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Korrine Kreilkamp 

Fed up with her government job, one Coeur d'Alene woman decided to devote herself to fighting hunger and building sustainable agriculture.

click to enlarge Korrine Kreilkamp - YOUNG KWAK
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  • Korrine Kreilkamp

At her old job, Korrine Kreilkamp had a small office, with fluorescent lights and no window. For peace and quiet, she would close her door and turn on a lamp.

No lamp is required in her new office, and anything other than peace and quiet is the exception. As founder and director of the Community Roots Program, the 29-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident’s new workplace is on nearly an acre of rich soil in a quiet neighborhood.

No longer does Kreilkamp push paper; she now pushes organically grown fruits and vegetables from the Roots Community Supported Agriculture, a plot farmed by shareholders who receive food and volunteers who drop in just to help out.

And on Wednesdays, she assumes her role as a local organic-food baron, if there is such a thing. Called Roots Local Food Share, the program distributes fresh produce to food banks and homeless shelters in Coeur d’Alene.

In Kreilkamp’s eyes, it’s a way to reconnect a people separated from the land. And her work has not gone unnoticed.

“Whenever you see someone, particularly [someone] younger like this, taking an idea, driving it through, making it happen, it impacts a lot of people in a lot of ways,” says Coeur d’Alene Mayor Sandi Bloem.

As Kreilkamp walks along rows of tomatoes, peppers, basil and olives, she talks about how this garden — the first charitable CSA in Kootenai County — has already brought people closer to agriculture.

She points out a patch of diminutive stalks.

“This is a pumpkin patch for Dalton Elementary,” she says, or at least it will be, come October. Students at that school used to get their Halloween pumpkins from patches in Green Bluff, a bus ride away. Now they just walk across the street, pick a pumpkin and take it home. In the process, they learn that even in these hyper-technological days, agriculture is still a part of their lives.

As she treads past the beets and cucumbers, Kreilkamp points out to the irrigation hoses crisscrossing the ground.

“We practice water conservation,” she says of the garden’s drip irrigation system. “This is all water from Hayden Lake.”

By day, Kreilkamp works for a naturopathic doctor. In her spare time, she works at the garden alongside Susan Sello, an accountant-turned-farmer, to ensure that CSA shareholders get their weekly box of food.

The shareholders pitch in, too. There are about 30 of them, and 15 of them are low-income families. In order to receive their produce, they need to put in at least 10 hours of work a season at the garden.

If this sounds of interest, get in line; Kreilkamp says the waiting list has about 50 people on it.

But the quality difference is there. All the food from the garden is organically grown with non-genetically-modified seeds.

It wasn’t always like this. Just a few years ago, Kreilkamp thought she was working her way toward a law degree. Somehow, she ended up deep in the bowels of the state bureaucracy, with a job at Idaho’s Department of Health and Welfare.

“I wanted to do something hands-on that wasn’t paper-pushing,” Kreilkamp says. And that’s how she found her way to the sleepy Dalton Gardens neighborhood.

Since a successful first harvest last summer, Roots CSA has expanded, leasing another small plot elsewhere in Coeur d’Alene.

It’s only part of Kreilkamp’s two-pronged approach to getting fresh produce from farmers to hungry people in Kootenai County.

Every Wednesday night, Kreilkamp and a team of volunteers spread out across Coeur d’Alene, hitting farmers markets for freebies.

She started the Roots program in 2007 to distribute food from backyard growers. Nowadays, the people at the farmers market know to expect her bicycle-mounted volunteers.

“When produce doesn’t sell, a lot of farmers don’t want to haul it back,” Kreilkamp says.

The volunteers take their haul back to Shared Harvest, another community garden in Coeur d’Alene, where it is then distributed by bicycle to homeless shelters like Fresh Start and local food banks.

Now that the community food share is practically an institution, she’s turned her eye to growing the CSA in Dalton Gardens.

“I would love to see Dalton Gardens filled with stuff like this,” she says. “This could really turn back into a food-growing place.”

To support Roots CSA, visit kealliance.org/communityroots/roots-csa-1.

About the Peirone Prize

For the second year, we here at The Inlander are honoring three local winners (make that four, as one winner is a husband-and-wife team) of the Peirone Prize. They’ll each take home the love and admiration of the community for all they do — and a $1,000 honorarium to spend however they’d like.

The award is in memory of two of my grandparents, Joe and Alice Peirone (pronounced “Purr-ohn”). Their lessons of hard work and generosity made it possible for Jer and I, along with our mom, Jeanne, to start The Inlander back in 1993. Part of our mission all these years has been to promote the good things that happen here, and to identify the great people who make this a special place. The Give Guide, now in its 10th year, is a prime example of that.

Thanks to Joe and Alice’s two kids, my mom Jeanne and my uncle Jim Peirone, they continue to be generous with today’s devoted young people. Joe, who founded Peirone Produce, which still brings fresh fruit and veggies to the region, passed away nearly 20 years ago. But Alice is 92 today, and she wishes the winners of her prize well.

Our criteria for the Peirone Prize is that you be making a difference here at a relatively young age (40-ish and younger). There are lots of deserving people of all ages, but with this award, we wanted to particularly encourage young people who are choosing a life of service, as we all know that can require personal financial sacrifices.

We accepted nominations from local leaders in the nonprofit world and came up with 25 great candidates. Give Guide Editor Leah Sottile, Managing Editor Jacob Fries and I narrowed the batch to eight. Last year’s winners — Emily Paulson, Ben Stuckart and Taylor Weech — were asked for their input, and we finally settled on our three winners, who you will meet here.

As you read through the winners’ stories, you’re bound to be inspired to do your part, too. Lucky for you, the following pages (starting on page 44) are filled with local nonprofits deserving of your support. We’ve even provided you with three easy ways to give — by phone, via the web or by mail.

As little as $20 can make a big difference — it buys 11 meals at the Union Gospel Mission, for example. So even if you can only give a little, it all adds up. And if you are blessed to be able to give a lot, well … we need you, so pick out some worthy charities and make a difference.

– TED S. McGREGOR JR.

Send your Peirone Prize 2012 nominees or thoughts on this Give Guide section to [email protected]

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