5th Grade Pass the Plate Event!

At the start of January, the 5th graders began planning and preparing for their yearly Pass the Plate event that happened during the week of February 6th. In preparation, they made four different dishes from all around the world using their culinary skills and incorporating farm produce. They spent weeks creating decorations, cooking their dishes, making breads, and researching their respective regions of the world.

The fifth graders signed up for slots throughout the week to serve all the younger farm classes. The younger kids got to try each dish if they wanted to (and most of them did!) and received a passport to be stamped as they traveled from country to country.

They served over 350 students over the course of the week. The younger kids had a blast trying so many good foods and the fifth graders really stepped up to be great servers and leaders! We can’t wait to do this again next year!

Here are the four dishes listed and linked to recipes below:

Kiveve – a pumpkin cornmeal savory porridge from Paraguay using farm pumpkin

Githeri – a bean, tomato, corn, onion and garlic stew from Kenya using farm beans, tomatoes, and garlic

Saag Aloo – a seasoned roasted potatoes with onions and farm garlic and lots of spices from North India

Hummus and Pita – chickpea, lemon, garlic, tahini dip from the Middle East using farm garlic

Aodhan (5th) teaching some 3rd graders a game that he created for this event!
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Merlin on the farm!

No, it’s not the wizard of legend, it’s the small but fierce falcon of the same name! I came by the farm on Saturday to catch up on some things and water some other things, and lucked into the best sighting I’ve ever had of this bird. Usually I catch a quick glimpse of them as they speed by, or catch them winging away after an explosion of birds (and maybe feathers) in the aftermath of an attack. Merlins primarily prey on other birds so they need to be swift and nimble in the air. This one hung out on a few fenceposts and tree-tops before flying away. Merlins can be found year-round in these parts. This is not the best picture – I took it through my binoculars with my phone camera! -Farmer Brian

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Spring is coming!

We are looking forward to jumping into Spring on the farm! What an exciting time of year, so much fun farm work and yummy food (and hopefully beautiful weather) coming our way.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service

This year our Farm Team partnered with Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN) to host a MLK service day opportunity for our K- 6 classes. We took advantage of our culinary space to prepare over 300 cookies to donate to WIN, which would then be distributed as part of their weekend meal program. We chose to make a cranberry oatmeal cookie as a healthier option, but still delicious! 

We had our 5th and 6th graders practice the cookie recipe and try out our stand mixers so they were prepared to teach the younger students on the service day.

On the day of service we welcomed a 3rd and 4th grade class, and with some coaching from our older students we made over 10 batches of cookies. 

We also had visitors from The South Whidbey Record who published an article highlighting the school’s service projects for MLK day.

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Living ‘Fermented’ Fertilizer!!

Living ‘Fermented’ Fertilizer!!

On our first week back from Winter break, the High School Agriculture class had a special activity where we made a large batch of ‘fermented’ fertilizer for use in our school gardens. 

What is ‘fermented’ fertilizer? Well, it’s a batch of fertilizer that we can use in our garden beds to add organic matter, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other important nutrients and trace elements to our soil. In this case, however, it is made in such a way as to encourage IMOs – indigenous microorganisms – in the fertilizer and in the garden beds that we add the fertilizer to. 

In a natural ecosystem many of the nutrients that plants need are taken up through the activity of microorganisms in the soil and through fungal activity. High School Ag teacher Seth Raabe learned this recipe during his time farming in Hawaii, and it comes from an approach to growing called Korean Natural Farming. 

In addition to typical fertilizer ingredients such as feather meal, calcium carbonate and bonemeal, this recipe includes a source of carbohydrates – in this case mill run, a byproduct of grain processing – and a ‘starter’ culture (just like sourdough!), here taken from a previous batch of fertilizer and full of good, living IMOs ready to take off in the right environment. 

All the ingredients were laid out on the concrete floor of the Ag classroom, mixed thoroughly and properly moistened, and then laid out in a long row directly on one of our garden beds in a high tunnel. In two days, you could easily see that it was taking off and the fertilizer was starting to ‘ferment’! White fungal hyphae began to spread through the pile, it began to heat up and take on a distinctive aroma from all the microbial activity. To my sniffers, something like an overripe soft cheese.

