Three weeks ago I attended one of my favorite events in the industry, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. At the time there were small whispers of uncertainty towards an unseen predator, but life felt pretty normal. I was inspired at the conference with new findings and practices in the industry to bring back home to the mountains of Summit County, Colorado. I attended numerous classes and nerded out with life-size mannequins in head-to-toe floral masterpieces. I also played tour guide in one of my favorite cities to my boyfriend Nick. We explored local farmer’s markets, rode ferries to tranquil islands, toured museums, and ate delicious meals from various cultures. We returned home, and over the next week the invisible hunter slowly became a reality in our community, and everything around us began to crash.
It is day 11 of our voluntary quarantine at my house in Frisco. I have prioritized establishing a type of routine to make the days seem beneficial and productive. My winter service industry job at a local restaurant is gone, and the upcoming months are full of uncertainty for the landscape and floral industry. Weddings and large events are being rescheduled or canceled, and arrangements with contractors are sure to fall towards the bottom of a priority list. Our small, ski-destination, tourist-driven industry is making the right steps to ensure our full-time residents have resources, and do our best to manage this current mystery. However, trails, and popular backcountry skiing locations are still active, despite the pleas of local nurses and doctors to please stay away, as resources and supplies are limited.
For a few hours every day (usually around 4 a.m.) on the itinerary is anxious thoughts about the future and the fate of my small business, which turns 9 this Spring. All around me creatives and other small businesses are turning towards the Internet and social media to do their best to stay afloat during this massive shutdown. This week I have attended a local concert, bought local homemade, earth-friendly cleaner, worked out with my personal trainer, shopped at a local retail store, bought stems from another florist, traded puzzles on my porch, attended church, and had happy hour with friends, all from the comfort of my own home.
While these small efforts and financial contributions to friends and other local small businesses can make a small impact, what exactly can Mountain Roots commit to the community at this time, allowing greater chance for success in the upcoming ambivalence. Over the last few uneasy mornings of speculation, I have gathered a small list of my recommendations for the upcoming months, specifically our small community and Mountain Roots’ sustainable-business model. Honestly, they are not much different from what I would have endorsed 3 weeks ago, before our lives revolved around this medical mystery.
The current situation in our community and local grocery stores is quite eerie and unnerving. Limited supplies and empty shelves are appearing more frequently, with shipments from out of town delayed or canceled. I am incredibly beholden to the employees of these establishments and grateful to have the supplies we have. However, I do not like feeling dependent in such times of uncertainty. Regardless of where you live, there is some type of vegetable you can grow to supplement your family’s intake.
Gardening in Summit County is challenging, with a dry, short growing season, and low temperatures. So growing the proper crops is essential. Undulating weather extremes can bring snow too late and too early. Nonetheless, many vegetable crops actually prefer our unique growing environment. When choosing your seeds, look for crops with lower days to maturity (how many days from planting to harvesting). In our climate, I would not recommend anything over 75 days. Here is a list of cold/short season crops that I have had success with in Summit County.
- Snap Peas
- Summer Squash
So what can we do now as it continues to snow and the large snowdrifts remain around our community? Stock up on seeds and good potting soil. The Hydro Shack in Frisco is still open at this time, but we do not know how long this will last. Order seeds online from Botanical Interests, a local Colorado company. Start seeds inside with your family and quarantine roommates. We are a bit too early…. Technically our safe date to plant outside is mid-June. But why not get a head start and have a project to do while we are all laying low? There is no better feeling than seeing those first sprouts appear after diligently observing for days.
Biologist Edward O. Wilson describes “biophilia” as the connection between people and living, growing things, encouraging us to be a part of the web of life. Finding your natural connection to the earth and finding your specific role is necessary for your self-care during all of the erratic changes around us. Vitamin D and fresh air contribute to a better mood, increased self-esteem, and reduced anxiety, stress, depression, and blood pressure.
