LEADVILLE, Colo. — Leadville is known for being a place where winter stays late and arrives early, so most might think it’s not a great place to garden.
Kendra Kurihara, the executive director at Cloud City Conservation Center, knows better.
"We have a ton of abundant sunshine and water,” said Kurihara.
Located about two hours west of Denver in Lake County and at an elevation of 10,200 feet, temperatures in Leadville dip into the 30s many nights each year.
Despite the harsh climate, the Cloud City Conservation Center can grow plants and vegetables from April through October thanks to their grow dome, a solar greenhouse that has a 3,000-gallon water tank inside to keep plants toasty warm all through the night.
It’s a technique anyone can use on their smaller scale home greenhouses.
“Rocks or water that you add to your greenhouse will add heat and will disperse through the night,” said Kurihara.
Knowing what plants to grow in what environment is also helpful.
“This is a really productive climate for peas, kale, lettuce, carrots, beets, turnips,” said Kurihara. "Broccoli and cabbage do really well at this elevation so it’s mostly about choosing the right plants.”
The fresh produce that's grown in the dome goes to benefit about 13 families each week in Lake County.
"We have limited access to fresh produce in Lake County,” said Kurihara. “We have one grocery store in a 40-mile radius and food in Lake County is 18% higher than the national average.”
All their work has helped Cloud City Conservation along with other nonprofits in Lake County earn a nomination for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. If they win, they'll be the first community in Colorado to receive the award.
You can learn more about Cloud City Conservation and their upcoming fundraiser in September at their website.
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