The teen-powered Change the World Kids have been growing and
donating over 100 pounds of fresh produce to the Woodstock Area
Food Shelf each week during the growing season. Now, with the
construction of their new root cellar, they are poised to offer
locally-grown produce year-round. According to the Vermont Food
Bank, every year since 2007, demand has increased. This year's
statewide increase is about 20 percent.
Two years ago during a weekly delivery to the food shelf, one of
the teenagers asked what produce was available during the
The answer was, little or none. "We were dismayed that so many
families did not have access to nutritious, locally-grown produce
during the winter months," exclaimed Anna Ramsey, project
co-chair. The kids set out to find a long-term solution with the
challenge to provide the produce without using non-renewable energy
and precious funds on a fancy cooling system.
After a bit of research online and with knowledgeable local
farmers, the kids quickly realized that an old fashioned root
cellar was the best option for keeping produce at a constant
humidity and temperature throughout the winter using nothing other
than the insulation of earth.
"We learned that the best place to build a root cellar was into
a steep, northern facing hillside, and we were lucky to find the
perfect spot right behind the Woodstock Elementary School," said
Finn McFarland, project co-chair.
The Woodstock Elementary School is part of the Vermont Farm to
School Program, which aims to integrate local foods into
cafeterias, classrooms and communities. The root cellar project
fits right in with these goals as the elementary school will be
able to store locally-grown produce throughout the winter months
just outside the cafeteria doors.
"We, at WES, look forward to the many learning opportunities the
root cellar will provide our students by teaching them how food can
be stored using the earth as refrigeration. The root cellar now
becomes an added component in teaching the full cycle of food in
our farm to school lessons!" said WES Healthy Foods Educator and
Provider Gretchen Czaja.
Permission and permitting to build behind the school at first
seemed daunting to the group. "When we heard about all the permits
we would have to get for this site, we questioned whether or not it
was really the best choice. We wanted to complete construction by
mid-fall in time for harvest," said Ramsey.
McFarland sketched the design and reviewed it with local
structural engineer, John Kamb, who donated his time and expertise.
"He helped us determine the necessary building specifications and
design to bear the weight of about three feet of soil that could
weigh a lot when it is wet," said McFarland. Additionally, several
of the building permits required his stamp of approval.
McFarland, Ramsey, and Change the World Kids food justice
committee members presented the project to the Woodstock Elementary
School Board, the Woodstock Design Review Board, and the Woodstock
Village Development Review Board. "We were pleasantly surprised at
how easy it was to obtain permission for our project," commented
McFarland. Once they received their final permit from the State of
Vermont, they were ready to build.
With permits in hand and the volunteer help of local builder
Erik Tobiason and excavator Craig Mosher, the Change the World Kids
broke ground in August. As feared, Mosher ran into solid rock ledge
just a few feet from completion. The teens teamed up to help remove
some ledge with drills, chisels and hammers. They helped to bend
rebar, shovel tons of gravel, build frames for concrete, and tamp
the gravel floor. They even created a bucket brigade to hoist over
100 buckets of concrete for the rooftop retaining wall.
With cold weather on the root cellar doorstep, they plan to have a
stocked and functioning building by the end of October. "Next year
we hope to dramatically increase our garden space to plant more
winter storage vegetables," said Ramsey. "But this year we are
seeking donations of produce to help fill the root cellar
Their shortages don't end with produce this year. The cost of
the concrete and rebar necessary for the project was more than they
planned. "We had to build this much stronger than we first
calculated last year when we started to raise funds," said
McFarland. The teens are now trying to raise more money to finish
"We have a motto at Change the World Kids that we really try to
live by," said Ramsey. "We like to say that, 'No one can do
everything, but everyone can do something,' and we feel this
project is just another way for us to do something for our
Change the World Kids is a teen-run, Vermont non-profit
organization dedicated to making positive change. The members work
for free, providing over 10,000 hours of volunteer work in their
communities annually, while tackling global humanitarian and
environmental issues as well. For more info visit