Functional Farm Furnishings

I’m a DIY-junkie, and not afraid to admit it. Sometime around college I got the bug that had previously claimed my older brothers, both my parents, and my grandfather, to build and craft and make things.

My college, Warren Wilson College, had a somewhat similar model to what Twin Rivers Charter School is striving towards; we had a work program that all the students took part in, we spent lots of time outdoors thinking and talking about the natural world, and we tended towards hands-on learning whenever possible. My junior and senior year of college were spent working on the campus Landscaping crew, where I was taught by a surly Vietnam veteran named Bruce how to properly build things. His lessons were often interspersed with bizarre colloquialisms that, for reasons of decency, I probably shouldn’t repeat here.

Despite the confusion I often felt when faced with one of his infamous “Bruce-isms,” he was a fantastic carpenter and filled me with a strong desire to continue building things on my own and confidence in my ability to do so.

So last quarter when we were planning out our electives, I realized that I had a strong desire to follow in Bruce’s footsteps (minus the strange off-color comments) and teach our students carpentry. I was a bit concerned, because all of our cuts would have to be made with hand saws (apparently our insurance provider is concerned about minors using spinning metal blades) which becomes fairly time-consuming in a 40 minute period. We managed, but it slowed us down for sure.

However, by the end of the quarter the handful of gentlemen in my carpentry class had built a sturdy, functional work bench that ideally will be around for years to come, a new door for the greenhouse, and a guitar rack for our school’s collection of (nearly) brand-new guitars. We have also started the design process for a chicken tractor (more on that at a later date) for the farm.

Today was our last day of class for the quarter so I asked the students for their thoughts on the past couple of months: what they’ve learned, how they’ve grown, what they enjoyed, and so on.

The students recalled one of the most important lessons in carpentry: “Measure twice, cut once,” and reflected that they now felt more confident in being able to calculate angles and make precise cuts by hand. They also said that they felt more confident in being able to think through a project all the way from the initial design process to the actual construction. Another part of the process we discussed at length was the acquiring of materials; nearly all of the materials for our projects were recycled, either from former construction projects in the school or obtained from BRING recycling in Springfield. In addition to being more cost-effective, recycled materials are more environmentally friendly. Recycled materials can also add a thematic aesthetic to a project; for example, the dividers for our guitar rack were made from old Pulaski handles salvaged from the farm’s stockpile of scrap wood. (Pulaskis, for the uninitiated, are the ax-like fire-fighting tool that grace our school’s logo).

As far as wider life lessons gained from this class, the students had two major lessons to share.

They commented that they had initially had their doubts during the initial stages that our designs would actually work out into anything functional at the end, but they were extremely proud of the finished products that came from our designs. So, things can work out in the end even if you have some initial doubts.

Second, one of the students expressed an increased respect for property. He said that the time and effort involved in making things by hand really gives you perspective on how much work it takes to make anything, and that more students should take the carpentry class to gain that understanding.

I can happily say that I’m extremely proud of these guys, and looking forward to another quarter of working with them (and hopefully others too).

To see a video showcasing the carpentry class’s handiwork, take a look at the Twin Rivers Facebook Page. The students in the class were somewhat camera-shy, so I kept their identities secret as per their request.

Cheers,

Dan

Recovering from Snowpocalypse 2017

This blog has lain idle for some months now; Twin Rivers Charter School and the Laurel Valley Educational Farm have both been busy getting organized for the new year. When there are so many things to get done out in the greenhouse or in the fields, it’s hard to find time to sit at a computer and write about it, but I’ll make more of a concerted effort.

To introduce myself, I’m Dan, the 2016-2017 Garden Coordinator. I spent last year teaching biology at the high school and transitioned into my new role as of this past August. One of my main interests is self-sufficiency through urban homesteading, so getting to work on two acres on the edge of town has been (and will continue to be) really exciting for me.

