Joanna Tebbs Young
CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY
This is the sixth in a series of everyday stories about everyday people in our community.
To sit chatting on Kathleen Krevetski’s front porch in the Northwest section of town is to enjoy a experience harkening back to an earlier time. Conversations with friends and neighbors — being part of your community. For Kathleen, this is everything. And for her, food is integral to it all.
Kathleen, although recently retired from nursing after almost 40 years in the profession, is still helping to make her community feel better. “I still feel that I’m nursing,” she says, “I’m just moving into what I believe, that food is medicine.”
Kathleen’s mother, who came from a farming family in Ireland, immigrated to the U.S. in 1948. Kathleen’s father, born in the U.S. to an Irish family, lived in Ireland until he was 19, after being stranded there when his father died on the boat crossing the Atlantic. Eventually returning to the U.S., he met his bride-to-be and the couple settled in Connecticut on Long Island Sound, where they set up a garden, Kathleen’s father burying fish-heads in the ground to serve as fertilizer.
“We grew up learning to garden,” Kathleen explains. “Gardening was magical. You’d come and feel you’d accomplished something.”
Through this garden, Kathleen learned the joys of sharing with others. “If you had tomatoes, you shared. It’s ceremonial, not just generous.”
And now, Kathleen brings this spirit to Rutland. After living, raising her two boys, gardening — “urban homesteading” as she sees it — and helping to promote the farming community in Middlebury, Connecticut, she and her husband Wayne moved to Rutland 2005. “Coming to Vermont was a dream. Rutland is a dream. So close to our farms and farmers.”
In 2012, she joined the board of the then newly established Vermont Farmers Food Center (VFFC), a permanent site for the winter farmers market. Providing lunch for the volunteers as they renovated the building on West Street, she gained a new family. “What better way to get to know each other? They are still my closest friends.”
“Close” is a good way to describe Kathleen’s relationship with VFFC. Her main focus is her work there, about which she is clearly passionate.
VFFC’s mission of promoting local food production for the economic growth and health of the Rutland region means a lot to Kathleen, as she firmly believes it is important to know what you’re eating and who’s feeding you. “Knowing the farmer who grew your food is good for your health and psyche, she says. “We need to do this more than ever, we’re in such trying times. We must stay healthy, it’s all about self-care.”
Kathleen is particularly proud that the board of VFFC established Health Care Share three years ago, through which Rutland doctors can now write prescriptions for CSAs (Community Sustained Agriculture). While two-thirds of the country are living with chronic disease and imported food lacks essential minerals and vitamins, Kathleen explains, local foods do provide these nutrients.
“I can’t think of anything more important than the food you eat,” she says. “We have to stay healthy as a community in trying times, because we don’t know where our health care system will be in the future.”
And while this aspect of eating local is vital in Kathleen’s eyes, the economic side of it is too. “It helps farmers,” she explains. “It gives them business.”
She is especially happy to see the younger farmers entering and continuing the farming tradition. “I’m so excited that the young people are stepping up to the plate and wanting to take over. There’s vitality there. And their vegetables are beautiful.
“What we do best here is food production,” she continues. To that end, she sees VFFC as a food hub, and envisions Rutland as a place known for its food. She is working alongside other members of VFFC’s education committee to continue the growth of the community kitchen located at the center. What they are calling an incubator kitchen — still in its infancy and needing more money to grow to a full commercial kitchen — is available for startup businesses to use to produce and sell their own food. Kathleen also wants more community members to have access to good food and to learn how to prepare it.
While Kathleen firmly believes food is medicine both physically and economically for a community and its members, Kathleen also sees community itself as a psychological boon. Thus her love of VFFC and the farmers market. “People go to the farmers market for the community, it’s a spiritual experience,” Kathleen says.
“There’s something spiritual going on,” she continues, “whether drinking coffee together, having a conversation while buying food, or listening to music.” And so, in her role as a VFFC board member, she helps initiate programs to allow people more opportunities to be together. “What better way than over a meal?” she asks.
Wanting to provide opportunities for people to eat together just as she does often in her own home, the latest offering at VFFC which Kathleen has been helping to organize is the “Incubator Kitchen Supper.” The second of these community meals will be held Thursday, June 15 at 5:30 p.m. (cost $5).
“The family meal has been lost for many,” she explains, “but it’s the most important part of the day for kids. Even if we only have five people, that’s great. One person at a time.”
Continuing to grow the vision of benefits afforded Rutland, she is part of plans for what she calls “family fun,” including bocce, and community walks to look at, for example, birds or the architecture: “There’s so much to look at in the city if your eyes are open.”
Kathleen’s eyes are always open — open to new things and ideas. “I’ve learned,” she says, “that choosing the road less traveled may be more difficult, but it’s full of adventure.”
And of what on this adventure is she most proud? “The children I’ve raised — the men they’ve become and that they chose Vermont as the place to raise their children. And that we still have great meals around the table with friends and strangers. When you have fresh salad from your garden on the table — I wish that for everybody.”