Now Hiring 2018 School Farm Apprentices!

Logo SW School Farm_blackWe are hiring School Farm Apprentices for the 2018 season!

Click HERE for the job description.

Posted in Grow Whidbey apprentices

A very tasty Taste Washington Day!

Lots of delicious food on Taste Washington Day at the South Whidbey Middle School! Students in Susan Milan’s Health and Wellness Elective prepared tasty dishes from produce grown in the School Farm and High School Garden, and served it to their fellow classmates on Thursday, Oct. 12th, during the lunch period. There were a lot of enthusiastic eaters!

The sampling was available to all students free of charge, and included marinated beans, pasta with sungold tomato sauce, kale chips, homemade potato chips, zucchini tater tots, zucchini bread and carrot cake. All made by 7th and 8th graders from organic fresh-picked school produce — 74 pounds of tomatoes, potatoes, kale, zucchini, carrots, green beans, basil, onions, arugula, basil, spinach, cucumbers, peppers and garlic!

Nicole Whittington, culinary teacher, and the Heath and Wellness culinary classes also made pestos from basil, kale, spinach and arugula which were eagerly sampled with crudites.

Here’s a slideshow of the feast.

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The cafeteria was festooned with posters drawn by the students in Susan Milan’s and Lisa Davis’ classes celebrating local produce and healthy eating.

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In just a half hour lunch period, over 200 servings had been dished out and the table was bare. Lots of great eating, happy cooks, delighted farmers and well-fed students!

On Thursday, Oct. 4th, the cafeteria celebrated Taste Washington Day with school-grown produce. Read their report about it HERE. Since the School Farms deliver in season to the cafeterias, every day is Taste Washington Day for our school lunches.

Posted in Events, Taste Washington Day

Autumn Highlights at the School Farm

It’s been a wonderfuly busy and exciting opening to the new school year with all classes from kindergarten to grade six coming to the School Farm. Each class has walked into the garden with great enthusiasm for all the changes they can see in the garden since they left in June, and of course, for all the fresh garden nibbles available. Many feet have quickly taken off to explore the scarlet runner bean teepees!  Two tall green teepees with room to sit and eat a fresh garden nibble with a friend or open a bean pod and find magic black and purple beans inside.

Grade one students have been noticing which part of the plants they eat: roots, stems, flowers, seeds.  We’ve walked through the garden and collected a rainbow array of plants to eat and then noticed which part we’re eating. Rainbow colors, and delicious crunching were the order of the day. The carrot beds are also ready and waiting for the children to pull fresh orange goodness out of the ground to munch, which they happily do.

The cove beds are being tended by our grade two students again this year.  The buckwheat cover crop planted in June has matured and grown into a thick crop that will decompose over the winter and build the soil for planting in the spring.  The students have been working on chopping up the buckwheat and turning it into the cove beds.

All classes have taken part in remembering the season in the garden by noticing what the plants are busy doing, particularly the flowers.  Grades one, two and three have walked around the garden noticing all the flowers still in bloom.  They’ve had the chance to draw their favorites and then use the flower petals to color in their drawings.  Happy exclamations and some very fun drawings were taken home by the students.

 

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Taking a close look at flowers, finding seeds.

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Sorting seeds found in the garden.

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A variety of plants are producing seeds now and the students have taken the opportunity to explore the garden in search of seeds hiding in the dead looking flowers. They were successful in their search and many patient minutes were spent examining the seeds with magnifying glasses and then sorting and saving the seeds. Look for student designed seed packets to come home soon.

Studying plant reproduction is a topic that fits nicely into the autumn garden landscape, along with seed collecting, and grades five and six students had the opportunity to dissect flowers and draw and label all the parts.

Grade three students have completed the cycle of growing and harvesting by finally opening the dry beans they planed last spring.  They tirelessly opened and sorted the Rockwell and Orca beans into big bowls.

Grade 5 and 6 science classes have used the garden as their science laboratory this fall.  They’ve done experiments in Buoyancy to find out if weight affects buoyancy.  Some of their findings were surprising, and everyone seemed to enjoy the process of finding out which vegetable would float and thinking about why a 1 ounce cherry tomatoes sinks while a 8 pound pumpkin floats!

There is no shortage of things to do in the garden. One student exclaimed, ‘This is my dream place!’ That’s a vote of confidence that tells us the students feel like the garden is theirs and they’re right.  Plenty to do and plenty to eat, what could be better?

Posted in Updates from the garden!

