Before the September 7th Freeze

Before the September 7th Freeze
  • Wabash Farmette
Matan Halzel

By Pallas Quist, Farm Manager


Rarely in my life have I ever been so exhausted as I was on the night of September 8th, after three long days of prepping for an early September freeze.  Sunday and Monday were demanding physically and emotionally.  I was anxious about the upcoming storm but deeply touched by the incredible support of the community coming out in numbers to help manage this emergency.

Families recruited helpers on Facebook, via text, and on the phone when the scope of the work at hand became evident.  I even had new families join in that did not know about opportunities at The Farmette before the Facebook posts! Children alongside their parents harvested ALL produce and marched down to the kitchen baskets and boxes in arms. Simon Rubrick (the school’s catering head chef) and his team in the kitchen patiently weighed the veggies with the kids. We added up 42 lbs of fresh ripe food that will go into his cooking over the next couple of weeks!  I felt so much gratitude and relief that Simon is a talented and versatile chef who welcomed our produce with open arms in a willing collaboration.  Some of the veggies we brought even inspired new recipe ideas for his menu!
I was overcome with another wave with joy and emotion – to harvest for the cafeteria is one of my biggest ever dreams come true for The Farmette. Countless dedicated Denver JDS parents have worked time and time again here to build soil and bring food to life since 2015. These things take time, and it is beautiful to see The Farmette blooming and growing into the productive agricultural space that the founders envisioned and worked toward for the last five years. 

The idea of providing nutritious produce throughout the entire fall of 2020 and into the promising future for hot lunches and salads at Denver JDS and beyond makes my heart swell with pride.  I want the students to know that they grew this food.  They started growing it in classrooms in January of 2020, and they nurtured their seedlings until mid- March when the school closed. They visited with their families from June – August pulling weeds to make room for growing plants and planting new seeds in the ground for an abundant fall harvest.  I want them all to know that some of the veggies they will eat during September and October in their crudité snacks, in their lunch soups, and in their salads and vegetable sides were grown by them at The Farmette!  It’s such a beautiful, moving truth.  

Once the food we could salvage was in Simon and the kitchen’s capable hands, we started prepping the plants for the expected freeze.  Ekar Farm graciously gave a roll of crop row cover to The Farmette, and we got busy covering. Kids hauled rocks and sticks to batten down the edges, fathers carried heavy lumber and blocks on their shoulders to hold everything down.  It was very physically taxing, but no one complained.  We had to make difficult choices about what to cover at the end when we were running out of material.  Kids searched the shed for tarps, blankets, ANYTHING that could be used to protect our precious plants.  They made cardboard teepees, covered things in reusable grocery bags, and did not stop working until it was done.

I was knee-deep in a fairly stressful crisis during that weekend, trying to protect the harvest and the tender plants that I feared might not survive. But I was able to celebrate the moments, enjoy the discoveries of the children, feel the magic of the community coming together in a time of need.  It was moving.  It was powerful.  And the best part of the experience over that Sunday and Monday was knowing that families were there with love and joy in their hearts, getting creative, problem solving and having fun, too!  I am still overwhelmed with gratitude.

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