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Middle school interns plant and harvest vegetable shares for CSA members

In a unique combination of education and vegetation, student interns have been working at the school district’s farm-to-school program to grow food for up to 30 families in the West Linn-Wilsonville area.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Madison Roel, an incoming freshman, prepares the table before student interns begin laying out CSA shares for pickup on July 11.The school district’s CREST (Center for Reserach in Environmental Sciences and Technologies) farm’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, now in its second year, will yield weekly shares of produce through the end of October.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - On July 11, CSA shares included summer squash and basil.Each CSA share is designed to provide most of the vegetables a family of four needs each week. In the CSA’s seventh week, on July 11, students harvested and packaged the following for each customer to pick up: one green cabbage, four or five beets, two heads of cauliflower, five radishes, five shallots, one bunch of kale, one bag each of fava beans, green beans and mixed greens, a head of lettuce, a bunch of basil, a summer squash and a basket of blueberries.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Farm educator Holly Markham works with Chaz Hilweh, an eighth-grade intern, to prepare CSA shares at the CREST farm on July 11.Farm educator Holly Markham works with the interns, guiding them as they plant, grow, harvest and prepare the CSA shares. She said that both the intern and CSA programs were running well.

“The shares have been abundantly full,” Markham said. “We’ve been offering quite a diverse range of vegetables every week, and our members seem to be very satisfied.”

Calling the student interns “a huge asset to the farm,” she credited their efforts for making the CSA run smoothly.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Student interns wash newly harvested vegetables for CSA shares on July 11. From left are eighth-graders Gabe Arnattoe and Katharine Koehler and Danielle Grenier, an intern from Linfield College.“Our middle school farm interns are really impressive,” she said. “They are very motivated to get their hands dirty on the farm. From weeding to seeding to harvesting, they help with everything. I’m amazed at their depth of interest in sustainable agriculture and feel that they are taking away a lot of valuable information about growing food.”

The day’s first customers were the Harpole family, who relocated to the area from San Diego two years ago. Although this year is their first time buying a share of the CREST farm harvest, they have participated in CSA programs before.

“We stay with CSA because it forces us to try new things. You don’t want them to go to waste,” Patrick Harpole said. Daughter Abby, an incoming seventh-grader at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, helped her parents pick the best produce from the mounds of fresh vegetables on the tables.

His wife, Shawna, said she appreciated knowing that her CSA purchase was helping the schools.

“It’s nice that it comes to the school and it goes back to the school,” she said.

Although the CSA is designed as a fundraiser for CREST, Markham sees more value in the program than just the financial benefit.

“After finishing the first internship session,” she said, “I can honestly say that the students participating in the program are getting a very unique experience in small-scale organic food production. I hope this program is able to continue and grow for many years to come, because I can see what a healthy, positive impact it’s having on the students.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: VERN UYETAKE - Jacob Storm, an eighth-grader, left, and Mathew McCulloch, in ninth grade, carefully wash containers for packing the produce.The CREST farm is located in Wilsonville at 7151 Boeckman Road. Some CSA shares are still available, and CREST is offering them to the public at a prorated cost of $400. Each share includes fresh vegetables that members can pick up at the farm each Thursday between 3:30 and 6 p.m. Visit the CREST website at www.crest.wlwv.k12.or.us to learn more.

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