Summer work for fall harvest at the School Farm

We’ve been working hard this summer so that the farm will be bursting with veggies for the children when they return to school. We need to grow enough not only deliver to the school cafeterias, but also for garden nibbles for the students to pick fresh during their classes. There are over 1000 student visits/month with grades K-6!  Plus we are delivering to the culinary classes, and donating to Whidbey Island Nourishes. This summer we also grew in two new gardens – the High School Garden and the Snack Garden at the Elementary School, as well as continued growing in the Langley Middle School Garden.

When the students return they will be eating tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, kale, spinach, carrots, bok choi, beans, turnips, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, basil, zucchini, winter squash, potatoes, ground cherries, popcorn, field pea shoots and beets.

Planting… After school gets out and the spring crops are done, we flip the garden beds to fall crops. Thanks to a generous donation from Johnny’s Seeds we now have a Jang seeder which helped the planting go faster!

Harvesting…

and eating!

 

Work parties…

Our ace youth gardeners from the weekly Tuesday morning work party cleared out this bed in seven minutes!

Families from Calvary Church came to the farm twice over the summer to help. First to pull out the salad bar garden, and then to pull out peas and kale.

And students in Michael Ferber’s International Development and Sustainability class at Au Sable weeded the Second Grade native fence line as well as many other beds.

Last but not least, we watched the scarlet runner bean teepee grow, and grow, and grow…

The garden is ready for school to begin and the children to start learning and eating. Much appreciation to all who helped this summer!

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Posted in Updates from the garden!

High School Garden Ready For Fall

From this…

to this!

As the doors of South Whidbey High School get ready to open again this fall, the gates of the new garden out front are opening as well. This spring and summer season has been exciting at the school farms; our veggies are thriving at the newly installed SWHS garden.

  

In early March, High School principal John Patton offered up the front lawn as a potential garden space. After taking soil tests and designing the layout of the garden space we got to work cultivating the 10,000 sq. ft. plot. Twenty yards of cow manure from Whidbey Topsoil were spread over the area to be tilled. Then Chris Korrow came with his Italian shovel spader on his tractor to till up the beds.

Ground was tilled a second time just in time for the high school students to come out for Earth Day. They helped us prepare the beds for planting and were led by an amazing group of volunteers from the National Civilian Community Corps. We so appreciated all their hard work, even in the rain! Click HERE for a slideshow of the Earth Day work party and preparations.

Raelani, Scott and Ryan put up the fence

Cedar Grove, compost from Seattle yard and food waste, donated compost to our program to help transform the lawn into a vegetable garden.

Whidbey Island Garden Tour granted us $5185 from this year’s tour proceeds to purchase seeds, amendments, fencing and irrigation supplies.

With help from Scott from our dream team, the masterminds of our infrastructure at the school gardens, we put up the fence and installed gates.

Students helped us plant peas, lettuce, flowers and built compost bins before they went on summer break. University of Washington students came out with local farmer Beth Wheat to build terraces on our sloped land, plant scarlet runner beans and put in gates.

Our staff and volunteers kept the momentum moving throughout the summer. At weekly Thursday work parties the garden beds were planted out with summer and fall veggies, dye flowers, herbs and pollinator attractants. This summer we have grown lettuce, tomatoes, summer squash, green beans, potatoes, basil, cilantro, cucumbers and kale.

Our harvest has been donated to volunteers, school district staff and Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN). This fall we look forward to growing for the students at the high school and SNACC, our culinary arts program. Soon to be ready are pole beans, popcorn, radishes, turnips, chicory, carrots, beets and spinach.

The garden has been established because of community support and enthusiasm, with so many generous donations.

Pacific Utility, Whidbey Telecom’s contractor for the Big Gig installations, donated the work of installing the underground water lines. They used their equipment to install pipe to run water from the school out to the garden. This was no small feat. Click HERE to see how they did it. We are grateful for their hard work and persistence working with our hard pan soil and boring a hole under the road.

Worm compost is one of our favorite and more important soil amendments. Bugabay generously donated one of their in-ground worm bins to the garden. This bin will allow us to divert food waste from the cafeteria and turn it into organic matter for our soil. Johnny’s Selected Seeds granted our request for a Jang seeder. This tool lets us seed plants like carrots, beets, spinach, greens and radishes in a quick and efficient manner. It will also give the students an opportunity to experiment with a useful small scale farm tool.

We owe so many thank you’s to everyone who has helped create the high school garden! There are so many exciting things to come as the students return and their energy and ideas continue to shape their school and their garden. Stay tuned for future happenings!

