Change The World Kids’ Root Cellar and Community Resilience

By Jennifer Dembinski

Sydney Reid and Silas Bohen sort apples by the CTWK's root cellar

Sydney Reid and Silas Bohen sort apples in front of the CTWK root cellar

This is the fifth winter that the Change the World Kids have been utilizing their root cellar located behind the Woodstock Elementary School. It opened in October 2013 under the leadership of CTWK members Finn MacFarland , Anna Ramsey and co-founder, Facilitator Phyllis Arata-Myers. Its purpose is to make local organic produce harvested from their own garden and other local gardens available throughout the winter. In just a few years, The Change the World Kids have shown, through their root cellar, how all of us can play a part in our local food system creating a resilient community.

Pieter Bohen, who is the current enthusiastic leader and Facilitator for CTWK, met me at the root cellar, which is dug into a steep hill behind the Elementary School right outside the cafeteria. The cellar is constructed of concrete and locally sourced lumber. No electricity or fossil fuels are needed; usually the kids have headlamps to see what they are doing. Temperature is regulated by the natural insulation of the soil over the cellar, a ventilation pipe and keeping the door closed. Ideal temperature for a root cellar is 33-36 degrees. The root cellar is about 8’ high, 12’ long and 10’ deep. There are 4 shelves lining three walls; all the shelves are filled either with wooden bins to store the potatoes and apples; green plastic bins for carrots; blue plastic bins for the rutabaga, turnips, beets, and red bins for the leeks (supply was used up as they are very popular at the food shelf). The carrots and rutabaga were packed in moist wood shavings since humidity is key for long term storage for these vegetables, whereas the potatoes, apples, garlic and leeks are happy in drier atmosphere.

The organic vegetables are mostly from the Change the World Kids’ organic garden plot in Pomfret which is going to be moved to the Artistree campus this summer and double in size to about 65’x120’. The apples were gleaned after harvest from a local organic orchard. The current supply should last until the end of March or longer with the bi-weekly trips to the food shelf and weekly Anti-Cabin Fever dinners. Since the quantity next year will increase with the larger garden, they are looking into giving to neighboring community food shelves as well as the Woodstock Food Shelf. There are currently 45 active Change the World Kids; most or all are also involved with the gardening, storage, use and distribution of the vegetables.

Before the Anti-Cabin Fever dinner held in the basement of the U.U. church, WUHS student Owen Spann was busy making a chocolate mousse dessert for 70 or so people. He is currently involved in the design and building of the new garden at Artistree and the garden shed there. Asked whether he plans to have his own garden and root cellar some day was answered with an enthusiastic “Yes, when I have my own house!” Six or seven students were also busily preparing for the meal, folding napkins and creating valentines for the dinner guests. That night they said they were going to use the carrots from the cellar for their salad. This spring and summer, the group will be planning what to plant in the new garden, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, weeding and harvesting, and bringing the summer vegetables to the food shelf.

As The Change The World Kids nurture and deepen their ties to our community, their root cellar gives them the ability to extend their gift of nutrition and health throughout the winter. They are learning first hand how to create a resilient community by taking care of our earth, their fellow community members and themselves, one plant and meal at a time. The Change the World Kids encourage local organic gardeners and organizations to donate to their harvest. For more information, visit their website; www.changetheworldkids.org.

DO ONE THING: Give generously to your local food shelf !

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