However, before you pack up your car or RV with your ski gear, camping gear, mountain bikes, etc., please be aware of the strain you could possibly be putting on another small community. Continue to practice your social distancing and think of the big picture, not your temporary satisfaction. Do this for our friends and families on the front lines who are not able to stay home every day.
Also, what better time to disconnect from social media? Be mindful of the outdoor activities you are posting about. You may have the proper equipment and training to safely be in the backcountry, but not everyone does. When they see we are still participating, they too want to be a part of the fun. It takes a lot of time and resources to rescue in the backcountry, and a broken arm from skiing is the last thing the hospital needs. Detach from your phone, and truly connect with nature. Here is a list of options for outdoor activities at this time:
- Go for a hike/walk with your immediate family, pets and/or quarantined roommates in small groups
- Cross-country ski or ski/snowboard in small groups on quiet trails with low risk for injury/rescue
- Read a book outside
- Go for a bike ride
- Have a picnic at a quiet park
- Go fishing
- Patiently watch the snow melt on your gardens and get ready for Spring
With the abrupt halt to ski season and tourist industry in Summit County, we are all feeling the effects of this emotionally and financially. While my snowboarding season at the resorts is over, I anticipate and cherish my time outside each day during this homebound adventure, and find it vital to my mental health and reacting to this new norm.
SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES AND NON-PROFITS
Ten years ago I found myself in an unsafe living situation with limited options to flee. I had just finished Horticulture school, was working only part time, and financially was unsure how to commit to a fresh first, last, deposit rental situation. I decided to visit a local non–profit, the Family and Intercultural Resource Center. Ashamed for allowing myself to stay in an unsafe situation too long, and embarrassed for my financial position, this was the first time I really felt the connection of our community to help others in need. I received a small donation that went directly into the deposit of a new safe rental, and I am forever grateful.
As a local small business owner I am continually trying to be mindful of where I am sourcing my products, or spending my money in the community. Each season we financially give back to critical non-profits in our community. This new issue we are facing as an entire world together will be devastating to local businesses, large and small. With so many doors closing and jobs lost in just one week, how can we still support our community at this time?
- Buy a gift certificate to your favorite retail store
- Order to-go food from your favorite restaurant
- Donate to a local non-profit
- Family and Intercultural Resource Center
- Building Hope Summit County
- The Summit Foundation
- High Country Conservation Center
- Summit County Animal Shelter
- Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault
- Volunteer, safely, in an organized situation
- Donate food to a local food bank/drive
- Check in on your friends and neighbors, see if you can pick anything up for them
- Take advantage of online workouts, concerts, and shopping
As a currently unemployed individual awaiting the fate of my small business, financially supporting my community and friends might not seem like a top priority. Nonetheless, these small contributions will bring some hope to these companies and feelings of achievement in these tough times. If you do take advantage of some of these offerings like rent assistance, food donations, etc., and are unable to give back at this time, please don’t forget this kind gift and pass it along when you are able to.
For nine years Mountain Roots has been dedicated to preserving our community with our sustainable practices and commitment to minimizing our impact on the environment. While the current state of our world feels quite devastating, I am hopeful to see how the planet’s environment has positively reacted to a slower pace of living. With decreased transportation and less human interaction, air pollution is improving. The muted cities are seeing more birds and wildlife. The ocean is benefiting from our disappearance. While it may appear the earth just became overwhelmed and needed a reset, think about how much of an impact we could make it we actually tried.
I pray for the protection of my friends, my community, and my world. I hope to use this time for the better, and assume these apprehensive thoughts about the future will slowly get answers. I am forever indebted to the workers on the front line at hospitals and essential stores, and the local non-profits committed to assist in keeping the workforce fed and in shelter. After just a few short days, my new seeds are sprouting and it feels good to know there is still something Mountain Roots can do to contribute to the society. Stay tuned as we explore this new idea of virtual learning and providing more high altitude gardening and sustainable lifestyle tips.