Spring Planting Festival grows healthy communities

"Growing Healthy Communities" is the theme of the 2013 Spring Planting Festival presented by Gardens for Humanity from March 16-24.

This will be a week full of world-class events and workshops beginning with the Festival Opening Expo at West Sedona School. All week there are many not-to-be missed presentations, and Coffee Talks held each day throughout the Verde Valley.

During the festival one can learn to plant a vegetable garden, cook with native foods, find out about the mysteries of bee society, learn to harvest and plant rainwater, discover the names and uses of native plants, experience the taste of the southwest "terroir" in local wine, tour some area gardens, participate in a more food secure community, and much, much more.

The keynote speaker, Michael Melendrez, creator of "Soil Secrets," presents his research of life in soil and his development of amendments that promote a soil that is alive and healthy.

He is internationally recognized as a breakthrough pioneer in soil building and restoration. His discoveries for growing soil by working with the microorganisms that infuse plants with life, health and nutrition will change the way one looks at soil.

Bill McDorman, a long-time fixture in the Verde Valley agricultural scene with his "Seeds Trust" and Seed School out of Cornville, is now the Director of "Native Seeds Search" in Tucson.

Bill's engaging talks about how to preserve the genetic diversity and resilience of native and open pollinated seeds is crucial to our biological heritage and future. He is a featured speaker at the Backyard Garden Expo in Cottonwood on the final day of the festival.

In the last four years, the Public Forum has always been a game changer in our region. This year's forum, "GMOs: What, Where, Why so bad, and What can be done?" will not disappoint. Rachel Linden of GMO Free USA and GMO Free Arizona will raise awareness about Genetically Modified Organisms in our food system and relate the latest national and Arizona initiatives on labeling the contents of the foods we eat.

Setting the stage for a "week of green" is the traditional Spring Planting Festival kickoff concert at the Old Town Center for the Arts. Insuring that everyone will be in a "green" mood to celebrate both St. Patrick's Day and the season of spring planting, the concert will feature Karl Jones and Dublin Soul adding a wee bit of playful rhythm for the week of activities.

Festival week will open doors to many gardens. Visit the garden at Garland's Lodge, bring a picnic and learn about how their garden supplies their restaurant. Tour neighborhood gardens in the Harmony community of Sedona to see many diverse approaches to gardening in our special environment.

Volunteer at a traditional Native American garden at Montezuma's Well, hosted by "Friends of the Well." Fr. J.C. Ortiz invites participants into the gardens of Saint John Vianney for a companionable stroll. Finally, our local sculptural gem, Eliphante Village in Cornville will host two hands-on workshops.

Enjoy the pleasures of eating local foods in cooking classes, feasts, and traditions. The Yavapai Apache Cultural Center will host a meal of Native food, and St. John Vianney Catholic Community will host a celebration of St. Joseph's Day with workshops, food collection for the hungry and a Celebratory Feast.

The founder and winemaker at Page Springs Cellars, Eric Glomski, will demonstrate the influence of our southwestern "terroir" upon wine through a talk and taste event at the winery.

Closing a week of activities that highlight the unique agricultural, cultural and environmental contributions of our region are two events that have become a tradition in the Verde Valley: The AlterNATIVE Plant Expo on Saturday March 23 and the Backyard Garden Expo, Sunday March 24.

Gardens for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that serves to educate people on the importance of gardens, creativity, spirituality and nature.

It works to create and support such projects with schools, churches, communities or other organizations in Sedona and the Verde Valley.

For a complete calendar of events and workshops, registration and maps to the week's events visit www.gardensforhumanity.org or call 928-284-9055 for more information.

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