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Dr. Karen Chesser speaks at SOIL Ribbon cutting June 3rd 2023

We are excited about this opportunity for ALL of our students. SOIL will blend authentic, meaningful learning with a focus on sustainability to benefit our community and our world, making an impact for generations to come.  

—Dr. Karen Cheser, Superintendent, Durango School District 9-R

SOIL will foster support of local partnerships and the very important skills of gardening as well as food production and storage, amongst many other things. It is important that we nurture these historic skills and traditions for a more secure future.

—Rod Barker, Durango Business Owner and 5th generation Durango native

What class or activity could not be taught in the garden? The opportunity for students to be outside getting dirt under their fingernails from the hands-on learning experiences; or to see how the natural world actually works – in nature; and to be part in the success of a plant, from start to finish, culminate in harvesting what you grow is tough to replicate inside a classroom.

—Darrin Parmenter, Extension Co-Regional Director, CSU Extension

Mountain Studies Institute values the SOIL project for the hands-on educational value it brings to our community. We look forward to being partners in this project to expand real-world environmental education, pollinator habitat, and civic engagement for students and the general public.

—Amanda Kuenzi, Mountain Studies Institute, Community Science Director

Learning outside is good.   My favorite part is eating the fruits and vegetables and learning about animals like worms.  The garden is a place where we can learn how to collaborate and persevere through things.

—Anna Steaves, Riverview 3rd grader


I see a unique opportunity to establish a community meeting place that will inspire  a love and curiosity for the natural world. SOIL will be a place for collaborations among individuals and organizations, a place where families and friends can add organic fruits and vegetables to their table, and a place for multigenerational friendships to form.

—Marye Jackson, Longtime Master Gardener

The SOIL project will provide a valuable resource to both the 9-R Food and Nutrition Services Department, and the students that we nourish every day. By teaching students the flow of food from producer to consumer, we are encouraging healthier eating habits for future generations.

—Matthew Poling, Director of Nutrition and Food Services, Durango 9-R

The SOIL project gardens would expand & enhance educational opportunities for kids who may not otherwise have access to these options. SOIL will create a fun, creative, engaging, hands-on experience for kids to get their hands dirty and be active outdoors. Furthermore, this will help teach kids the value of collaboration on long-term planning, goal setting, and harvesting the fruits of their labor.

—Guthrie Hardesty, Recreation Supervisor, Durango Parks and Recreation


I have never felt a stronger sense of urgency to get our students outside interacting with the natural world. Because of the devastating effects of the pandemic, our country is experiencing a pediatric mental health crisis that has not only impacted our teens but our elementary-aged students as well. By creating outdoor learning spaces like Riverview’s SOIL project for (and with) our students, we are essentially partnering with Mother Nature to help reduce student stress and anxiety levels, and increase their feelings of calm and relaxation. These spaces can provide opportunities for students to positively interact with each other, practice conflict resolution skills, learn compassion and empathy, and demonstrate other key social and emotional learning skills. We need Mother Nature (and the SOIL project) right now, more than ever, to help us heal our kids!

—JoAnne Hibbard, Restorative Practices Facilitator, La Plata Youth Services

Gardening re-establishes a connection with nature that is integral to the Navajo way of life. The Navajo communities have specifically expressed an interest in gardening as a way to return to traditional customs that includes hunting, herding and farming.

—Michael Tom, Indigenous Student Services, Durango 9-R

The SOIL project will help our nonprofit, In the Weeds, serve the members of the hospitality and restaurant industry by supporting a sense of community, physical and mental health for our members, and provide a sober environment for personal growth and interpersonal connection.

—Blaine Bailey, In the Weeds, Executive Director

Ways you can help us grow!

With Durango's only community garden closing this fall, it's time to cultivate the future of gardening and outdoor learning in our community. Find out how you can become more involved and help us create a space where both school aged children and community members can learn together!

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