JAY BAKER OF Sarge’s Place joked, “The military issued me two dog tags, one said B positive and the other said B negative.”
He was part of a circle of veterans tossing jokes and one-liners around while working at getting the new Sarge’s Farmstand ready to open Monday, July 2.
The group had taken a break from building, cleaning, gardening and pricing.
Sarge’s Place provides housing and more for homeless veterans in and around Forks.
The place operates under the larger, nonprofit entity North Olympic Regional Veterans Housing Network.
A couple of years ago Sarge’s Attic was opened as a second-hand antique store to help provide income for the programs of Sarge’s Place.
The farmstand is opening, in part, to further fund and feed the veterans of the West End.
A couple of decades ago, the property on the corner of Klahndike Boulevard and Sol Duc Way where Sarge’s Farmstand and Attic are today used to be home to bumper-boats and miniature golf.
Subsequent residents left the property looking unloved.
Since Sarge has taken over, the 1.3-acre lot has the attractiveness of something loved and cared for.
“We have people stopping and thanking us for fixing the place up,” said Cheri Tinker, director of Sarge’s Place. She has been a primary visionary of what has become realities for Sarge’s Place.
About 0.4 acre of the corner property is enclosed by a high, chain-link fence and here is where the backbone of Sarge’s Farmstand is coming to life.
First to appear were laying chickens. The eggs helped feed the veterans living next door and caring for the birds was good medicine for them.
Next came the raised beds and greenhouse. Now there are six long, raised beds framed in railroad ties or pressure-treated lumber. Planted half barrels and smaller beds lie in an orderly fashion about the grass.
The veterans have planted lettuces, peppers, carrots, potatoes, bok choy, onions, radishes, squash, corn, berries, sunflowers, garlic and grapes. Several fruit trees and flower beds dot the area.
“It’s a little bit of everything because we want to feed our veterans from this garden,” Tinker said.
Lining the edges of the nearby greenhouse are tomato plants bending down to the earth from the weight of their green fruit.
The center of the greenhouse has a potting table complete with a month-to-month planting schedule.
On the west edge of the garden area are composting bins for maximizing the material from coop and garden.
According to Tinker, the goal is to “be pesticide- and chemical-free and as natural as possible.”
Nobody expects the veterans to eat all their vegetables.
This is where the storefront farmstand comes in.
Sarge’s plan is to sell the produce they don’t consume and they have also sought out West End organic growers to augment their stock.
Tinker wants to make it very clear bananas will not be available at the seasonal food stand.
“People are so removed from their produce,” said Tinker. “It’s exhausting trying to explain to people what ‘in season’ means.”
Basically it means this: If it isn’t growing on the West End at any given time, it is not going to be for sale.
The storefront was added to an existing building that was the changing room left over from the bumper-boat days.
These days, the shower stall holds weed trimmers, saws and other tools.
The new addition to the building has two sliding doors which reveal the produce when open.
Tall display stands made by the inmates at Olympic Corrections Center hold bins of food.
“This is our trial run. We know we are just getting our feet wet now,” Tinker said.
“It’s new ground,” added her son, William Fleck who, along with his sister, Emma-Grayce, has been a regular helping hand.
Tinker lists helpers from across the Olympic Peninsula, many of whom have come from the internet.
She deeply appreciates the generosity of folks who support these veterans and the work of Sarge’s Place.
Tinker also said the veterans participate in Clallam County Gleaners.
“If anyone has produce from their gardens they would like to donate for the veterans to eat or sell, we would be glad to hear from them,” she said.
Contact Sarge’s Place at 360-374-5252.
Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.
Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorinabarker [email protected], or call her at 360-461-7928. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be July 10.