Harbor Roots Farm, which will offer farm apprenticeships with living wages and grows fresh local food for shareholders and the area’s hungry, will begin operation Tuesday on 3 acres of leased land in the Wynooche Valley.
The farm is an effort spearheaded by the Rev. Sarah Monroe, founder of Chaplains on the Harbor, an organization that strives to get the homeless, recently jailed or drug-addicted citizens of the county back on their feet.
“We’ve been wanting to do some sort of social enterprise,” said Monroe. She and her small team looked at models of community-supported agriculture and came up with the idea of creating a place where people who are struggling can be productive, make a living wage and give back to the community.
Chaplains on the Harbor is affiliated with the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia, but Chaplain and consultant Hannah Jones stresses there is no faith requirement to be a part of their group. Bishop Greg Rickel with the diocese was on hand as the apprentices, Monroe and others with Chaplains on the Harbor spent their first “official” day at the farm Thursday. Rickel performed a short blessing of the land before touring the property and greenhouse where starter plants are being nurtured.
The farm has extended its Indiegogo fundraising campaign through the first two weeks in April. Monroe said the success of the farm hinges on local fundraising, as grants and other sources of funding tend to be focused on more urban areas. A goal of $25,000 was set, to buy farming tools, pay three apprentice salaries and other costs associated with the business. As of March 30, they had raised just under $9,000.
You can also support the farm by buying shares, which gets you a box of fresh vegetables and herbs each week during the growing season — June through October. It’s $550 for fresh vegetables, enough for two to three people, which can be picked up each week during the five-month season. The group asks for half that amount up front and half later in the season. There will be two pick-up locations, St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olympia and the Randall Street Community Garden at 1021 Randall Street in Aberdeen. Whatever is cultivated and not sent out to shareholders will be donated to local food banks, said Monroe.
The produce varies depending on what’s ripe that week, but lettuce, carrots, potatoes, peas, radishes, Brussels sprouts, swiss chard, all manner of squash, tomatoes, spinach, cabbage and herbs — including oregano, cilantro and basil — are all going to be harvested. Pickle packs will be available at times during the season. These packs will include basic ingredients for all types of pickled vegetables. Recipes and picking equipment will be included.
The farm has announced the first hired apprentices for the season: Nita Cross, described as a singer, songwriter and seasoned gardener currently enrolled in High School 21+ at the Grays Harbor College; Donny “Treetop” Jackson, former tent city security patrol, budding prize fighter and father; and James “JP” Peterson, a father of two who has experienced periods of homlessness in his lifetime.
The farm apprenticeship program will not just provide jobs, it can provide stability for a group of young people to organize and contribute to the betterment of the region. In addition to working on the farm, participants will have a “School of Hard Knocks,” a weekly political education and training program for people experiencing poverty.
Chaplains on the Harbor was founded in 2013 by Monroe, who works in both Aberdeen and Westport, focusing on pastoral care, street outreach, leadership development, worship, jail outreach and community building. The group provides dinner at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on East First Street in Aberdeen every Sunday from 2-6 p.m., takes lunch to the homeless living around the Chehalis River Bridge on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to noon, and serves lunch from noon-3 p.m. at their Westport community center Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The Westport location has shower and laundry services.