As the days lengthen and the sunshine gradually returns, it’s time to start getting ready to put plants back in the ground. Despite the insane winter weather this year, some things have survived: primarily brassicas out in the field (kale, cabbage, and broccoli plants), overwintering garlic, and the lettuce and mustard greens that overwintered in the greenhouse. Pretty much everything else, including the oats and fava beans we had cover-cropped last Fall, froze and turned to mush after the repeated sub-freezing temperatures and snow cover that we had in early January.

Luckily, we have a passive solar greenhouse and a small heated greenhouse that I constructed out of reclaimed materials scrounged from various forgotten corners of the farm. With those season extenders, we should be able to get our seeding and planting underway fairly soon so we will have plenty of produce for the 2017 CSA season (details coming soon).

 

Community Supported

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Yesterday Jenaya and Alysha were interviewed and followed around the garden for the local news: I will link to this at the end of this post. But why did I start there and then make you wait? In a bit that didn’t make the news Jenaya was asked about the CSA and she basically knows what it is (duh she helps put together some pretty beautiful boxes every Friday!) but she didn’t know what CSA stands for and upon reflection it occurred to me that this deserved a bit of incite.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is not simply a box of farm produce received weekly (or monthly or what have you), paid for in advance.  A corner of the USDA’s website introduces the concept like this,

“Community Supported Agriculture consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “share-holders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary. In return, they receive shares in the farm’s bounty throughout the growing season, as well as satisfaction gained from reconnecting to the land and participating directly in food production. Members also share in the risks of farming, including poor harvests due to unfavorable weather or pests. By direct sales to community members, who have provided the farmer with working capital in advance, growers receive better prices for their crops, gain some financial security, and are relieved of much of the burden of marketing.”

CSA is not the value of a box (be it huge and beautiful like ours were last week, or aphid infested like a box of ours that had valid complaints earlier this season).  CSA is a different economic model than the one in the dominant food system.  CSA has a history that is rich and hard to pin down the roots of but has gained steam basically in my own lifetime (since the 1980s).  When members purchase shares they are investing in the farm and sharing in the benefits and risks associated with it.  When crops are attacked by say, flea beetles or aphids, members may see damaged crops or none at all; when farmers are attacked by viruses or life in general, members may not get their boxes; likewise when harvests are plentiful boxes may be filled with much more than current market value of individual items.  CSA is a subtle challenge to the dominant economic system, which is misaligned with nature.

What is different or similar about our CSA and others?  One huge difference is that our farmers’ livelihoods do not depend on farm revenue.  On the other hand, while in the future we hope to have a full-time salaried employee whose livelihood would not depend on farm revenue but would be more tied to it, our own farmers are investing time and hugely underpaid/volunteer labor because we take the community part pretty seriously.  Another difference is that our farm is part of a 501 C3 non-profit and can accept tax-deductible donations (Down to Earth and Lane Forest Products have recently donated much needed supplies).  Our main difference, of course, is that we are attached to a school and youth programs and have been a smaller or bigger part of that throughout the years.  But again that does seem community oriented?  This is witnessed in the news of our future: The Outdoor High School at Northwest Youth Corps is becoming Twin Rivers Charter School.

http://nbc16.com/news/local/twin-rivers-charter-school-joins-eugene-4j-school-district

We all learn something new every day.

Farm Update August 12, 2016

farm diversity section

It seems to have been a long time since this page has had any action.  Rest assured our garden still exists and with the hard work of this summers Americorps members, including two young women from NWYC’s Out Door High School, things are starting to pop.

We are busy filling CSA and NWYC Youth Crew orders, as well as exploring new partnerships.  Last week we had a farm stand at the Whiteaker Community Market https://www.facebook.com/whiteakercommunitymarket/,

Whiteaker Standwhich we highly recommend you go check out, though unfortunately due to the size of our staff we may be at infrequently.

squash in kiva

 

 

Early this week we sold 20# of mixed summer squash and 12 lovely heads of frisee to The Kiva http://www.kivagrocery.com/: we arelooking forward to continuing  work with them.

 

 

beetle death

 

We are also busy fighting flea beetles, with the help of some predatory nematodes, diverse planting and trap cropping, oyster shells, and some sticky yellow paper.  Thanks to Alva and her farming tip, as well as Jaime over at Down to Earth (and Renee and Angel who supplied us with a great deal of much needed starts to help fill up some space).

