Conservation Corner

Nov 28

[ARCHIVED] Veggie Co-op Volunteers Grow Fresh Food For Local Schools

The original item was published from November 28, 2016 12:51 PM to November 28, 2016 12:52 PM

Cover Photo option bWith the fall upon us we find ourselves slowing down and perhaps even breathing a sigh of relief as cooler weather finally returns to the Pacific Northwest. Out at the Veggie Co-op farm, we are gathering what remains of our harvest, including fall favorites such as winter squash, Brussel sprouts, and pumpkins as we put the farm to bed for the winter. However, the activity never quite stops at this volunteer-run farm managed by Harvest Pierce County staff.

Veggie Co-op brings individuals together to grow food on a farm scale at East 96th and Waller Road in Tacoma, WA at the Franklin Pierce School District’s Natural Science Resource Center,commonly known as “The Farm”. Veggie Co-op has thrived as a result of the partnershipPhoto 3 and support the program has received from Franklin Pierce School District, particularly the Director of College & Career Readiness, Sly Boskovich. After a registration and orientation period in January and February, volunteers start attending weekly work parties in March where they work, grow, and learn as a group, instead of stewarding rows individually as typical in most community gardens. Volunteers are asked to attend a three hour work party every week and receive a share of vegetables at the end of each work party. Although regular work parties come to an end in mid-November, though there are still opportunities for volunteers to attend work parties and participate in farm planning during December and January.

Photo 1Year round the site has also become a hub for K-12 education. At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, high school level Agriculture and Environmental Science classes began, taught by GATES High School instructor Matt Price, who is also caretaker of The Farm. In the future, there will continue to be class offerings that give students a hands on learning experience through farm projects and lab work. Additionally, every spring Pierce County Environmental Educators can be seen leading groups of K-5 students in a variety of gardening activities at the site.

Another huge benefit that comes with The Farm: delivering fresh, healthy produce to students in Franklin Pierce School District cafeterias. In spring 2016, The Farm was awarded a $200,000 grant to support efforts to deliver high quality produce from the farm to school cafeterias year round. During the summer months, the produce is divided 50/50 among emergency food sites and volunteers. But with school now back in session, staff has been able to work with the District’s Nutrition Service team to deliver Veggie Co-op produce for consumption in school cafeterias on a weekly basis.

Thanks to the thousands of hours dedicated by Veggie Co-op volunteers, fresh, nutritious produce is getting to students, and the importance of this effort is backed by research. Studies show that “with better nutrition students are better able to learn, students have fewer absences, and students’ behavior improves, causing fewer disruptions in the classroom”.*

Interested in volunteering at Veggie Co-op next season? We’d love to have you as part of the next farm team! Visit from December 15th- January 31st to register for the 2017 growing season! Veggie Co-op is a free program and is open to all participants. Families and children are more than welcome, but please note that childcare is not provided.

For further questions about the Veggie Co-op Program, contact Mason Durfee, Harvest Pierce County Program Specialist (, (253)-468-3749.