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Cody’s Vertical Garden Enhances Downtown

in News/Good news

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Visitors to Cody this summer might be able to pick their own salad greens straight from the garden – downtown.

This summer, a hydroponic garden was installed in Bell Plaza, a public space in the heart of downtown Cody. Bernie Butler works for the city, but is volunteering her time to take care of the vertical garden that has been placed for the benefit of the community.

“It’s just to get the community involved in growing edibles, besides a dirt base,” Butler said. “And it’s more of an art form, too, just to enhance this plaza that we have it in.”

A vertical garden is just what it sounds like — plants placed in upward reaching rows instead of spread out across the ground. The plants are raised in a hydroponic system which uses nutrient-rich water for nourishment rather than dirt.

Butler said Cody is one of several Wyoming cities to embrace the vegetable growing technique.

“They partnered with Travis Hines out of Pinedale, he has Bio-Logic Designs,” she said. “He built this frame for it, brought everything down, we planted the plants, which he supplied, and filled up the tank – we have fish and aqua plants in there. He just got us going.”

The funds for the garden came from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, funneled through the Wyoming Business Council. Amy Quick, the Northwest Regional Director for the Business Council, said the project benefits communities in a number of ways.

“Eleven different communities throughout the state are participating, including, of course, Cody, but Sheridan, Rock Springs, Casper are a few other examples,” Quick said. “And it’s just a really great opportunity to get some community involvement, focus on nutrition, education, economic development.”

Butler pointed out that the produce from the garden is available to anyone.

“I do have a couple older people that come by almost every night, and they take some lettuce and some kale, and the mint is their favorite.”

Butler adds that once colder weather arrives, the garden will move to Eastside Elementary, where students there will take over the process – and the produce.

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Smith: Botanic Garden a success despite climate, altitude

in Community/Agriculture

Cheyenne’s Botanic Garden thrives despite the city’s lousy growing climate, its low population and its elevation, according to the man who directed the facility’s operations for 40 years.

Shane Smith, who retired as director of the Botanic Gardens in 2018, said the city-owned facility has succeeded thanks to the undying optimism of its volunteers and staff members.

“There were a lot of frustrating times where money was tight and things would be going wrong and vandals would come and destroy things and we just couldn’t get things repaired,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “But we were optimistic and had just great volunteer support.”

Smith, who is considered the founder of the Botanic Gardens, said it is rare for a community the size of Cheyenne to have such a facility.

“You would never put a botanic garden in a city this size,” he said. “Usually, you need a half a million people to support a botanic garden that has a professional staff and a grounds and a conservatory.

In addition, Cheyenne has a growing climate that is less than ideal, said Smith, who now volunteers as executive director of the “Friends of the Botanic Garden.”

“Cheyenne has one of the worst garden climates in the lower 48,” he said. “We’re number one in the nation for hail, number four for wind, 6,000-foot elevation, we have a lot of days of winter without snow cover. So I always say you’d have to be kind of an idiot to put a botanic garden in a town this size with a climate this way and I’m that useful idiot.”

In recognition of his hard work with the Botanic Garden, the Cheyenne City Council recently named the facility’s grand conservatory the “Shane Smith Grand Conservatory.”

Outdoor living focus of Lander’s Garden Expo

in Travel
Outdoor living focus of Lander’s Garden Expo

By Cowboy State Daily

Outdoor living — whether gardening, enjoying the wonders of your own backyard or traveling the streams and mountains of nature — is the focus of this weekend’s Garden Expo in Lander.

Sponsored by the Popo Agie Conservation District, Saturday’s free Garden Expo is about much more than its name implies, according to Diana Olson, the district’s program assistant.

“It’s titled the Garden Expo because that is what people can remember,” she said. “But we have three target audiences — one is those who enjoy gardening, one is people who just love their backyards … and the third is outdoor recreationists.”

Now in its eighth year, the Expo, held at the Lander Valley High School, usually draws about 1,500 people with its mix of workshops and vendors and special events for kids.

The Expo started as a way for the conservation district to help the community that supports it with tax dollars, Olson said.

“One component that really motivates us is is we are supported by a mill levy,” she said. “So we try very hard to cater to everybody — the rural community and the urban community.”

When the event began, it was aimed at gardeners and people who “love their backyards, the people who love their decks, grills, fairy lights and ponds,” Olson said.

But organizers decided to expand the offerings to non-motorized outdoor recreation in year three.

“We considered the fact that our backyard is the Wind River Mountains, so we brought in the third component, which is outdoor recreation,” she said.

In addition to the more than 50 vendors offering goods, the Expo offers a choice of two workshops every hour. Workshops this year address topics such as attracting hummingbirds, managing lawns, drying foods and raising strawberries.

The event’s keynote speaker is Panayoti Kelaidis, senior curator and director of outreach for the Denver Botanic Garden, who will address “Rethinking Wyoming Landscapes.”

And as if the variety of workshops wasn’t enough, the Expo will feature a Kid’s Corner, petting zoo and horse-drawn wagon rides.

“It’s an extremely fun thing and then we sprinkle the sugar on top,” Olson said.

Concessions will also be available, including “world-famous” roast beef sandwiches served by the Lander Valley Cattle Women and food from Deb’s Bread Wagon.

For more information on this weekend’s Garden Expo, visit the event’s website at http://www.popoagie.org/garden-expo.html.

#TravelTuesday is Cowboy State Daily’s weekly spotlight of events + happening around the state that warrant a little windshield time and fulfill your Wyoming wanderlust.

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