 

There is much more to say and perhaps I will soon but for now I invite you to come out and see the farm for yourself.  We all learn something new every day.  Or at least check the facebook page which I post pictures to a little more frequently https://www.facebook.com/Laurel-Valley-Educational-Farm-Garden-272515896292341/.

Peace and carrots,

Josh

Hello folks!

Welcome to the 2015 Laurel Valley Educational Farm CSA!  Are you excited?  We sure are, and so grateful you are joining us.  The farm is in full swing, and you can expect Kale, Fava Beans, Radishes, Turnips, Onions, Salad, and a few more surprises for the first week.

To get things started off right, we are inviting you all to a meet and greet on Tuesday, June 2nd, at 4:30.  Come pick up your share and socialize with your farm crew, Northwest Youth Corps, and fellow CSA members.  Feel free to bring a beverage or snack if you desire. If you know anyone who would like to join the CSA, or volunteer or intern in the garden over the summer please bring them along or contact us at garden@nwyouthcorps.org.

In other news, I’d like to introduce Natalie Stameroff- She’ll be taking over for me this season.

Hello Everyone!

I am really excited to be growing for you this season. I have been farming, gardening, and orcharding for more than four seasons and I am ready to head up this beautiful piece of land. I grew up in central California, studied Agriculture, Food, and Social Justice at U.C. Santa Cruz and moved to Eugene in 2012 for a gardening positon. I feel blessed to be in the Willamette Valley again this growing season.

WHEN DO I PICK UP MY SHARE?

You may pick up your weekly share any time between 3:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m on either Tuesday or Fridays, depending on which day you indicated for pick up on your registration form.

FULL AND HALF SHARE MEMBERS: Your CSA subscription starts on Tuesday, June 2rd and continues throughout the season on a weekly schedule. Your last pickup date will be in the first week of October

 

EXTENDED SHARE MEMBERS:  your last pick up date will be Nov. 6th

WHERE DO I PICK UP MY SHARE?

Farm Pickup

 

Our address is 2621 Augusta St.  We are part of Northwest Youth Corps’ campus, located behind Hendricks Park in the Laurel Valley.

The farm is to the north of the parking lot. Walk through the blue gate near the building (It has a sign that says Everyone is Welcome!). You can expect to find Natalie or Isabel at the farm before 4:30 or 5.

Our CSA pickup will be housed in the Blue House- the packing shed next to the herb garden in the center of the blacktop. Your share will be under the awning in a box labeled with your name.

HOW DO I CHOOSE AND COLLECT MY PRODUCE?

Your produce will be sorted into a large box with your name.  It will be individually washed, bagged and/or bundled as appropriate.  We will be striving to use minimal packaging resources. You may take the whole box home, but we ask that you return it.  You can also bring reusable cloth bags or other suitable grocery bags to carry your produce home in.

We will also have a free box.  If you receive produce that you do not think you will use, please take it out and leave it in the exchange box: If you would like more of a particular item: feel free to take it from the exchange box.

If you will not be able to pick up your share please let me know at garden@nwyouthcorps.org and we will save it for you.

 

WEELY UPDATES

I will send out a weekly letter that gives you updates on the farm, volunteer opportunities, lists of expected crops for the next week, some recipes to try out, and any group wide communications.

QUESTIONS?
We greatly appreciate your feedback, so please don’t wait until the end of the season to tell us how it’s going.  We grow for you!

Have a great Summer!

Isabel-Francis-Bongue

Hello Folks, Merry spring!

Are you still looking for a CSA? Well now is the time to join the Laurel Valley Educational Farm CSA!  We are looking forward to a great year and hope you’ll enjoy the bounty with us.

This year the CSA will run from June 1st – Oct. 2nd (18 weeks total), with an extended season option that will continue until Nov. 6th( 23 weeks total). 

Full Share: 350$      Half Share: 210 dollars.

