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ONALASKA — Seven miles east of Onalaska, between the confluence of Kearney and Cole creeks, sits a 22-acre farm that’s committed to providing USDA certified organic produce to Lewis County.
Root Cellar Farm is run by husband and wife co-owners Lucas and Paterka Town and operates through community-supported agriculture (CSA), in which customers pay for a yearly subscription up front and then receive portions of the crops weekly as they are harvested throughout spring and summer. It helps the farmer when they need money to purchase seed, fertilizer and other amendments at the beginning of the season.
The farm’s CSA membership for vegetables is $375, or a little over $20 a week, for 18 weeks of produce. Members can add cut flowers and/or weekly or bi-weekly eggs to their subscription as well. Members can expect their share from June through September.
“The customer gets an amazing value,” Lucas said. “At the beginning (of the season) when things are slow, you’ll get $20 worth of (produce). But once the season starts going, they’ll be getting $30 worth of stuff every week.”
Produce includes heirloom tomatoes, heirloom garlic, potatoes, summer squash, romanesco, peppers, radishes, spinach, basil and more.
In a typical year, they sell produce through CSA memberships, at farmer’s markets and wholesale to restaurants. And a typical CSA membership involves picking up the week’s share at a specified drop location, usually a small business, another customer’s porch or at a farmer’s market.
With Gov. Jay Inslee’s statewide stay-at-home order in place, Root Cellar Farms will be offering home delivery to its CSA members with doorstep dropoff and zero-contact, starting in June. The service area includes Centralia, Chehalis, Longview, Kelso and anyone between Napavine and Morton on U.S. Highway 12 and State Route 508.
“With all the COVID-19 insanity, we’ve decided to offer free home delivery in our service areas, because we want to encourage everybody to put themselves first and stay home for the community,” Paterka said.
Lucas and Paterka Towns started the farm in 2015 and used one and a half of its 22 acres to farm vegetables. The other 20 1/2 acres is pasture for the Towns’ horses and cattle. Paterka previously worked in technology for higher education institutes, while Lucas managed other farms since 2013. Lucas also completed sustainable, organic farming courses at Evergreen State College.
“It’s something we incredibly enjoy,” Lucas said. “Being outside all the time, working with the weather and seasons, having the most delicious food in your backyard.”
Lucas and Paterka have about 60 hens and this is their first year selling eggs. Everything they sell other than the eggs is certified organic. The eggs need one more inspection to be certified organic and they expect to have the certification by the start of June harvesting. They do not sell the eggs wholesale, but will offer them at farmers markets when they open up.
“They get to live outside their full lives,” Lucas said. “They do have a shelter for at night. Very few chickens get to live such a good life.”
This year they plan to be at the Cowlitz Community Farmers Market in Longview every Saturday. On Sundays they’ll be at the Vancouver Farmers Market, and on Tuesdays they’ll sell cut flowers at the Community Farmer’s Market in Chehalis. They’ve also attended the Chehalis Garlic Festival the past two years.
The Towns plan to open a farmstand on their property when the statewide stay-at-home orders are lifted.
“If someone is interested in our vegetables but did not want to buy a CSA, they should totally sign up for our newsletter, which goes out often and we’ll give them updates on where we’re going to be and what we have,” Lucas said. “It’ll help connect with us.”