History of The Garden Project and Manna
2005 - Fort Lewis Field School constructs the first Manna Garden outside of the original soup kitchen building with help from Manna Soup Kitchen staff and The Garden Project of SW Co.
2010 - The Manna Garden expands across the parking lot and Theresa Stone and Jason Cloudt construct the beginnings of the labyrinth garden that still serves as the garden's focal point. At this point part of the garden was next to the original building and a small labyrinth with seating area was across the parking lot.
2011 - Frank LeBeau and Tom Skiles expanded the labyrinth according to late Sara Wakefield's garden expansion plans.
2013 -Construction of the Manna Culinary Arts Building began and The City of Durango leased Manna the new and larger garden space across the parking lot. The Manna Culinary Arts Program is now intricately linked to the Manna Garden and The Garden Project provides valuable "farm to table" educational hours to students.
2014 -With the increase in garden space, Jason Cloudt and garden manager Brooke Frazer began planning new beds and ways to work with the shale. Volunteers from Hill Top and Manna volunteers dug out 5, 50 ft beds in the hard shale to be filled with soil. 4 new smaller beds were also added to the labyrinth area. 3 of the large beds were filled with top soil and planted with cover crop. The Manna Garden Share Program was created as a way to distribute fresh produce to local families. The Manna Cooking Matters class began this year and has been run every year since.
2015 - The remaining beds were filled with soil, amended and then planted with legumes. The large hoop house was installed on the south side of the garden. 15 families were selected to receive a weekly Manna Garden Share in addition to supplying the kitchen with fresh produce. A drip irrigation system was installed to replace the overhead watering.
2016 - With the intention of innovating the Manna Garden Share program, TGP and Manna created the Manna Market free produce stand. TGP worked with Durango Farmer's Market and other local farmers to redirect wasted produce to food insecure families. 12 new raised beds were also installed in the garden and filled with amended top soil, expanding the growing space into unused areas. The Manna Apprenticeship was also created to teach gardening and self sufficiency skills to teens.
2017 - The second year of the Manna Market was a great success! The Manna Garden was also expanded onto the hillside by a hard working crew from NCCC. They created nine half moon terraces to provide community gardening spaces in the future. With the expanded infrastructure, the garden produced an additional 225 lbs of produce in 2017, totalling 1,525 lbs for the season. The Manna Garden continued to provide opportunity for teens to garden including teens from Trio Upward Bound, Rainbow Youth Center, and LPYS.
2018 - Vegetable production ramped up to 2,424 lbs of garden produce in 2018, and a total of 7,600 pounds of food was distributed through the Manna Market this year. Of the 837 people fed from the Manna Market, 24% were children. Four farm-to-table workshops were conducted with Manna's Culinary students, and a Food Justice program was conducted with teens in TRIO Upward Bound and Rainbow Youth Center. We also broke ground on a new greenhouse!