Urban Farm


Gardening, farming, and growing your own food

MSD’s Organic Urban Farm program is so awesome it can’t just be in one spot, so it is in several locations across the MSD campus. There are three outdoor raised soil beds behind the Toddler Village, five outdoor raised beds near the Primary Playground, an aquaponics fish tank in the Science Tower, two Tower Gardens in the Upper Elementary classrooms, a container soil garden in the Arts & Athletics Commons area, a Seed Library located in the MSD library, and a one of a kind, upcycled shipping container, our Vertical Farm, near the Welcome Center. Our Urban Farm program spans all ages, big and small, on the MSD campus in meaningful ways.

  • Toddlers busily grow potatoes, onions, and carrots for their Stone Soup lesson. With two raised beds of their own, Toddlers love to gently water their crops as they wait for harvest time!
  • Primary students tend to big self-contained pots outside their classrooms, preparing and saving seeds for our Seed Library.
  • Lower Elementary students investigate ways to address waste reduction on campus. Topics include composting in the cafeteria, vermiculture, and recycling.
  • Our Upper Elementary students learn about the future of farming using hydroponics. Students plant seeds in soil-free grow media and then transplant the seedlings to two Tower Gardens to grow beautiful, leafy greens.
  • Middle School students learn about the many aspects of soil-based urban gardening through the lens of math, science, language arts, nutrition, and health. Middle school students also plant, tend and harvest the crops located in our raised beds.

MSD Students Grow 1/2 an Acre of Food in a Shipping Container!

The Vertical Farm is housed in an up-cycled, 40′ shipping container. This environmentally-controlled, indoor, vertical farm uses energy-efficient LED lighting and Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) hydroponic technology, along with a cutting-edge computer system, to grow food sustainably in 320 square feet. This system makes it possible to cut the cost of growing local food by reducing water usage by up to 90% compared to traditional agriculture.

MSD’s unique “greenhouse” design allows everyone the opportunity to see what’s growing inside the box. Montessori lessons happen inside and out. Middle School students work inside the box on the components of the hydroponics system and how they all work together. They learn the ins-and-outs of what it takes to grow plants sustainably without soil, and how to grow hydroponic greens such as kale, chard, oak leaf lettuce, butterhead lettuce, romaine, and bok choy.

With this learning space, students of all ages learn about the future of farming. A wireless microphone system allows our Vertical Farmer to communicate with students sitting outside the box to extend the reach of this unique classroom.


Community Supported Agriculture Program

We grow several varieties of greens and herbs year-round in the Vertical Farm and seasonal produce in raised, outdoor beds. Produce from the Farm is sold to families within the MSD community as part of our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program. A portion of what is grown in the farm is also donated to MSD staff and to some of our partners, such as Springbrooke Retirement Community, SAME Café and St. Elizabeth’s School.

The Urban Farm Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program is a year-round program in which members of the MSD community buy a subscription for weekly food shares from the Vertical Farm and the soil gardens (depending on the season). Families pick UP their weekly share in front of the Vertical Farm each week. Produce for the CSA is harvested by Middle Schoolers during their Urban Farm occupation class.


Ashley Lapham

Ashley Lapham

Urban Farm Manager

Ashley taught for 19 years in both public and private schools prior to becoming MSD’s Urban Farm Manager. Ashley is a certified Master Gardener and has a passion for gardening and environmental stewardship as well as a love of education. She originally joined MSD in 2015 and taught for two years as a Lower Elementary Teacher before rejoining MSD in 2019. She has a Masters of Science in Organizational Leadership from Regis University as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Interpersonal Communication and Bachelor of Science in Asian Studies from Western Michigan University. Additionally, she holds K-6 Teaching Licenses for both Colorado and California and obtained her Lower Elementary Credentials from Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area. Email Ashley at alapham@msd-co.org.

Lexi Fickenscher

Lexi Fickenscher

Handcraft Teacher

Lexi graduated from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies and has a Masters of Public Health with a focus in Epidemiology and Biostatistics from Oregon Health and Sciences University. After working in mental health research at the Anschutz Medical Campus for a decade, Lexi transitioned to the world of urban farming. She and her family purchased a vacant lot in their neighborhood, transformed the lot into an urban farm, and ran a successful urban farm business. She volunteered to help start the Urban Farm Program when her two children enrolled at MSD in 2014 and officially joined the MSD Staff in 2016. Email Lexi at lfickenscher@msd-co.org.