Kitchen Gardening for Life

Project Overview

FNC09-787
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $6,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Les Roggenbuck
East River Organic Farm

Annual Reports

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture

    Summary:

    PROJECT BACKGROUND
    Upland Hills Farm, owned by Steve and Leslie Webster, has operated as a demonstration and education farm since 1960 with a primary focus on farm animals including turkeys, chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, cows, horses and sheep. The farm itself is comprised of 350 acres of open pasture, woodlands, and frontage on a lake. The land is rolling and moderately fertile. Most of the open land at the farm is currently pasture. The CSA site was idle for a long time. It was partially planted for the CSA for its successful growing season 2009. Before that is was planted to beans and pumpkins.

    In combination with the successful legacy as a well-known popular, demonstration farm (Upland Hills Farm) in our region the Upland Hills CSA is in a unique position to provide a concrete model that can inspire large numbers of consumers, as well as farmers, toward sustainable food growing choices and practices. For nearly 50 years, Upland Hills Farm has brought sustainable agricultural lessons and experiences to youth and families from a wide diversity of ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. Through a broad range of programs and events, the Upland Hills Farm currently serves more than 50,000 people a year. Sustainable practices of the Upland Hills CSA are:
    • A compost pit from which the CSA fertilizes its acreage;
    • Winter crop planting on the vegetable acreage to start the season with under plowed fresh fertilization and to prevent soil erosion;
    • Black plastic and straw mulch;
    • Planting from saved seeds from the previous seasons;
    • Watering only if absolutely necessary from a watering truck and with watering cans;
    • Weeding and pest control by hand as much as possible;
    • The CSA is organically certified.

    PROJECT DESCRIPTION
    Problem: Lack of consumer awareness of self-sustainable gardening benefits, poor eating habits, lower incomes, high unemployment and more dependency on food programs and food banks.
    Solution: Create a Teaching/Learning Model for sustainable food growing and actively stimulate the creation of kitchen gardens in the community.

    GOALS
    Our first goal was to provide the community with high-quality sustainable seedlings, to stimulate the creation of kitchen gardens. We will provide both the seedlings and training needed for a successful growing season.

    We support the kitchen gardeners with specific knowledge of the CSA in growing these vegetables and flowers by giving seminars/workshops throughout the growing seasons. The demonstration CSA garden is open to the community to get experience in growing, caring for, and harvesting of the plants and its fruits.

    Our second goal is to sell 40- 60 CSA shares and to produce enough food to meet that commitment as well as produce about 10 percent extra to share with the community through its food programs.

    Our third goal is to hold several seminars throughout the season:
    • Preparing a garden bed, planting and tending the seedlings
    • Feeding and watering the garden (mulch and compost);
    • Weeding
    • Harvesting/Storing
    • Composting
    • Savings Seeds
    • Soil testing
    • Canning and preserving foods

    PROCESS

    The CSA has shared its seedlings with the greater community to support the creation of home kitchen gardens. The CSA itself served as a model garden and resource for education, problem solving, and feeding of this same community through donations to food banks throughout the season.

    The CSA employed one garden manager and one intern as well as a farmer consultant, because our CSA is community organized by its members and is not organized by a farmer. The kitchen garden seedlings were raised in the farmer-consultant’s greenhouse. The garden manager and intern as well as some CSA member volunteers came up every week to water, repot and do all work necessary for the seedlings. The farmer-consultant was paid a total of $550 per year as a consulting fee and for working in the greenhouse and making his greenhouse available for our Kitchen garden seedlings. He was paid $250 per year for materials: water, electricity, seedling trays, soil, and greenhouse space.

    He was paid $580 for travel in 2011, since the CSA garden is 1 hour and 45 minutes away by car.
    The intern Kathleen Duffield was paid $550 per year for her work tending the seedlings and $432 in 2011for travel expenses, driving up one and a half hour each way to tend to the seedlings and to transport them back in May to the CSA site.

    A website www.uplandhillscsa.org was created to communicate better with our local community and weekly an email newsletter was mailed out to all CSA members, support organizations, and other interested members of our local community. Website development cost was $380. For 2011 the maintenance fee was $120.

    A link was established with www.localharvest.org a website that promotes local food initiatives.

    At two local earth day events, the CSA set up a booth to attract members and to inform the community of the Kitchen garden project so people could sign up and order seedlings.
    $200 was used to print pamphlets, a big poster, and other marketing material in 2010 and $268.98 in 2011.