Posted in High School Garden, Updates from the garden!

Thank you Pacific Utility!

Looks like a simple hose bib to water the garden? Maybe so – but it took the hefty machinery above to make it happen! We now have water to the High School Garden thanks to a very generous donation from Pacific Utility to install water lines in the garden… including boring underneath the bus service road.

Pacific Utility is the subcontractor Whidbey Telecom works with to lay all the underground infrastructure for the Big Gig. They came with different kinds of machinery that bored tunnels in the ground to install the water pipes. The north/south line was made with a device that rammed its way through the earth… very slowly in the hard ground!

 

To install the long east/west line, a sophisticated underground boring machine drilled a tunnel 290 feet long through the garden and under the road!

The first machine that attempted to bore through the hard soil of the garden couldn’t do it. We were left in awe of how beautifully the garden was growing on tough Whidbey hardpan!

 

And mightily impressed with the perseverance and generosity of Pacific Utility who were undaunted and returned with a monster machine from Tacoma.

Notice the boring drill going into the earth, and the lengths of pipe that are attached as it makes its way through the ground.

Jesse directed the path of the drill and gave instructions to the machine operator as to which way to lead the drill up or down, left or right.

Listen to the sound of the drill as it bores a tunnel 3 feet under the ground!

To cross the road, the drill needed to follow the slope of the garden down to the road, dive down to about five feet under the road and then resurface on the other side.

Watch it pop out of the ground here.

Black poly pipe was connected to the underground pipe and then pulled back through the length of the garden.

Watch the black poly pipe get pulled back.

Here it is on the other end with the drilling machine.

That was exciting! The next day, the crew dug a long trench right along side the building, and tunneled under a sidewalk to connect with the water source.

Then the lines could be hooked up… and the hose bib installed!

It was a big job and tremendous effort with some really hard soil, but Pacific Utility prevailed, and the High School Garden now has water! There will be four hose bibs in the different sections of the garden. Thank you so much Pacific Utility for generously donating so much time and equipment, and to the crews who worked so hard to make it happen!

The first crew.

We now have water flowing from our hose bibs!

Posted in High School Garden, Updates from the garden!

Summer Goodbyes

On June 16th as the school farm team watched the big yellow busses pull away from the Elementary school,  we felt a wave of sadness at the temporary loss of our hungry enthusiastic students.

The fresh salad served at the Orcas Picnic on June 8th marked the end of our garden events for the year. Fifth grade students harvested and prepared a delicious salad from the garden that included lettuce, peas, carrots, onions, radishes and a variety of edible flowers. Third graders made Kale and Spinach pesto to dress the salad. Happy smiles were observed as bowls of the fresh, student grown and prepared salad were eaten along with the barbecue’d hot dogs and baked goods at the picnic.

All classes made their final visits to the garden and had their final garden nibble of the 2016-17 school year.  Second grade students took time to reflect on their year in the garden and think about how we have worked to build our garden soil throughout the  season.  They all showed their understanding by creating a picture and sharing it with each other and their teachers. Clearly everyone understood that mulching, cover cropping and decomposition are part of soil building. It’s also easy to see that carrots are a favorite garden nibble!

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First grade students said goodbye to the garden by noticing the cycle of change in our much loved kale plants.  We pulled out the kale, observed and drew the shrinking leaves and expanding seed pods forming as the plants go from flower to seed.  We met in our garden circle one last time and enjoyed some fresh carrots and peas while we remembered and shared our favorite moments in the garden.

The third, fourth and fifth grade students had time to come to the garden in May and June on an irregular schedule due to testing and end of year activities.  However, it was fun to see the wide eyed fourth graders as they checked on the peas they’d planted. All of their designing and building of the trellis’s rewarded them with yummy green treats to eat within easy reach.  All classes sat in the garden circle one last time and shared their favorite garden memories. Carrots always come into the conversation, along with Kale  and anything having to do with eating fresh picked produce from the garden.

The garden is quiet now, the school farm team is rotating crops and putting in tomato and cucumber plants along with rows of carrots and lettuce for the fall harvest.  The abundant snow and sugar snap peas are ripe for the picking and between the farm team, and summer visitors we’ve harvested many pounds the of these delicious treats.  The beans are rapidly growing vines that will soon create a beautiful green shelter for the returning students in September.

We host the community and welcome families on Tuesday mornings at the School Farm from 9:00-12:00 for work party and a community lunch in the garden. Please join us!

Posted in Updates from the garden!