Sustainable Community Builds Kitchen Bus

By Kyle Spurr / For The Chronicle

The kitchen bus at the Coffee Creek Community and Gardens in Centralia.

The kitchen bus at the Coffee Creek Community and Gardens in Centralia.

On six acres north of Centralia, a 10-person community tends to their gardens, cleans their living areas and works to live a more sustainable lifestyle.

“If we all work together, we all don’t have to work as hard,” Coffee Creek Community and Gardens resident and property owner Mokey Skinner said.

“It’s like a little bees’ nest. There are things happening all around and everyone is doing something.”

The Coffee Creek Community’s latest project is transforming a rundown school bus into a functional kitchen.

Skinner said the goal is to create a mobile kitchen that is certified to prepare, serve and preserve farm-fresh local food.

“We’ll take it to events and community gatherings,” Skinner said, “and serve food out of it as well as teach people about sustainability and food security.”

To accomplish the transformation, the Coffee Creek Community reached out to Kickstarter.com, a website that gives groups an online platform to find funding for projects.

The Coffee Creek Community was able to raise $4,844 in 27 days through the website. The community posted a goal of $4,723 in February, and reached it with contributions from 99 online supporters.

With the needed funding in hand, the community is already using the kitchen bus on their property.

Skinner purchased the gutted-out school bus last year. She said the community had to be extremely creative in pulling limited resources together to build the kitchen bus.

Joe Smith, a 26-year-old who acts as the community’s carpenter, helped install a wooden floor and insulation around the walls of the bus. The funding from Kickstarter.com also went toward purchasing stoves, a refrigerator, a hot water system and storage space.

As a group that knows how to stretch its money, Skinner said the sky is the limit with ideas for the kitchen bus.

“We are pretty inventive, resourceful people with a lot of skills between us,” Skinner said. “We can go as far as we can go.”

Skinner, a Washington native, purchased the six-acre property in October 2008 and turned the uninhabited black berry thicket into farmland.

“We were looking for a good piece of land that we can turn into a space for community,” Skinner said. “A place to call home.”

In June 2009, Skinner started attending the Community Farmer’s Market in Chehalis, and the next year formed a community-supported agriculture program.

Through the farmer’s market, Skinner met other young local farmers and found they shared the same visions for food sustainability.

Skinner, 29, said her property became a transitional space for some people, who would help around the gardens. Last summer is when people started to stay and the community truly began to take shape.

“People came here to visit, got inspired and wanted to stay,” said Smith, who came from Minneapolis, Minn.

The 10-person community is made up of people from New York, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota and locations throughout Washington. The members range from 23 to 29 years old.

“I had a huge vision for this place,” Smith said.

The Coffee Creek Community has other ideas, including solar panels on the farm’s roof, a pantry trailer and extra storage for canned goods.

The group also wants to build a large, insulated space inside the farm, and invite the outlying community to workshops and musical events.

“The more we go out into the town,” Smith said, “the more we connect with the local community.”

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