The 2020 season begins!

It may be raining and snowing, but the school farm season begins in January when the students return from winter break. Here are some of our January highlights, designed for low light and cold outside, and growing lights inside! Click on the photos to make them full size.

The second graders planted peas that will be put out in February. Planting on the edges of the clear repurposed plastic containers allows the students to see the roots growing. Betsy Hofius’s students are measuring their  growth.

All the students started paperwhites (narcissus) in their classrooms… another opportunity to watch roots and stems growing, and better understand what is happening with the daffodil and tulip bulbs that will shortly be sprouting out of the ground.

The weather has been nothing but atrocious with non-stop rain, but it’s always fun to see the farm covered in snow. The students covered our precious carrots with straw before the snow and freezing temperatures came.

After the snow week, we went out and chopped up and flipped over cover crops, both outdoors and in our smaller hoophouse. The cover crops, also known as green manures, decompose and increase the organic matter in 0ur soil. Go worms!

Speaking of worms, we are also feeding the kitchen food scraps to our worm bins, and cafeteria food scraps with trench composting! Go Green Team!

And, while we are waiting to be able to grow the peas outside, the 5th and 6th graders are growing pea shoots inside. A delicious green snack for winter!

 

Posted in Updates from the garden!

Fresh and healthy snacks at the Elementary School!

How wonderful to have overwintering carrots for the students to eat fresh from the farm during the winter months! We grow thousands of carrots for the students to eat during farm classes, at the school lunches and during culinary classes.

Now the carrots are also being enjoyed during in-class snacks! On Jan. 7th, Whidbey Island Nourishes launched a new program to bring fresh afternoon snacks to all K-4 students, twice a week. The first week featured school farm carrots and Washington State apples.

Carrots were harvested from the CAFE garden next to the Elementary School, and volunteers cleaned and cut into carrot sticks in the WIN kitchen. Snack bags were made for each class and delivered to a refrigerator at the school, easily accessible for teachers to pick up.

Second week of the snack program and now the carrots are being delivered in reusable containers.

Student feedback…they love it! So do teachers knowing their students are getting great brain and body food. Thank you WIN for providing nutritious snacks to 450 students in 21 classes! If you are interested in volunteering, please read more HERE.

Posted in Children in the garden, Healthy snacks, Whidbey Island Nourishes

Winter Work on the Farm

img_1824Happy winter from the School Farm! As the winter solstice draws near and the year comes to a close, we are reflecting back on all of the incredible work that we accomplished with our fabulous 650+ student farmers this past fall. We are amazed at all of the hard work that these farmers have put into this farm and are incredibly grateful for all they have done! From the very first week of farm classes they jumped right into work, and through their hard efforts we were able to mulch and plant cover crops in time for the cool weather, put the farm to bed for the winter, and even put on a wonderful and delicious Harvest Feast!

While we took care of the farm, our 5th and 6th grade students were also cooking up a storm in their culinary classes, making delicious treats like basil pesto and all of the pumpkin pies for our Harvest Feast. They even harvested our indigo and created some incredibly beautiful dyed fabrics during a lesson on traditional indigo dyeing. Are they rock star farmers and chefs or what?!

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Of course, it wouldn’t truly feel like fall here at the School Farm if we didn’t also take some time out to admire our impressive line of decomposing pumpkins and learn about the decomposition process in one of the coolest ways possible. Our students had lots of fun observing different types of mold on the pumpkins and trying to count the number of pumpkins we had lined up.

Even as we rest during the slower winter months, there is always work that needs to be done on the farm. This is an especially good time of year to tackle larger renovation projects and do some preparation for the next spring. One of the most exciting projects we have been working on is preparing a new fenceline bed on the east side of the farm, which will feature a beautiful mix of flowers and vegetables. This has involved lots of digging and trench composting, which will provide plenty of good nutrients for this new bed. Thankfully our 4th grade Green Team has been providing a steady stream of food scraps from the cafeteria to help feed our farm. We have some pretty enthusiastic diggers and bed builders!

In addition to trench composting and preparing new beds, we have also been harvesting our scarlet runner bean pods, which have been drying out in our greenhouse. And while we take care of business on the farm, the farm teachers have also been busy creating curriculum and planting plans to help guide our work next year.

We are truly grateful for all of the work we’ve accomplished, and look forward to a new year full of food and farming fun!

Posted in Updates from the garden!

Delicious and heart-filled 2019 Harvest Feast!

Over 650 students and their families enjoyed a delicious harvest feast this November 21st! Now in its fourth year, the School Farm offered kale salad, carrot sticks, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie made from produce grown and cooked by students. Recipes HERE! These offerings complemented the school lunch thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.

The day started out with 5th and 6th graders from Mr. LaVassar’s class setting out flower arrangements they had made and tableclothes.