    Thirty members and non-CSA members ordered 120 packs or 480 individual seedlings through the kitchen garden seedling program in 2010. In 2011, 18 people signed up for the CSA seedlings including the North Hill Elementary School Garden in Rochester, MI.

    At the end of May 2010 and 2011, after the last frost, all participants picked up their seedlings and were provided with a leaflet of how to plant and care for the seedlings.

    All of the seedlings for sale were also planted in the CSA garden and Children’s garden. Participants were invited on several community outreach days to come see how to plant the seedlings; how to water them; and how to take care of pests, problems, and harvest in a sustainable organic way.

    Every week on Tuesday and Thursday for 16 weeks, members and non-CSA members were invited to work for two hours in the garden alongside the intern and garden manager as well as the farmer-consultant to see first-hand how good care produces excellent vegetables.

    At the beginning of the growing season we organized a soil testing class. Cost $50 for supplies. At the end of the growing season we organized a canning class for 24 people.
    Cost $170 for rent, copies and supplies.

    We teamed up with Margette Royce a local nutritionist. Together we rented the Rochester Community House kitchen and a room.

    For weeks afterwards we found enthusiastic people telling us that they had canned for a week and that this was the first time they had done this. The major highlight was canning tomatoes in which all participants helped boil, de-skin and chop the tomatoes, can them in jars and boil them for preservation. Every participant took at least one jar of tomatoes home. Every participant received a leaflet with canning methods for various fruits and vegetables. Besides we showed how you can preserve vegetables by pickling.

    Our second goal was realized when we had 80 members sign up for 50 full shares. We offered a variety of working and non-working shares and half shares. We produced 16,000 pounds of food and donated 450 pounds of vegetables to the food programs in our community. In 2011, 55 members signed up for 32 full shares. Some of these members shared working and non-working shares with friends or family. The CSA produced again around 16,000 pounds of food and donated at least 450 pounds of vegetables to the food programs in our community.

    SEMINARS
    We held several seminars throughout the season:
    • Preparing a garden bed, planting and tending the seedlings; around 100 people attended several daylong sessions over 2 seasons.
    • Weeding and harvesting: done every Tuesday and Thursday for 16 weeks from 5-7 pm by CSA- members and other volunteers from our community.
    • Savings Seeds, around 20 people attended.
    • Soil testing, around 17 people attended.
    • Canning and preserving food, around 24 people attended.

    Production for the demonstration CSA began in March of 2010 with the seeding of plug trays for transplants. Direct seeding of early vegetables such as potatoes and lettuce began in April 2010. The first harvest and share distribution commenced June 15th and continued each week until October 4th. In 2011 this process was repeated. Harvest of the first share was 1 week later and the season ended a week later as well. The 2011 season was remarkable for its continuous gentle rains watering the CSA garden and producing a bumper crop of various vegetables. Kathleen also introduced okra as a new vegetable and it was very interesting to see it grow so profusely. Even the melons did well.

    Seedling orders and sales were tagged behind the membership sign-up sheet and available via the CSA website and through other venues such as booths at local sustainability events.

    At the November 2010 CSA potluck meeting, saved seeds were shared. In 2011 several members saved seeds and gave these to Kathleen.

    FARM INCUBATOR:
    Entering on the ground floor of this project was Kathleen Duffield. She was mentored by Les Roggenbuck. Les offered Kathleen Duffield, intern and CSA core member a valuable opportunity to learn from a diverse growing season and all aspects of CSA production and organization.
    In 2011, Kathleen headed the CSA garden and oversaw the seedling production.

    PEOPLE
    Les Roggenbuck is the CSA’s farmer-consultant. He alerted us to the SARE Grant program, he shares his invaluable knowledge, farm, farm machines, greenhouse and energy with the CSA. He also guided Kathleen Duffield our Garden Manager, who interned with him. Ken Webster and the Webster family have welcomed us on their farm. Ken heads up the CSA and did the 2011 budget. Karen Thomas was the Garden Manager in 2010, the first year we ran the Kitchen garden seedling program. She organized the members and volunteers. She organized the work in the garden together with Ken Webster, Kathleen Duffield and Les Roggenbuck. Lisa Taddiken and her son Chris Taddiken organized the website that Chris designed and maintains. Carolyn Young and Elisabeth Hoogendoorn wrote the SARE Budget Grant and organized the printed material for the CSA as well as the Earth Day events. Carolyn Young organized the books, was treasurer and wrote the original budget and the 2010 budget.

    Others outside of the CSA organization include the Earth Day organizers of Rochester and Lake Orion, who gave us a free spot and even a rain tent free of charge.

