sun and Earth) then decide to make life together. The Children of Mother Earth have immense love for their Mother and Father at the beginning of the story, but eventually start to turn on their Mother. The story is a Greek Tragedy because, unfortunately, the ending is not happy. My intent is not to make people scared or depressed about our Earth’s current state of being, but to give people a warning of what’s to come if we continue to support environmentally threatening practices. One point I do not include in the production is that there is hope to save our planet. I hope that this radio drama will inspire you to seek out solutions to saving our planet and for making a change. If we all work together, we can take Earth off her current path and restore her back to her natural self. A great way to start is by getting involved with the Environmental Center and by learning how to live sustainably in our day to day lives. Thank you for listening!