During the event, a steady stream of student servers (72 in total!) from grades 3 – 6 came on 1/2 hour shifts, put on aprons and gloves, and served the food to students and their families.

Last but not least, the Green Team scraped the plates reducing the amount of food waste that went into the garbage.

From growing the food, to harvesting, cooking, serving, eating and composting, it was a completely wonderful Harvest Feast!

Posted in Updates from the garden!

The Great Pumpkin Pie Bake Off

As the 2019 Harvest Feast draws near, our student farmers here at South Whidbey have been putting on their chef hats and preparing some incredible dishes for this year’s feast! One of the tastiest treats we have made for the Harvest Feast is pumpkin pie, made with pumpkins that we grew at the farm.

A freshly picked sugar pie pumpkin

Our stellar fourth graders were in charge of harvesting all of our squash crop for the year. This included three varieties of pumpkins that were destined for pie (sugar pumpkin, winter luxury, and long pie) as well as other squash varieties like red kuri and pink banana. In the end, we had approximately 135 pounds of pumpkins to use for our pies!

Once our squash had been harvested and had some time to cure, the first task in our pumpkin pie preparations was to clean out the pumpkins and bake them. Fifth graders, sixth graders, and a PE farm team cleaned out our pumpkins and even separated out the seeds, which made a fantastic snack!

After the pumpkins were cleaned and roasted, it was time to start baking. The fifth and sixth graders learned how to make the pumpkin pie filling, gained practice in following a multi-step recipe, and learned about the process of scaling up a recipe to feed a large number of people. We scooped out and pureed the pumpkin, then whisked in eggs, milk, white and brown sugar, and spices. Students also made 20 pie crusts from scratch, with the rest needed for our pies from Whidbey Pies!

On our first day of baking we made 68 pies. Quite an accomplishment!

We are so excited to share these delicious pies with our students and their families at this year’s Harvest Feast on November 21st, from 10:30-1:30! We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Posted in Culinary, Harvest, Thanksgiving feast

Harvest Feast on Thursday, Nov. 21st!

Join us at the South Whidbey Elementary North Campus Cafeteria on Thursday, November 21st!

Fifth and sixth grade students in the school farm’s culinary program have prepared kale salad, mashed potatoes, fresh carrot sticks, and pumpkin pie featuring pie crust donated by Whidbey Pies. The offerings from the school farm are made from produce grown at the school farm by the students, and are free of charge. Recipes HERE.

img_1216The cafeteria will be offering turkey, gravy, dressing, green beans, cranberry sauce, fresh fruit and dinner rolls. Cost is $5.00 for adults and $3.25 for students and siblings 13 and under, to be paid at the event with cash or check.  

  • Kindergarten: 10:30 am
  • Third Grade & SWA K-6: 11:00 am
  • First Grade: 11:30 am 
  • Second Grade: 12:00 noon
  • Fourth Grade: 12:30 pm
  • Fifth and Sixth Grade: 1:00 pm

 

 

Posted in Culinary, Events, Harvest, Updates from the garden!

Returning Nutrients to the Soil through Mulch and Cover Crops

The frost came early this year! One night of freezing temperatures in mid-October turned the green leaves of the cucumbers, zucchini, mouse melons, and beans to black. Time for the students to pull out the dead vegetation, put it in the compost bins, and prepare the beds for winter! We were grateful for the bounty that all those veggies provided, and sad to see the end of the season.

As part of putting the farm to bed for the winter, we mulch and plant cover crops.

Students mulched the overwintering kale with grass clippings to prevent the germination of weed seeds, and fertilize the soil when the grass decomposes.

They also spread straw as a “winter blanket” to keep down weeds and prevent pounding winter rains from leaching nutrients from the soil.

In the terraced beds, fourth graders planted a mixture of rye, and the legumes vetch, field peas, red clover, and fava beans as cover crop, and then covered it with compost to help it germinate.

These cover crops prevent weed growth, and sequester nutrients. When the students turn them into the soil in January, the decomposing plants add organic matter to the soil, and nourish the soil food web. The legume cover crops have the bonus of adding nitrogen. Cover crops are called green manures for their effectiveness in adding fertility to the soil. They are a key component of sustainable agriculture that the students are experiencing first hand.

 

Second graders love using shovels! They chopped in a summer cover crop of buckwheat, so that all its phosphorus-rich organic matter will be available to the spring crops. They also then mulched these beds with straw.

The kindergartners also got in on the cover crop action. They planted field peas, with the bonus that they can eat the pea shoots grazed from the bed, blended into pesto, or chopped into a salad! Kindergarteners also made sure the cover crop seeds were well-watered.

Kindergartners sprinkled field peas as cover crops.

After sprinkling peas over the bed, kindergartners spread compost to cover the peas and provide nutrients to the soil and the cover crop.

Now the winter cycle of soil restoration and regeneration begins.

Posted in Updates from the garden!