Harvest Pierce County

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Jun 11

Grow Your Own Food at Our Veggie Co-op

Posted on June 11, 2015 at 11:37 AM by Allan Warren

Veggie Co-op

Hiding in plain sight on E 96th and Waller Road is a unique property owned by the Franklin Pierce School District. In 2014, the School District partnered with Harvest Pierce County, the urban agriculture program of the Pierce Conservation District to help breathe new life into the property.


Harvest Pierce County (HPC) manages the Veggie Co-op program, which helps volunteers to grow thousands of pounds of fresh food shared with the emergency food system and Franklin Pierce School District while educating participants in best practices for sustainable vegetable production. Volunteers manage the farm with help of HPC staff from seed to harvest, connecting with their food system, community, and environment. Veggie Co-op is family friendly and thrives off the knowledge and experience of participants of all ages.


Veggie Co-op is a response to the growing demand from the community for a chance to grow food on a larger scale. HPC hopes the program functions as an entry point for people interested in farming and growing food on a large scale. Working the property as a community has many advantages. Experienced volunteers share knowledge, techniques, and skills with less experienced folks, and the variety of farm work means there is a job for everyone, from small children to seniors. Working together means more can get done in a short work party, and tasks can be divided up into small crews for maximum efficiency.


In 2014, the Veggie Co-op produced over 5000lbs of fresh food after a late start. Expanding to over 2-acres this season, volunteers and staff hope to produce significantly more for their families and donation to local food banks.


Volunteers get involved with Veggie Co-op for many reasons.  Some want to learn how to grow vegetables sustainably; some want to have extra fresh produce in the harvest months; and some want their families to become connected to their food.


“I volunteered with the Veggie co-op for several reasons,” shared Marley Gaither, who started volunteering in 2014.  “I was able to learn about gardening to help provide fresh vegetables to people who would not have access otherwise. The Veggie Co-op experience exceeded my expectations. I really enjoyed every work party. I gained a great deal of confidence and my children ages 18, 14, 9, 7, and 8 found a new understanding and appreciation of where our food comes from. It was truly a priceless experience.”


A typical work party involves some work in the School District’s state-of-the-art greenhouses, and some lecture/discussion about the work to be done that day. The educational component of Veggie Co-op is the foremost concern – making sure volunteers come to understand the farm as a living ecosystem with concerns for soil health, disease and pest issues, and quality and nutrition of the food grown. In addition to higher level learning, volunteers get to practice the best techniques for planting, harvesting, and weeding techniques, and long term farm management.


“Just to experience hands on learning while giving something back to the community,” said Sharon Churchman when asked why she volunteers at the Veggie Co-op. “I wanted to find out what it would be like to work together with a group of different people in a common cause. We enjoyed sharing pieces of our lives as we worked together learning from each other's experiences, success, and failures”


Harvest Pierce County and Franklin Pierce School District staff have grand, long-term plans for the site, including: expansion of the Veggie Co-op program, establishment of perennial crops such as berries, developing holistic management plans for the farm, and much more.


If you are interested in being involved with Veggie Coop and/or the farm property, please contact Matt Price Mattp@piercecountycd.org.