A little drizzle did not stop community members from enjoying fresh, hand-pressed cider and savory homemade chili at the Roots Community Supported Agriculture harvest party on Saturday afternoon in Dalton Gardens.
The party celebrated the end of the program’s first growing season. Many of the chili’s ingredients were grown by partygoers on the land where the party was held.
There was good reason to celebrate. Despite a short summer, the growing season was a success, said Caleb Goss, a contract grower with Roots CSA.
“For the first year of breaking ground, I thought it was great,” Goss said.
He and a team of volunteers grew a cornucopia of crops, including lettuce, onions, carrots, melons and herbs, and delivered the yield to those enrolled in the CSA program.
CSA is a farming model that relies on subscribers – called “shareholders” – to offset upfront costs of planting crops. The shareholders pay for their share in the spring. In exchange, they receive a box of fresh-picked produce every other week throughout the growing season.
“The fact that we had such a great fall, we were able to have great boxes through October,” said Korrine Kreilkamp, Roots CSA coordinator.
The loamy, nutrient-rich soil makes the area ideal for gardens and small-scale farming, she said. Because the soil drains so well, this year’s large amount of rainfall didn’t dampen the harvest.
This year, Roots CSA, which is a Kootenai Environmental Alliance program, had 30 shareholders. Half the shares were $200. The other half went to low-income families, who could pay with food stamps, for about $10 a box.
“We wanted to start out small this season,” Kreilkamp said. “We wanted to not get in over our heads. This was definitely a learning year.”
She said many people who wanted to enroll in the program could not.
“We have a waiting list right now,” she said. “There is a lot of interest.”
Roots CSA is not just about providing quality local, organic produce, she said. It is about engaging and educating the community.
First-graders from Dalton Elementary planted pumpkins as a part of a science project and came back to harvest them as second-graders. Canfield Middle School students painted flags to keep deer away. Shareholders were encouraged to help out in the garden. All of these things bring the community closer together, she said.
“We all need food,” she said. “We can all relate to one another through food.”
While other area CSA programs exist, “this is really one of the first that has this type of education component,” she said.
Next year, the program will likely see some changes, she said.
Organizers want to expand the educational components and possibly offer more shares. They are also looking at getting more land in another location.
The land the food was grown on was donated by Gayla Moseley and her neighbor Linda Stranger.
Krielkamp started Roots three years ago to gather and transport surplus produce from local gardeners and farmers to food banks. When she and a group of volunteers were harvesting excess apples from the neighbors’ yards, Moseley proposed they turn her empty one-acre lot into a garden to grow more food. Then Stranger decided to donate her lot, too.
“We were just mowing it,” Stranger said. “I loved the idea of being able to utilize the land.”
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