July 22, 2010 in Washington Voices

Farm offers camps, workshops for all ages

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Cherry tomatoes ripen at the PEACH farm last week.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

The sign at the little dirt road reads “Pine Meadow” and that’s a pretty accurate description of the PEACH Community Farm.

Nestled up against a small forested area, the buildings are built from reclaimed materials some of which go all the way back to Expo ’74.

Goats peak through the fence and chickens cluck in their pens at this farm which is Brightspirit Hendrix’s newest project under the PEACH umbrella in pursuit of her ultimate goal: to provide locally grown food to all local people.

“We leased the farm in February of this year, so there’s still a lot to be done around here,” Hendrix, who’s the president of PEACH, said. “We are a teaching farm and we have already had a significant number of kids coming through our programs.”

There is still time to sign up for the remaining weeklong camps which will teach children about planting and taking care of crops, about the animals at the farm and about harvesting fruits, veggies and seeds.

“We had a lot of parents who were interested in sending their kids to farm camp, but the turnout hasn’t been quite what we hoped for,” said Hendrix. “I think there’s a transportation component we need to take care of – it’s hard for families to get their kids out here and back every day.” She added that the farm has had hundreds of field trip visitors from many different schools.

The farm is a good 20-minute drive from downtown Spokane, and it will grow to become a vital part of the many programs put on by the nonprofit organization People for Environmental Action and Community Health – PEACH. That organization was founded in 1999 and has been growing and expanding ever since. One branch is Fresh Abundance, an organic and whole foods grocery store at 2015 N. Division St. and probably best known for home delivery of organic, locally grown fruits, herbs and vegetables in pre-ordered boxes.

“Fresh Abundance moves 7,000 pounds of fresh produce from 60 local growers every week,” said Hendrix. “It’s not profitable yet, but we are supporting local agriculture so we are very successful with that part.”

PEACH first got into farming in 2008, and the organization’s first community farm in Spokane Valley was supported by the work of 630 volunteers.

“I’m an organizer of people,” Hendrix said, smiling, “and farming takes a lot of people.”

Pine Meadow is being farmed using small-scale, organic and sustainable practices, including carefully planned crop rotation and something as simple as chicken tractors – little movable cages that let chickens and other poultry graze in various places, keeping down weeds and grass.

“The soil out here is amazing, we haven’t really done anything to it except gotten rid of the grass and planted the crop,” said Hendrix. Constructing a system for watering the new vegetable beds has been a challenge – mostly because it’s very expensive – but it’s coming together.

“We just had a water tank donated – now we need to find out how to get it here and get it hooked up,” said Hendrix.

Ultimately, Pine Meadow will also be growing farmers through apprentice programs.

Hendrix said half the farmers in the United States are fast approaching retirement, and often there is no one in the family to continue the farm.

“It’s not like it used to be where you learned farming by living on the farm and being part of it,” Hendrix said. “Now people with no farming experience whatsoever inherit Mom and Dad’s farm and don’t know what to do with it.” She’s planning to set up a farmland bank and trust that will be able to purchase this land and make it available to new farmers at reasonable long-term rates.

Hendrix – whose track record shows that she is indeed a tireless organizer and visionary – has many other educational programs on the drawing board, but ultimately the farm is about growing food for people living Spokane County.

“We want to grow good food and create access to it for people who live in poverty, at a time where people with money squawk loudly at prices,” said Hendrix. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s so rewarding to be here and do this.”


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