By Jessican Freeborn
The moment I had my follow up interview to work at my favorite local health food store, I knew that this was exactly the place I wanted to work when I saw the huge greenhouse filled with peppers and tomatoes behind the store. It was so inspiring to see a marketplace growing their own food! It has been so incredible to watch the market garden grow within these past 2 years. The picnic bench in the garden is still my favorite place to lunch break, weather permitted. You may have noticed on specific produce the 'Grown Right Here' (GRH) logo. If you see this sticker, you will know that item was grown with love and care right here in our market garden, directly behind the store. We also provide fresh salad greens for our salad bar and deli. The cucumbers we grow become delicious and probiotic rich pickles made right here by Cultured Mama. Young Bennett is the leader of this growing operation, as well as our Facilities Manager. He wears many hats and has brought to life the vision of turning this plot of land into a produce farm.
He also manages an incredible team of passionate individuals. Jeremiah is our lead farmer, and he brings in so much passion and knowledge for growing food. Now, Julianne has joined our team, as well as Darby, who came in to help out during harvest season. They have so much 'growing' on and it’s not just growing fresh ingredients and produce. We also have a worm farm to produce worm castings that nourishes the soil, static irradiation compost operation to continue to build up the garden beds, and a grow house to start seedlings. We sell these veggie and herb starts in the spring. The most impressive feature of the farm is the 30'-by-60' greenhouse that is always growing something year-round. Even in the dead of winter, there is still life in the green house. It houses spinach that is available for purchase when local greens are extremely hard to come by in North Idaho. The market garden is a lively place where we have hosted informative garden tour parties and kids' classes. Our last kids' class was a hit where we painted and built worm composting bins for the kids' to take home!
Stay tuned for educational classes and farm tours in the upcoming season. Young has been working hard on getting the farm organically certified. Throughout this long certification process, we continue to use organic and sustainable growing methods because that is a big part of Pilgrim's principles. I asked Young a few questions about how and why this market garden got started:
WHEN AND WHY DID THE MARKET GARDEN GET STARTED?
This is the fourth growing season for the Market Garden. Joe bought the two plots directly behind the store and next to the house office in 2015 and 2016. The first house had burnt down, and we had the second demoed. The original intention was to create a high-production market garden that provided fresh produce to the Deli and Produce departments but would also be an example in Coeur d’Alene of what a market garden was and could be. We also wanted to have educational events for the community on sustainable, healthy growing. We got a special use permit from the city in 2015 and put up the high tunnel in 2016. Jeremiah Brunelle became part of the team that spring, and we have worked hard since then to make the original idea a reality. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job. The details, practices and design of it have flexed with reality over the years, but we’ve stayed true to that vision.
WHAT FUELS YOUR PASSION FOR MANAGING THE MARKET GARDEN? WHAT IS YOUR
FAVORITE PART ABOUT WORKING ON THE FARM?
I love growing things and fostering that enthusiasm for growing in people that I work with at the farm. To be able to see the potential in future generations to do something that is pinnacle to the survival of the human species – growing food, creating life. I enjoy seeing life create life. I love how it makes people happy. I love helping people learn to grow on their own, to find joy and confidence in the independence of being able to provide for their families. I enjoy facing new challenges every day, whether it’s how to clean greens more efficiently or finding the rodent that keeps eating the greens. I love being able to figure out solutions when things don’t work the first time. I love working in the dirt with my hands.
WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PLANS FOR THE FARM?
Continue to establish a biodiverse system that will sustain the farm and production for a long time. That includes keeping the soil healthy, encouraging habitation of birds, incorporating hedgerows and planting pollinator-friendly plants that keep our garden and gardens around us fruitful. Creating more cohesion within our land so that we’re working with it instead of against it. It takes understanding and intention, because it changes every day. Whether we have the USDA organic label or not, these are the practices we value.