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July 22, 2020

JCCC's Open Petal Farm exists for students to learn the art and science of growing vegetables and fruit sustainably, from planting to harvesting and from post-harvest to marketing. Considered essential during the campus closure, the Farm's student team grew food and participated in the Rolling Prairie CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, serving more than 100 customers who signed up for weekly pickups of farm-fresh produce.

The student workforce was diminished due to the pandemic. This skeleton crew put their energy into growing food for the CSA and donating the rest to several local restaurants that were serving as community kitchens. Students also worked with After the Harvest, an organization that rescues excess produce and delivers it to local agencies and food pantries. 

The pandemic caused some changes to the CSA operation. When JCCC was closed, Rolling Prairie found a new location for CSA pickups – Westbrooke Park in Overland Park. Rolling Prairie later combined that operation with its Merriam pickup site.

Assistants wore masks and gloves, and sanitized between customers. Customers no longer had access to the produce; the food was kept in bins behind the table. The assistants placed customer selections on the table, stepped back, and then the customers placed everything in their bag. All payments were online to keep from having to touch and transfer physical money, and curbside service was offered.

“I do think a CSA is about the safest way to purchase sustainably grown, locally produced food,” said Rick Mareske, Open Petal Farm manager. “I would like to see less commodity farming, more locally grown food and more victory gardens in people’s backyards. Big changes need to happen fast.”