The Rock Garden Concert Series at Fort Collins Nursery is a win-win event

photo by Dan Booth. Alysia Kraft performs on the Rock Garden stage at Fort Collins Nursery

by Libby James

Fort Collins Nursery does more than offer Northern Colorado and Southern Wyoming gardeners a year-round source of information, advice, gardening supplies, plants, and trees. In business since 1932, the Nursery, now owned by Jesse Eastman, is dedicated to supporting non-profits in the area that address a variety of needs.

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In 2018 Fort Collins Nursery donated $4,000 in goods and services to nearly 100 schools, community groups, non-profits, and charitable events.

When Dan Booth brought his marketing skills to Fort Collins Nursery five years ago, his love of music and the availability of a patio area on the Nursery grounds featuring a giant willow tree, a dry creek bed and the Poudre River running in the background, got him to thinking. Eastman, also a music lover, agreed with Booth that it was a perfect setting for an outdoor concert. That year they staged two concerts with part of the proceeds going to non-profits.

Since then the Rock Garden Concert Series has become a summer tradition and a great way to increase Fort Collins Nursery’s contributions to the welfare of the community. In 2019 a concert in June featuring the Dead Horses with Alysia Kraft raised funds for Project Self-Sufficiency and will be followed on July 11 by Grant Farm with Mike Clark and the Sugar Sounds to benefit Matthews House. Sean Kelly of the Samples with Liz Barnez closes out the 2019 series on August 1 with funds going to The Vegetable Connection.

Fort Collins Nursery chooses non-profits dedicated to improving life for vulnerable populations. A portion of proceeds from ticket sales plus all drink and live auction sales at the concerts goes to the benefiting organization. In 2018 four concerts raised approximately $3,000 in ticket sales and $5,000 in drink sales.

Founded in 1986, Project Self Sufficiency of Loveland-Fort Collins assists low-income single parents in their efforts to achieve economic independence and move beyond community and government help while maintaining strong, healthy families. They help clients achieve these goals by offering mental health services, helping them seek resources for affordable childcare, housing, and reliable transportation. They pair each client with an advisor who helps them create a personal plan for obtaining more education or training which will lead to satisfactory employment.

Matthews House empowers youth and families by building trusting relationships and making available resources to disrupt the cycles of poverty and abuse. In 2005 local resident Jerri Schmitz knew youth aging out of foster care in Larimer County often had nowhere to were sometimes sleeping on the streets. She learned that there were no resources in Larimer County for this population and became determined to do something about it. After consulting with her friend Sara Mitchell, a licensed clinical social worker, she purchased a house in Old Town in 2005, and by the following year, Matthews House became a reality. Matthews House served 60 youth in their first year of operation. In 2010 they founded Strengthening Families and in 2012 the Community Life Center came to life to provide youth with a place to tell their stories. These days Matthews House serves 3,000 youth in a year and is focused on a long-term goal of reaching families earlier to avoid placement in foster homes whenever possible.

The Vegetable Connection grew out of Friends of Happy Heart Farm, a dream of Dennis and Bailey Stenson. In 2009 and 2010, they donated six shares of their CSA to families who wanted nutritional organic vegetables but could not afford them. In 2011 Friends of Happy Heart Farm became a non-profit and a few years later merged with The Food School dedicated to increasing access to nutritional food for those in need and to education, giving them a stronger presence. Participants learn skills that empower them and Poudre School District students discover the fun of growing food in school gardens.

Now the Vegetable Connection includes several programs from Feeding the Families to growers like Native Hill, Garden Sweet, and The Growing Project. Besides food education curriculums in elementary schools, The Vegetable Connection conducts workshops on cooking and food preservation.

What better way to spend a summer evening than listening to music in a scenic outdoor setting knowing that the event is benefitting the community?