    RESULTS
    Each year about 25 people ordered Kitchen Garden seedling for their own kitchen gardens. Many of these people had no or slight knowledge of how to grow your own vegetables.

    The CSA provided a nurturing model for these new comers to see which vegetables grow well, which taste good, and which would they like for their own garden.

    Many parents brought their children to help and many parents specifically signed up to the CSA for a shared back-to-your-roots experience.

    It helped greatly that we developed a specific children’s program. This made the children enthusiastic to come every week and it relieved pressure off the parents to have to care for their children and keep a check on them at all times.

    Our intern of 2010, Kathleen Duffield, is now our Head Garden Manager and has been instrumental with Les Roggenbuck in picking and ordering the seeds, planning the CSA garden for the new seasons, and starting the seedlings for the CSA and the kitchen garden project.

    The Upland Hills School offered several CSA classes to its students, bought two shares and harvested and cooked with the wonderful bounty that we had in September, October and November.

    Elisabeth Hoogendoorn one of the CSA core members and writers of the SARE Grant, brought the kitchen garden project into the Kindergarten classroom of her child.

    Every child grew 5 vegetable seedlings in a Ziploc bag hanging up against the windows. Mung bean seeds were grown on every table to be consumed as sprouts and communal seedling packs grew sunflower seedlings, tomato and pepper seedlings. Then as the weather turned nice, the kids each planted a square foot of garden with their seedlings and decorated a garden stick in art class to mark their plots.

    The CSA offered a children’s program and that will be continued and incorporates a children’s garden where kitchen garden seedlings are used to plant and teach the children how to grow and care for a vegetable garden.

    The website has been a major boost to the recognition of the CSA. On the website is a link to the photographed shares that were given out each week to all CSA members. The website holds all of our documents and lets people sign up for new memberships and order seedlings every year.

    The classes, demonstrations and seminars have given confidence to people in our community who are new to vegetable gardening and preserving.

    We will print the pamphlets again. To save costs, we will also print business cards for interested people to spread throughout the community. Business cards are cheaper, but they will point to our CSA website, through which new members and non-members may sign up for seedlings.

    Since our CSA is mostly volunteer driven, it is hard to follow up and intensify the program from one year to the next. People will volunteer for a few years and then step back. Sometimes knowledge and pursuit of recording precise data as well as contacts within the community are lost that way. This is the greatest battle we face and it does not seem to have a solution other than more awareness and recording in transferring jobs.

    DISCUSSION
    The problem we identified at the start of the Sare Grant was:
    Problem: Lack of consumer awareness of self-sustainable gardening benefits, poor eating habits, lower incomes, high unemployment and more dependency on food programs and food banks.
    Our Solution was to: Create a Teaching/Learning Model for sustainable food growing and actively stimulate the creation of kitchen gardens in the community.

    We gained insight into how to reach the local community through our website, through our presence at local Earth Day festivals and through our seminars.

    We learned that the benefits outweighed the costs of providing seedlings to our community. We have to grow seedlings for our CSA garden. It does not cost so very much more to include the orders of another 30 people.
    It showed us that teaching our knowledge of gardening is the ultimate reward for learning a new skill and gaining new knowledge.

    It showed us that outreach into our community is much appreciated and that we can positively influence the behavior of people in our community. We managed to reach out into the community through a website, newsletter, appearance at local Earth Day events, community workshops, and teaching members in our community how to grow a sustainable kitchen garden at home or in schools. And we followed that up with how to can, ferment , store and enjoy your CSA food.

    The CSA benefited from this project in gaining standing, acceptance and appreciation in the community above and beyond its limited outreach as a provider of sustainable food for its members and food banks.

    OUTREACH
    • The Kitchen Garden Project in our greater-community has been well received. It gives families the chance of self-sustainability and greater awareness of better food and health choices. We have seen a snowballing effect throughout the community where people share seeds, plants and produce, creating greater awareness, choice and self-sustainability.
    • We have hosted and will continue to host workshops on sustainable food and kitchen gardens. These workshops are designed and presented in cooperation with Upland Hills CSA and other local entities in the health food industry.
    • We have exhibited and will again exhibit at special green and local events such as Earth Day.
    • We have kept and will keep photo and video journals of progress -- posting regular updates on CSA, farm, school and UHEAC websites.
    • Coordinated a fall harvest event with pot luck and camp fire -- open to wider community.
    • Events will be promoted through all three Upland Hills organizations, our cooperator organizations, the food banks and the local media.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.