Crown Point Ecology Center
Peppered with purpose
Bath ground not your ordinary community garden
Mary Beth Breckenridge
The gardeners involved in Crown Point Ecology Center's Community
Supported Agriculture program believe in caring for the earth.
George Jakubiak of Barberton is on his way to picking a
peck of not pickled but definitely pictured peppers at the
Crown Point Ecology Center.
(photo:Lew Stamp / Akron Beacon Journal)
They also believe in caring for their neighbors. So the food
they grow is not only divided among themselves, but also shared
with people in need.
The program involves members of the community in growing and
harvesting food using sustainable agriculture methods -- organic
methods aimed at nurturing the soil as well as the plants, said
Sister Joanne Buckman, director of the Bath Township center. The
participants take home part of what they grow, and a portion is
sold at the Countryside Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings at
Heritage Farms in Peninsula.
In addition, the program donates part of its yield to Plant a
Row for the Hungry, a hunger-relief effort sponsored by the Akron-Canton
Regional Foodbank and the Beacon Journal.
The program's food bank donation has ranged from 35 percent to
50 percent of its crop, which usually amounts to about 15,000
pounds a year, Sister Buckman said. Last year's donation, however,
was twice that total. ``We had a real bumper crop,'' she said
with a smile.
Buying a share
The Community Supported Agriculture program grew out of a desire
to support the food bank, said Crown Point's harvest manager,
Beth Knorr. In 1997 the ecology center, a ministry of the Sisters
of St. Dominic of Akron, started a test plot of about an acre
specifically to grow organic produce for the hunger agency, she
Crown Point quickly realized it would need income to keep such
a program operating, however. So a year later, it invited the
public to become involved, and the Community Supported Agriculture
program was born.
Participants pay to be part of the program and share in the labor,
and in return receive enough food each week during the harvest
season to feed a family of four. Each participating family buys
a share, the price of which depends on its level of participation,
Sister Buckman said.
A standard share, which next year will cost $600, requires one
three-hour shift of work per season. A working share will cost
$500 and requires 20 hours of work, and a barter share will cost
$50 and requires about 40 hours. Barter shares, however, are limited
to people with agricultural skills who are chosen by Crown Point,
Sister Buckman said.
The shares are so popular, she said, that the waiting list is
long. Single people sometimes split a share, since the vegetables
they take home are more than they can eat in a week.
On a recent harvest day, plastic crates lining shelves in Crown
Point's 1910 barn held freshly picked vegetables, including carrots
with their green tops still attached and tomatoes in a variety
of shapes and colors. A chalkboard listed the weekly bounty that
awaited each member: carrots, scallions, basil, parsley, garlic,
summer squash, eggplant, potatoes, sweet onions, tomatoes, tomatillos
and several types of peppers.
Barberton resident George Jakubiak worked in the barn, weighing
carrots that had been harvested that morning. He doesn't have
room for a garden where he lives, he said, so the program lets
him spend time outdoors and engage in what he called ``purposeful
Jakubiak, 76, grew up in a family of six children in the Depression
and said he appreciates the value of the food he helps to grow.
Although he has only half a working share, the food he takes home
is still too much for just him, so he shares with neighbors and
For Chris Lally, the program is a way of saving money while being
able to feed her family the organic produce she values. Lally,
of Northfield Center Township, has a barter share and works at
Crown Point just about every Friday.
Her daughter, Emma, 4, sometimes accompanies her, and Lally said
she likes being able to show her where vegetables come from.
She also appreciates knowing her labor benefits charity. ``I
like the fact that I can give to the food bank without dipping
into our funds,'' which she said have been more limited since
she quit work to stay at home with her daughter.
Today 10 acres are dedicated to Crown Point's sustainable agriculture
program, which includes the Community Supported Agriculture effort.
Crown Point rotates its crops, so about six of those acres are
used for producing food in any given year, and the rest are planted
with cover crops that replenish the nutrients in the soil.
The program isn't intended to benefit just those who enjoy its
bounty, however. Crown Point's sustainable agriculture program
is also used as a teaching tool, Sister Buckman said, in the hope
that the ecological methods it uses will spread elsewhere. Every
year, one or two apprentices works with the program to learn those
methods and then carry them on to other places, she said.
The program supports Crown Point's commitment to what she called
a triple bottom line economy, one that puts importance on people
and the planet as well as on profit.
That's a concept she hopes Crown Point's gardens will help to