The process moves very swiftly, and within a couple weeks the pile had cooled down, but still jam-packed with nutrients and IMOs ready to get into gear again when we start adding it to our garden beds this Spring. We are all very excited to see how it helps our plants grow!

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Harvest Feast

Over the past 2 months, the 5th and 6th grade farm classes have been preparing a Harvest Feast that was sent home to their families on November 17th. We spent weeks preparing pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, and kale salad in their culinary class.

All the produce was grown and harvested by the students from the school garden. The students did a beautiful job preparing all of this food, with the amazing help of Whidbey Island Nourishes. The Feast ended up feeding 150 students and family members!

In addition to the Harvest Feast, we have cooked many other farm-fresh foods like tomato sauce, pesto, corn tortillas, zucchini fritters, and pasta.

Culinary skills are very important for the fifth and sixth graders to learn, they are learning how to safely use kitchen knives, properly mix and whisk ingredients, follow recipes, and use different kitchen utensils. The Farmers and 5th and 6th graders have many more culinary plans for the year, so be sure to come back and see what other tasty treats they’ve made in a month or so!

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October Cider Pressing!

This October we celebrated our fall harvest with our K through 6 students. They helped the farm team press over 100lbs of local apples into delicious cider!

To begin, students each picked an apple to wash and check for any blemishes.

Next we used our grinder to break down the apples into a pulp. Students took turns putting their apples into the grinder and using the hand-powered crank which sent the mashed apples into the bucket below.

Students put the crushed apples into a mesh bag which sat in the bottom of the press basket. They then worked together to turn the handle which brought down the pressing disc and sent the cider out the spout at the bottom.

All the students were excited to end the class period with a warm cup of apple cider!

Kindergarteners enjoying hot cider with Principal Richards!

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Frosty Flowers

The summer weather stayed with us for an unusually long time this fall, allowing our many plantings of beautiful flowers to stay bright and cheerful for us right up until the middle of November. Usually most of them would have faded away before then. The cold weather and frost eventually came, of course, as they do, but the transition gave us some stunning patterns of ice on the flowers that remained and a new sense of color through the frost. Enjoy these pictures!

Farmer Brian

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Farm Team 2022-2023

This new school year welcomes new members of the Farm Team! Brian Kenney is the new School Farm Manager, and we welcome Circe Skaife and Grace Adam as our two AmeriCorps service members.

Together with Jay Freundlich, Garden Science Specialist K-6 and Seth Raabe, HS Agriculture CTE teacher, the Farm Team teaches over 600 students/week and grows the produce the students love to eat, as well as distributing it to the cafeteria, WIN snack program, and culinary program.

Read more about our team HERE!

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Natural dyeing with Japanese indigo!

The fifth and sixth graders learned about botanical dyeing using Persicaria tinctoria, Japanese indigo. We grow Japanese indigo at the school farm just for this lesson which brings chemistry, textiles and plants all together in a beautiful way (literally!).

For this water-based process, the students harvested the indigo, stripped the leaves, and then dyed silk fabric in a smoothie of blended indigo leaves. Blending the leaves breaks open the cell walls, mixing the indican molecule with enzymes to form indoxyl, which then combines with oxygen (oxidizes) and turns fabric (and hands and fingernails!) blue. This year most of the fabric turned dark green. A mystery to solve!

The students all drew the indigo and studied its structure, and then carefully harvested it.

The leaves were stripped from the stems, and a small army of blenders macerated the leaves into frothy indigo smoothies.

The students put their silk fabric, previously made into creative tie-die patterns with rubber bands and clamps, into the dye liquid. (Silk is used because the water-based method requires a protein-based fabric.)

Fun to get your hands blue and watch the silk turn to … well this year not a rich blue but a rich green! Perhaps not enough indican in the cells after this long drought?

After at least 20 – 30 minutes in the bath, all the bands were taken off and the silk rinsed in cold water,

So many beautiful patterns!

A big thank you to Elin Noble, local fabric artist, for leading the class, with the help of volunteers Lasse Antonsen and Patti King, and our two new AmeriCorps service members, Circe Skaife and Grace Adam. Thank you also to Cheryl Lawrence for the silk fabric, the indigo seeds, and the original inspiration for these classes!

For our video on the indigo dyeing process, click HERE.

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