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KVCS looks at sustainable farming

PHILOMATH — Farmer John Eveland took Kings Valley Charter School students into the weeds — figuratively and literally — on a field trip last week focusing on sustainable farming.

John Eveland, the owner of Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, talks to King Valley Charter School AP Environmental Science students about the best use of cover crops during the winter season.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

John Eveland, the owner of Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, talks to King Valley Charter School AP Environmental Science students about the best use of cover crops during the winter season.

February 25, 2014

PHILOMATH — Farmer John Eveland took Kings Valley Charter School students into the weeds — figuratively and literally — on a field trip last week focusing on sustainable farming.

The owner of Gathering Together Farm in Philomath has run the organic farm for 27 years, so he knows a thing or two about the subject — including that sometimes weeds are tasty.

Leading KVCS’s AP Environmental Science class out into one of his fields, Eveland gave a brief lecture on winter weeds and cover crops — expounding on their value for preventing rich soil from washing away and feeding nutrients into the ground for the next growing season.

Then, he bent down and pinched off a leaf from a “weed” and popped it in his mouth.

“There are also a lot of good things out here to eat,” he said, encouraging the students to try a few samples straight from the ground. “Sometimes you can sell your weeds, and that is a great thing.”

Kings Valley Charter School students pick and try “weeds” growing in a  field at Gathering Together Farm that are actually tasty greens.

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Kings Valley Charter School students pick and try “weeds” growing in a field at Gathering Together Farm that are actually tasty greens.

More than just a profitable coincidence, the concept fit well with the class’ latest topic: exploring how to feed a growing population in a sustainable manner.

“We are looking at different ways we can use soil conservation and water conservation and protect our environment,” explained KVCS science teacher Jamon Ellingson.

To provide expert insight, Ellingson asked Beth Hoinacki, the owner of Kings Valley’s Goodfoot Farm, to give lectures on the topic.

Hoinacki said sustainable farming is a balancing act. Farmers have to consider whether the eventual harvest justifies the resources and energy used to produce it.

Gathering Together Farm has become apt at recycling, using leaves collected from city streets as mulch, and other waste products — leftover vegetables and trimmings, manure, and food scraps — as compost.

“They are taking what would potentially be a waste product and recycling it back into the system,” Hoinacki said. “That’s another principal of sustainability.”

But the farm also uses greenhouses to get a head start on the season, which are made with petroleum-based plastics.

Eveland said the tradeoff is growing locally produced food that would have to be imported from warmer regions. With that comes the costs — economically and environmentally — of transportation and refrigeration.

“With these hoop houses, we have crops — and that is one of the things that justifies us putting them in — that we couldn’t even attempt otherwise,” Eveland said.

KVCS freshman Quinn Damitio said the behind-the-scenes look at the farm and its greenhouses was illuminating.

“It really shows us how this new technology helps people grow this food,” she said, then adding: “I especially liked how Farmer John told us how he uses sticks to whack the seeds off of lettuce, just like they did several thousand years ago. It feels like even though everything has changed, not much has.”

Her favorite part of the trip?

“Eating the plants in the field,” she said. “We think they are weeds, but really they all taste different.”

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