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Montezuma School to Farm awarded grants for water and drought curriculum

The Montezuma School to Farm Project is creating curriculum for area schools on drought, soil and water conservation. They were recently awarded $124,000 in grants to implement the project. From left is Production manager Ben Goodrich, Executive Director Trinette Robichaux-Cichock, and Education Manager Karen Lindner. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

The Montezuma School to Farm Project has been awarded $123,000 in grants to teach students about water conservation, soil health and career pathways in those fields.

The Colorado Water Project contributed $98,000, and the Southwest Basin Roundtable issued a $25,000 grant.

The funding will be used for teacher training and curriculum planning as part of the School to Farm education programs.

The ongoing drought has made water education even more of a priority, said executive director Trinette Robichaux-Cichock.

As part of the drought education program, younger students will be taught how to conserve water, then older students will learn about drought, soil health and conservation, and efficient watering practices.

What is fun is when the younger students go home and point out to their parents when water is being wasted in the home, she said.

“As they get older, the lessons get deeper into science and technology,” Robichaux-Cichock said..

The two-year grant pays for professional soil conservationists and environmental scientists to help write the School to Farm curriculum that will be implemented in the fall for all three school districts. The goal is to also share it with area schools outside the county, in the hopes everyone will pull together on these water issues.

The curriculum will also focus on Montezuma County agriculture conditions, said Karen Lindner, School to Farm education manager.

Ben Goodrich, production manager for Montezuma School to Farm discusses soil health and water conservation at the Cortez Middle School student gardens. (Jim Mimiaga/The Journal)

Students will learn about the details of the ongoing local drought, and the water and soil conservation techniques used by farmers such as cover crops, crop rotation and efficient irrigation equipment.

“Our ultimate goal is to create an educational pathway that will lead students to jobs in soil and water conservation. And hopefully they will return here for those jobs and be water stewards for Southwest Colorado,” Lindner said.

One of the lessons students learn is that one of the reasons Ancestral Puebloans left Mesa Verde 1,000 years ago is because of the impacts of sustained drought.

“We have seen intense drought in the past, so what can we do to remain here?” Robichaux-Cichock said.

Students will trace back how water arrives to their tap, and about local watersheds and reservoirs, said Ben Goodrich, production manager for Montezuma School to Farm.

Middle and high school students also participate in School to Farm programs, he said. They grow and harvest crops that are distributed to local soup kitchens and sold at the farmers market, and school farm stand where students can get free vegetables.

For more information, visit the website at montezumaschooltofarm.org