Summer @ the Farmacy

By Randal Smathers

Madison and Griffin Kingsbauer have a different story to tell when it comes time to write their “what I did this summer” essays. The sister and brother – she’s 15 and he’s 13 – ran a farm stand at their father’s medical practice.

Every Monday from April 9 to August 22, the two set up their “Farmacy” vegetable stand outside Rutland Community Health Center (12 Stratton Road, across from the hospital), where Dr. Matthew Kingsbauer practices. Their mom, Trish Kingsbauer, said the idea came from a farmers market in New York City; the family then contacted Greg Cox of the Farmers Food Center and he put them in touch with Carol Tashie, who along with partner Dennis Duhaime runs Radical Roots Farm, which provided the produce.

Tashie would tell the Kingsbauers what was available and what was unusual about it. Then the kids would pass that along to their customers. Griffin listed beet greens, heirloom tomatoes and heirloom broccoli as some of the more unusual offerings they taught their customers about. For the record, unlike more common varieties which have an edible crown and woody stem, the stem of heirloom broccoli stays tender and delicious all the way down.

The most common purchase was the humble cucumber, helped by the $1 “prescription for vegetables” discount – $1 just happening to be the price of a cuke.

Trish said learning about the various foods and passing that on to the customers was the biggest thing the kids learned – along with the social skills needed to interact with the public, and making correct change. Griffin joked that they probably lost money on the first day by giving out too much change. They also homeschool, so they will get full credit for the work they put in.

Both Trish and Griffin think the Farmacy might work better a second time around – although he’s not interested in doing it again, in part because it took a while for the idea to gain popularity, which made for some slow days before they built up a steady clientele. Any leftovers were donated to the homeless shelter, so nothing went to waste.

It wasn’t all work for the kids this year – there was climbing camp, 4H, and the family took a vacation to Washington, D.C. Among the sights they took in was a farmers market — where they duly took note of various ways of setting out produce and signage.

A love of veggies comes naturally to the Kingsbauer family, who have enjoyed a vegan diet for the past eight years. But Griffin did notice that a lot of kids would come up to the Farmacy with their minds made up – “they would say, ewww, broccoli!” And he at least came away with a new appreciation: He says that while he wouldn’t want to run a store, he might just like to be a farmer when he grows up.

Although the Farmacy is closed for the season, Radical Roots is at the Vermont Farmers Market every Saturday, 9 AM to 2 PM and Wednesdays, 3 to 6 PM; in Depot Park in Downtown Rutland.

This article was originally published in Sam’s Good News; the latest edition is here.

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