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Growing hope at Harbor Roots Farm

”Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”- —Frederick Douglass

Harbor Roots is a program with a bold vision: living wage jobs for people in poverty, with wrap around support and ultimately a sustainable economic solution to the persistent poverty that is a growing epidemic in Grays Harbor County.

“Our goal is to give back to our community in as many ways as we can. We contribute by donating produce to people in need in the community, being there with physical and emotional support on a daily basis, bringing blankets to the cold, or just a smile and hello. As a farm, this year Harbor Roots’ main goal is to bring fresh, chemical-free produce to our community and as a people our goal is to brighten up the community,” says James Petersen, farm apprentice.

Food is central to rebuilding a healthy economy

Chaplains on the Harbor, founded by Reverend Sarah Monroe in 2013, is dedicated to building the power of poor people in Grays Harbor. Harbor Roots is one of the Chaplains’ projects—a chemical-free farm just outside of Elma—that is dedicated to pastoring, organizing, and empowering the leadership of poor people in Grays Harbor County.

About one in sixteen people in Aberdeen is homeless and 46% of Grays Harbor County residents are on public assistance. As of 2017 people in Grays Harbor County used the state basic food program at the third-highest rate in Washington State. Since Chaplains on the Harbor began, food has been central to our ability to gather people together, build trust, build relationships, and organize among the poorest people in Grays Harbor County. Harbor Roots Farm is the natural expansion and deepening of this work.

What “wrap around” means for participants

One aim of Chaplains on the Harbor and Harbor Roots is to build regenerative community ownership through community-led social enterprise and job creation. Toward this aim Harbor Roots provides paid apprenticeships for formerly-incarcerated millennials in recovery from addiction and homelessness. Our supportive employment program offers valuable post-incarceration work experience, community organizing opportunities, good references, and support for navigating legal, medical, and social services. This means that in addition to growing food, apprentices also speak and teach in the wider community on their personal experiences and their analysis of issues like police brutality, encampment sweeps, the criminalization of poverty, and the opioid epidemic. In addition to selling shares of fresh naturally-grown produce to those who can afford to buy them, Harbor Roots also donates shares back to local low-income people.

Reaching out and giving back

Levi Hunt, another farm apprentice, shares, “I’m 26 years old. I currently reside in Aberdeen. I connected with Rev. Sarah while I was homeless on the streets and she would come to Tent City and bring items needed for cold weather and survival. When I left Grays Harbor to get clean she invited me to go to a Homeboy Industries gathering in LA and my life took off from there. What I hope for this year is to grow our CSA farm bigger and better than the previous year. This is my first year with Chaplains and I’m blessed to be able to give back to my community, a community that I once robbed and stole from.”

Through the Poor People’s Campaign Chris Olive, a third farm apprentice, had the chance to testify last summer before a US Senate hearing hosted by Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office. Chris says, “I’m 34 years old and was raised in Westport Washington. I’m a veteran of the US Air Force and a recovering opiate/heroin addict. I found Chaplains on the Harbor (COH) through staying at their church’s cold weather shelter in Westport while I was homeless. I reconnected with COH after graduating inpatient treatment. I volunteered to help out with what they were doing because I think it’s very important work and not enough people are doing it. I work with COH now and I feel that it is helping our community and the world in general. If we can change even one person’s mind about homelessness and addiction issues, then it’s all worth the effort.”

A farm with no hidden labels

Though Harbor Roots is not certified organic, we hold all of the values of an organic organization. We believe that everyone deserves access to good local food, with no hidden labels. This means that we only use all-natural, chemical-free, and organic products in our farming. 2018 marked the start of Harbor Roots Farm on a three acre plot of land up the Wynoochee River. Under the lead of Hannah Jones, Harbor Roots grew a variety of salad greens, squash, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes–ending up with twenty-five weekly produce shares sold.

Fill your pantry by supporting this multifaceted farm program

This season we have a new farm manager, Rachel McKee, plus a larger, more fertile plot of land and many new varieties of produce. For 2019 we plan to grow more crops and are looking for ways to get them out into the community. For instance, we hope to sell more of our produce through our CSA program (community-supported agriculture). CSAs are a powerful way for community members to support local farms and get sustainable food in return. Members of our CSA program prepay to receive five months of seasonal vegetables from our farm, picked fresh and delivered weekly. If you’re interested in buying a share or simply want more information, call Rachel McKee at 360-644-2377. You can also call our office at 360-637-9962 or email us at harborrootsfarm@gmail.com

Rachel McKee is the Harbor Roots farm manager and Aaron Scott is an organizer with the project.

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