Smokey House's new Community Farm project was developed to engage visiting groups as well as the local community; students in Danby welcomed the opportunity this season and dug in. Last May, every student in the local Currier Memorial School (CMS) visited us to plant potatoes, start pumpkin and squash seeds, and enjoy our trails. It started out as an exploration of our shared history with founders Stephen and Audrey Currier and soon students were hooked on growing.
In the fall, every student at CMS came back (some of them twice) to dig the potatoes they planted, this time with their younger peers from the early childhood education center. They also harvested pumpkins and beets and more. In exchange for their good work and enthusiasm, we sent many of them home with the produce they helped to plant and harvest. Born out of Principal Carolyn Parillo's years-long interest in a school-based farmers market, the Currier Supported Agriculture got shares of Smokey House-grown veggies to about 40 Danby families throughout the fall, representing nearly two-thirds of the school's student population.
Based on the popular Community Supported Agriculture model, our "CSA" provided a weekly distribution throughout September and October of root and storage crops grown at Smokey House Center: potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, beets, squash, and pumpkins. Families signed up with the school to receive shares, which were sent home with registered students every Friday. Rather than pay an upfront, flat rate to fund production (typical of the CSA model), we traded on goodwill and group work. Students and local families were asked to pitch in on field trips and on public work days to help us grow good food. Food was also distributed to the VT Food Bank, the Health Care Share program, and various other food security and public service agencies. In total, over 6,500 pounds of food was grown and distributed in this first season.
Our CSA shares were made available regardless of any demonstrated need. The truth is, we know there is great need in this community, where approximately 80% of CMS's students qualify for free and reduced-price school meals. While we hope that our efforts help to leverage other resources for healthy eating and food security in this community, our primary objective on the Community Farm is to create a vibrant gathering place, where people can work together to strengthen this community.