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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Q5: Eighty Acres: The place to be

  • The Gardens at Eighty Acres, a Community Supported Agriculture farm, is located at 28013, in Leavenworth, and open from 4-8 p.m. on Fridays from May 9 to Oct. 1.
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  • The Gardens at Eighty Acres, a Community Supported Agriculture farm, is located at 28013, in Leavenworth, and open from 4-8 p.m. on Fridays from May 9 to Oct. 1.
    On Fridays this summer, the farm will host a Farmer's Market, also open to the public.
    Here, Kahla Wheeler, an Eighty Acres property manager, discusses the CSA farm and the numerous activities and offerings available to the public.
    1. What is the basic philosophy behind Community Supported Agriculture?
    "The concept of the CSA began in the 1990s when small farmers were looking for ways to expand their markets and to have 'front' monies to begin their yearly operation. The idea is that the supporter (customer) is partnering with the grower, accepting both the risks and rewards of farming.
    "In this way, the grower has the monies to begin the year and the supporter knows that during their summer and autumn they will have wonderful, locally grown vegetables. The CSA further helps the supporter learn about new food possibilities and how to use these foods."
    2. How does membership, sessions and shares at your farm work and what are advantages/risks for both farmers and consumers?
    "The Eighty Acres CSA will have two sessions this year, one for early summer and then one for the autumn.
    "The risk is that the growing year will not produce the types and quality of foods that the grower or the customer expects. In the 20 years that I have been involved in CSAs, I have seen slim years but never a dud year. Our prairie weather with heat and drought can take its toll on vegetable production overall, but tomatoes and peppers love it.
    "We want to make the Friday evening Farmer's Market at Eighty Acres a destination family event so once per month minimum we will have music, chef demos and other events such as weed walks and tree identification. 
    "Having music makes the market an 'event,' something that families can plan on. Chef demos allow us to highlight that week's offering of fresh vegetables and fruits, further expanding the area's understanding of how simple and quick meal preparation will be.
    "Eighty Acres is a diverse business property that offers camping and fishing. We charge $5 per adult for fishing and $10 per adult for camping. On Friday nights during the Farmer's Market, we are suspending the fee so that individuals, couples and families can enjoy being outdoors with one another. We have hiking trails and two lakes with various ponds. We are growing, so as we expand, we plan to build a playground. We have an outdoor stage that can support music festivals and concerts."
    3. What growing methods do you use and how are they "ethically wildcrafted?" How do you enrich the soil and what are advantages of hand-managing using organic practices?
    Page 2 of 3 - "Eighty Acres uses sustainable growing methods that focus on soil health and diversity. Over the past two years, we have deeply mulched the garden area and used cover crops to enrich the soil so that we do not have to use heavy tillage equipment that compacts the soil.
    "We encourage soil health by the use of compost, minerals and other ecological farming methods to ensure health of the soil, the plants and, ultimately, ourselves and our customers. We are using organic growing methods and hope to apply for organic certification over the next year.
    "Hand working the soil provides us with a lighter, less dense soil, but more importantly gives us a tactile understanding of the soil health. It deepens the relationship between the soil, plant and grower. We welcome volunteers to help in the garden and to learn about soil health, diversity and growing methods.
    "The term 'ethically wildcrafted' is used for the harvesting of wild food and medicinal items. Just as we want to promote soil heath, we want to promote wild diversity and overall environmental health. Plants that grow wild in the area such as yarrow can be made into oils and salves that promote skin health for humans and our animal companions.
    "We will have products for animal health, as well as our own. When gatherers wildcraft, they ensure that they do not take too much or remove all of a single plant variety. Yarrow, our example, is a perennial plant so it will regenerate itself every year. We want to ensure that we are leaving enough wild plants that the animals and insects that depend on it too are nourished."
    4. What types of vegetables do you grow and what are the heirloom and open-pollinated varieties? Do you offer any animal products and do you have plans to add products?
    "Some varieties, especially tomatoes, are heirloom.  We are discussing animal products such as eggs, chickens and other meat products with several producers and hope to have one or two in the market this year. 
    "We are just starting out, so this is a small amount of risk for our growers, producers and customers. We know we will grow into a thriving market that attracts like-minded customers and this will help us attract more growers and producers."
    5. Do you think more people are becoming aware of the connection between the type of food they eat and good health?
    "Hippocrates said it very long ago, 'Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.' Our mothers said it, 'You are what you eat.' 
    “To be healthy, well, happy individuals, we must be aware of our food and food sources. 
    Page 3 of 3 - "The packaged, prepared foods of the past 40-50 years are convenient but lack the vitality needed for growth and renewal.
    “We support getting back to basics: using mealtimes as a time to be together, working together, creating more life together.
    “ Our number-one goal is to grow food that reaches a high standard of flavor and nourishment, to make this food available to the community in as many ways as possible and to teach others how to prepare their food so that it is tasty, satisfying and builds strong, vital bodies."
    Bonus question: Tell us about the PrairieWise Herbal School that you offer.
    "Eighty Acres is the home of PrairieWise Herbal School, a program that focuses both on the home herbalist learning to help themselves and their families and the clinical herbalist wishing to help others in their community.
    “The school moved from the Kansas City area five years ago, but was established in 1996.
    “The school offers weed walks, which will be a part of the Farmer's Market.
    “Here we will learn about wild plants used for food and herbal medicines.
    "PrairieWise Herbal School focuses on integrated herbalism and offers classes that provide hands-on herbal and plant spirit medicine, including plant chromatics, using plant energetics.
    “The school offers practical, every day uses for plant remedies.
    “Most classes are held outdoors, although an indoor classroom is available when needed.
    "PrairieWise School is dedicated to the ongoing journey of the earth, plants and all beings with an emphasis on plant medicines and plant energetic patterns.
    “We are committed to growing knowledgeable herbalists that contribute to a culture of healing with their families and in their communities."
    — Rimsie McConiga
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