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Students learn, grow at CREST farm

Apply now for summer internships — or sign up for a CSA food share


The CREST farm is a surprisingly busy place on a cold, wet spring afternoon. Twelve students from Arts and Technology High School — along with their teacher, Sam Ford, and CREST farmer Justin Peterson — were hustling around on April 24, harvesting and cleaning produce and preparing CSA shares for pickup later that day.

The letters stand for community supported agriculture, and this marks the first time the farm has offered CSA shares in the spring in addition to the popular summer program.

“We started small, with only eight members instead of the 28 we do in the summer,” CREST director Bob Carlson said. “Early on, we had some things that kept over the winter, like onions and squash.”

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Art Tech senior Alexis Farrington works with junior Tabi Deutcher at the CREST organic farm in preparation for the weekly pickup of produce by the farm's CSA members. The day’s shares of the season’s harvest were heavy on the greens: Napa cabbage, radicchio, Romaine, a mustard mix, a braising mix and tatsoie — a type of Asian cabbage. Other produce included leeks, radishes, broccoli, thyme and lemon balm and a treat: raspberry jam made from berries harvested last summer.

“You have to think ahead and start as early as August,” Carlson said. “Some of the kids in our summer program (started) things that are ready in the spring. So they learn about overwintering. We also use our greenhouse, and some kids last year made a hoop house, a kind of small greenhouse.”

Ford and his students were at the farm, located at 7151 Boeckman Road in Wilsonville, as part of the “farm and food” class at ATHS. Every Monday and Friday, the students study a health curriculum, with topics such as food and nutrition. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the class visits the CREST farm on Boeckman Road to grow and harvest food.

“We do go into the business of food in our class,” Ford said. “GMOs and corporate food and the difference between food in its natural form and commercial, processed food.”

At the farm, students perform typical farm chores, helping to plant and harvest crops — as well as many chores in between.

“A real typical chore is laying down compost to mulch the beds,” Ford said. One day last week, the class planted cabbage.

“It’s an interesting class in the sense that I do the same work as the students,” Ford said. “Out here, I’m just another hired hand.”

This is the second time the class has been offered. Currently, 12 students are enrolled.

“One of the things we wanted to do as a school was to have as many hands-on classes as possible,” Ford said.

In the greenhouse, Sascha Ellis, a senior, and Chris McKinney, a sophomore, were working together on a hands-on task, harvesting a bed of mustard greens — something neither of the young men had ever tasted before

“I’m surprised by how much these things have grown in just two weeks,” Ellis said, surveying the young plants before sampling one of the leaves.

“It’s kind of like spinach, with a lot more flavor,” he said.

McKinney was less impressed with the greens.

“I didn’t like it,” he said. “It kind of stung my tongue a little.”

Although he didn’t enjoy the day’s harvest, he did like the class.

“It’s active,” he said. “You’re not just sitting in a classroom.”

In addition to the fresh air and outdoor activity, getting to sample the produce was a side benefit to the class. McKinney, for example, had enjoyed tasting fresh leeks, a vegetable he had only had eaten before.

“I tried it raw and liked it,” he said.

“I’ve always had fresh vegetables at my house,” Ellis said. Although he had only a patio, and not a yard, to use for growing, he said he enjoyed speaking with Ford about what kinds of food he could grow.

“He helps me get ideas for what I could do when I get my own place,” he said.

CREST is accepting applications for its summer internship program. The program is designed for students who will enter grades 8 and 9 in the fall. Interns will learn about sustainable farming through tasks including but not limited to planting, irrigation, seeding, transplanting, trellising, harvesting, preserving, cooking and selling produce through the CSA program.

Supported by CREST staff, interns will work a half-acre section of the farm as they develop business, agriculture and team skills as they manage the harvest, processing, packaging and delivery of up to 35 CSA shares. Interns also will gain a deeper understanding of their local food system.

Three intern sessions are offered: June 23 through July 10, July 14 through July 31 and August 4 through August 21. Interns meet at the farm for 12 hours a week on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. There is a $95 registration fee, and application information is available on the CREST website at crest.wlwv.k12.or.us.

CSA shares for the summer also are available. Learn more online at crest.wlwv.k12.or.us/Page/2523.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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