August 17, 2013 in Washington Voices

Community reaping

East Valley Farm harvests its first crop of wheat
By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Dan Westacott, of Crop Production Services, harvests wheat at the East Valley Farm and Community Garden on Thursday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

It’s only about 1 acre of wheat, but on Thursday morning it got all the attention at East Valley Farm and Community Garden.

A small combine from Crop Production Services chewed its way through the wheat as farm coordinator Lynette Romney looked on and took pictures.

“This is pretty exciting for us,” Romney said. “This is our first real harvest.”

The farm is located on the corner of Wellesley Avenue and Sullivan Road and it’s a combination community garden and East Valley School District learning project.

“We grow a lot of different things here,” Romney said, pointing to peppers, carrots, beets and corn. “And we have raised beds for smaller community gardeners.”

The wheat harvested at the farm will be processed with wheat from Shepherd’s Grain, a local farmer co-op.

Fred Fleming, one of the co-founders of Shepherd’s Grain, has helped Romney get the wheat growing on track and he was there to watch the harvest, too.

“First they wanted to do it organically, but no one wanted to hoe,” Fleming said with a chuckle.

The wheat will be processed by ADM Milling Co. just down Trent Avenue, and the farm will get it back as flour.

“We don’t know how much flour we will get but we hope we can bake with it; or maybe even sell some,” Romney said.

Produce from the farm goes to East Valley School District kitchens and to Spokane Valley Partners’ branch of Second Harvest Food Bank.

Romney said this is the farm’s fourth planting season. It got started because parents and educators in East Valley School District wanted to use locally grown produce and vegetables for school lunches and snacks.

“We got to talking about why we weren’t purchasing produce locally and that was how it all got started,” Romney said. “This is also a great opportunity for the kids to see how things are grown.”

Volunteers from East Valley community organizations, schools and churches help Romney weed and maintain the nearly 5-acre plot.

Thursday morning, Fleming grabbed a handful of wheat out of the combine and pronounced it “not too bad” standing at the side of field.

“This is such a great idea for the students,” Fleming said. “They have to use all their skills and they get to talk about the entire food chain and where food comes from.”

East Valley School District’s first day of school is Aug. 29 – after that there will be no shortage of volunteers, Romney said.

She’s a little worried about the future of the farm because East Valley School District no longer has an agricultural program.

“Even something like Future Farmers of America would be a big boon for us,” Romney said. “We need a strong curriculum component to continue to do this.”


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