On any given day at Zenger Farm, 60 fifth graders weed and till crop rows. Farmers in training learn to tend and maintain fruit and vegetable plots. Volunteers and interns raise chickens and nurture bees. But beyond teaching farming and promoting sustainable food systems, Zenger Farm helps keep the region healthy by cultivating responsible eaters—particularly those who stock their larders with food stamps.
Since Zenger began offering workshops two years ago to help community-supported agriculture (CSA) co-ops navigate the food stamp system, 14 CSAs have begun accepting food stamps for their boxes of fresh produce. And thus far, more than 570 people from across the nation have taken the CSA workshops, many of them learning the ropes from afar through Zenger’s online webinars.
“We’re not going to feed every hungry person,” says Zenger’s executive director, Jill Kuehler (left). “But we can be a catalyst for innovative ways to address food security.”
Now in its 15th year as a nonprofit, the 101-year-old farm is also growing—up. In August, Zenger Farm broke ground on a $2.3 million “urban grange,” with 8,960 square feet of classrooms, food-processing facilities, a commercial kitchen, offices, and community meeting areas on SE Foster Road. Currently, Zenger teaches workshops to 8,000 schoolkids each year. When the grange is completed in spring 2015, Kuehler predicts that number will grow to 13,000. “The potential with the grange is so huge,” Kuehler says, “that we can’t even imagine what the future holds.
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