Extended option- June 1-Nov. 6th (additional 5 weeks)-440$

The Laurel Valley Educational Farm is a Non-profit educational farm that serves at-risk youth and is within the city limits- making it the most local CSA around.  This CSA helps us to cover our operating costs, and is also one of the most affordable ones in the area.

This year, we’ll be doing a weekly pickup at the farm in the Glenwood neighborhood.  If there is a demand, we may also open up a pick up spot in west Eugene.

In order to pay and join please take a moment to fill out and read our terms and registration, and mail with check to  Northwest Youth Corps  at 2621 Augusta St, Eugene, OR.  Please write CSA in the memo.  You can also pay in person with cash or card.

If you have any questions or would like to negotiate a payment plan, please talk to me as soon as possible.

 

Remember folks, we have limited space and would like to fill it sooner rather than later, so act as soon as possible!  Registration for the CSA will close in May.

 

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Hello Folks!  It may be February, but spring is in the air, and here at the Laurel valley educational farm, we are now accepting CSA members for the upcoming season.  We’ve begun the work of sprouting, planting, prepping the field in preparation for the 2015 season- and have been very much enjoying (and slightly worrying about) our early spring.   We are looking forward to a great year and hope you’ll enjoy the bounty with us.

This year the CSA will run from June 1st – Oct. 2nd (18 weeks total), with an extended season option that will continue until Nov. 6th( 23 weeks total). 

Full Share: 350$      Half Share: 200 dollars.

Extended option- June 1-Nov. 6th (additional 5 weeks)-440$

 

In other news, our first work party of the year will be on February 28th, and we’d love to see you folks there.  We’ll be redoing signage around the farm, doing some spring cleaning and preparing the fields to till.  (We may also be giving away free broccoli and kohlrabi starts to volunteers…)

Can’t make it?  Help us out by spreading the word about us and our mission. Talk to friends and family, wrangle them into joining the CSA or volunteering.    And stay updated!  We’ll be having plant sales, and more volunteer parties as the season progresses.

Buen provecho,

Isabel

Get Your CSA ON!

Hello Folks!

I’m excited to announce that dates have been set for this year’s LVEF CSA!!

June 1-Oct.2nd – 18 weeks- 350 $

Extended option- June 1-Nov. 6th (additional 5 weeks)-440 $

CSA’s are a great way to support local food, agriculture and economies, and are a very convenient and easy way to meet your produce needs.

And guess what else! By participating in the LVEF CSA, you would also be supporting Northwest Youth Corps, underserved Youth, and the career of a certain Americorps member.

To top it off, our prices are a steal.  Shares average out to less than 20 dollars a week-for a week’s worth of vegetables.

If interested contact me at IsabelFB@nwyouthcorps.org

A New Frontier

Hello Folks!

The CSA may be over for the year, but LVEF is not done!  We are now selling produce to New Frontier on 8th and Van Buren.  This week’s order: Kale, Chard, Pumpkins, Spaghetti Squash, Sage and Borage flowers.

Check them out- they are a great little local grocery with good practices and a rich history (the oldest store in town)- and are conveniently open until midnight.

http://www.newfrontiermarket.com/

Buen Provecho

Isabel

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Greetings from your new garden coordinator

Hello, Eugene!

Allow me to introduce myself.  My name is Isabel Francis-Bongue, and I am the new Garden Coordinator for the 2014-2015 school year.

Before coming to Laurel Valley Educational Farm, I worked with Northwest youth corps as a conservation crew member and as an Outdoor Oregon leader.

I hail mostly from Ohio, although I have also lived in California and in Spain.  I studied at Ohio University (OU not UO) and grew up on a small organic vegetable farm. I have an extensive practical background working with various organic/ sustainable farms. I am a cook, a conservationist, artist, forager and farmer and human.

These last two months have been exciting and overwhelming, as we’ve been bringing in fall harvests, starting school and putting the garden to bed for winter while simultaneously learning the ropes of the new job.

Our frost has been unusually late so the garden is still bountiful, but at last as cool weather comes, things have begun to slow down. And I am excited to get to know this place and the lovely people that make it tick.

Buen Provecho

Isabel