Sunday, August 2, 2009

Purple Carrots

This past Saturday I returned to 21 Acres, a community sustainable farm and educational center in Woodinville, WA. I had visited this past Spring and fell in love with the quaint farm and the enthusiasm of the people who worked and volunteered there, and so finding myself not busy on one Summer weekend, I decided I would return to learn more about this place. When I arrived, the sun was shining fully on all of the gardens. I was welcomed by the volunteer coordinator who showed me my way to a work project. My task, to weed the demonstration garden at the entrance of the property and beautify it. The weeds had gotten out of control and we needed a wow factor right there at the entrance to entice people in. I consider myself an efficient weeder, having practiced and labored many long hours in my Mother's garden, so I was finished well before noon. Sunflowers, corn stalks, and lavender lined the pathways. Last May I had taken the farm tour that they offer the first Saturday of every month and decided I would take another since the farm had transformed dramatically in just three months and was bursting at it seams with new produce and projects. For instance, the Platinum LEED (highest standard for green building construction) community center 21 Acres had broken ground on in May now had a solid concrete foundation in place. The concrete was salvaged and reused from a building in the area that had been demolished. The community center is scheduled to be finished next May and will have a cool storage cellar for canned and preserved foods, vender space for a permanent year round farmers market, kitchens for food preperation and cooking classes, and demonstration areas on solar energy, green roofs, water storage and recycling, and composting. Once built, it will have the largest solar array in the northwest and be among just a few dozen buildings in the United States with this green building certification! Amazing! I can't wait till it is finished. As we began the tour, our host told us a short story about how a group of school children had toured the gardens and discovered for the first time purple carrots. How could carrots be purple that is ridiculous they said. Then breaking into her story, an older man in our group said, "isn't that something I just learned about purple carrots yesterday." You could see the smiles forming on the faces in our group when a teenage girl replied, "purple carrots? I am learning about this right now!" For such a simple thing, purple carrots, it was quite the enlightening group experience. This is what eating locally produced food is all about. For this group, in this moment, it was almost an awakening of sorts. 
The rest of the tour took us through farm fields, demonstration gardens, and wildlife habitat. I sampled raw blackberry honey that had been taken from a hive that morning! It was delicious. And as I continued to walk through all 21 acres of the farm my awakening during this recent visit (besides the purple carrots of course) was for this Saturday morning there was really no other place I wanted to be. I felt at home and I felt inspired by my surroundings.  Every volunteer and garden worker at the farm shared this same spirit, we were alike and alive in what were were doing. It is not every day you hear stories about people changing their careers to become farmers, former professors coming out of retirement to teach the community again, or individuals investing their free time to learning organic farming principles and design. Those stories are told at 21 Acres and people are starting to listen.

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