Buzzing with joy ... and construction
Children took turns pressing fresh apple cider, while others crowded around the bunny cages and the chicken pen to hold the animals. A musician played country music on his guitar and the Center for Research in Environmental Technologies (CREST) was bustling with youngsters making bouquets of flowers, trying fresh produce and picking pumpkins.
But the ambient noise was a little different this year.
Behind the laughter, chatter and traditional music, was construction.
Saturday, Oct. 6, marked the last CREST Fall Festival, at least at the current farm site.
With residential development plans in Frog Pond West — starting next door to the current CREST Farm site — well underway, the CREST Farm will close this school year. While the farm has been designated as a future school site, the festival — which has provided the West Linn-Wilsonville community with fun fall-time activities and a chance to learn about what CREST offers for the last six years — will not cease.
"It's very likely that the festival will continue next year at CREST Headquarters (adjacent to Boones Ferry Primary)," said WL-WV Communications Director Andrew Kilstrom. "That site might actually be better suited for the fall festival, as it provides far more parking, amenities (bathrooms) and has a massive orchard that will lend itself well to many of the activities the current festival offers. It still has the garden space for food tastings that the farm offers as well."
West Linn High School students Andy Glenn, 17, Sarah Martin, 17, and 16-year-old Wilsonville High School student Nila Comp, are all members of CREST's Bee Club. During the festival, the three girls taught children about the bees and gave them an idea of how to take care of them. They also had honey samples, provided by a local beekeeper. Though the students have been involved with CREST before, it was their first time at the festival.
"It's free education and I think it's really important to connect classroom learning to actually physically seeing something. Since our hives are just a few feet away, they can actually go see what we are talking about which is really cool," Martin said.
But all three girls are disappointed the festival will no longer be at the farm.
"I'm happy they chose to move the bee hives (to the CREST headquarters site) because at first we were just going to stop the Bee Club because we weren't really sure what was happening," Martin said. "I'm happy that's happening, but I'm sad the farm is going fallow because there's so many educational opportunities and a lot of kids don't know how good farming looks."
While the three students hope the festival will continue at CREST Headquarters, they said they don't think it will give off the same feel to community members.
"At the headquarters we do have a farm and plants but it's on a much smaller scale," Comp said. "They'll still learn the same amount; it just won't be as fascinating as showing them a real-life farm and this is how it's usually done."
But Kilstrom said that of the 10-acre parcel, less than 3-acres are being used at the farm. CREST Headquarters has about three- to five-acres of arable land.
West Linn residents Sarah Doane and Joy Vlcko value the program and the education CREST provides.
"I think it's good to educate kids on farming," Doane said. "I'm bummed to see it (the farm) go and to see construction, but I'm glad they're not doing away with it and they're keeping the program going."
Vlcko said she and her husband have volunteered with CREST before and are familiar with both CREST locations.
"As long as they kind of re-create it (the festival) in some capacity, it would be great to have. It's a great resource for the schools and it's great education for the kids," Vlcko said.
Though, it seemed to be the first time at the festival for several families, WHS teacher Charlie Hyman has been coming since the beginning. In the past, his band "Cobblestone" has played Irish music at the festival, but this year, his bandmates were out of town.
"I think this area is going to take on a dramatically different personality with all these houses going on around here," he said.
Other than the farm tour, Kilstrom said CREST staff wouldn't be able to replicate every activity that currently takes place at the festival.
"The only other thing is that they are selling excess CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce at the festival this year, so that wouldn't be repeatable," he said.
And Kilstrom thinks the festival would have potential for growth at the headquarters because of its infrastructure — more parking and bathrooms that will better host the community.
"I think the hope is that there is potential for future growth, as CREST continues to build even further community relationships," he said. "The bigger space will certainly lend itself to growth if that's the direction that staff takes, and assuming the community continues to enjoy the annual celebration."