2017 Season Overview
The School Farm and Garden program reached a new and exciting level of engagement and integration in the lives of the children, teachers and staff returning to school this fall. With the School Farm bursting with veggies and learning opportunities, and the new High School Garden offering possibilities and eating that hadn’t existed before, the collective delight and appreciation was tremendously rewarding and validating.
Looking back at 2017, we realize the expansion of our program is not just providing food and education, but much more. We’ve created a learning lab for students K-12 that connects students to the fundamentals of a healthy environment and a place of relaxation and joy. Watching grade one students searching in the soil for the longest root they can find and seeing their fascination with the worms and bugs therein, or grade five students testing garden vegetables for connections between weight and buoyancy and seeing their surprise at a floating pumpkin and a sinking cherry tomato, encourages us to continue creating experiences for children and young adults that will they will remember for years to come. Or seeing a child having a tough day feel happy that he can show the school counselor where the ground cherries are, and how to pick them. Everyone finds their place in the garden, it’s a unifying force that encourages exploration, learning, and community.
The new garden in front of the High School has transformed the entrance to the High School by creating a “living classroom” that not only nourishes many students, but has also been utilized by teachers at many different grade levels and subjects for their classes. The benefits of a growing space filled with life, color and beauty inspires happiness that goes beyond just production and learning. Our great appreciation to Pacific Utilities (through Whidbey Telecom) who installed the water system – a major undertaking of drilling underground with sophisticated equipment. Whidbey Island Garden Tour also contributed grant funding to help with the water infrastructure and fencing for the High School.
With support from a grant from kidsgardening.org, a new garden- the Snack Garden– was launched adjacent to the kindergarten wing of the Elementary School. This garden grows easily snacked upon vegetables for the students to enjoy during recess, and also take back to their classrooms, and families. It was a huge hit with the children coming in big waves to pick carrots, peas, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and their favorite… french sorrel.
At the High School, Seth Raabe is the new High School Agriculture teacher and also teaches 7th grade science classes in the garden, and a daily Middle School Farm Team for grades 7/8. At the Elementary School and South Campus, all children grades K-6 come to the School Farm weekly (K-2 taught by Anne Petersen) or biweekly (grades 3 – 6 taught by Nadean Curtiss.) There is a daily Farm Team for grades 5/6 led by Cary Peterson.
The SNACC (Student Nutrition and Culinary Community) culinary program under the leadership of Nicole Whittington is going strong with biweekly classes for grades 3 – 6 (alternating with their garden week). Culinary is also taught biweekly in the Health and Wellness elective for grades 7/8. The two Health and Wellness classes took the lead on a very successful Taste Washington Day. We are truly cultivating a new generation of enthusiastic and sophisticated growers and eaters.
You can read more about our terrific farm team HERE.
The School Farm program continues to be a primary provider to Chartwells of fresh vegetables for the school cafeterias during our growing season. We have started a freezing program for summer harvest, with the long-term goal of year-round deliveries. The green beans being served by the cafeteria at Thanksgiving were especially grown and frozen for the event.
By far the biggest consumers of our school farm grown produce are the students during their farm-based classes. Garden nibbles, and “garden tacos”, are hugely popular, with the students enthusiastically picking their own fresh veggies at the end of each classes. With over 2500 student visits per month to all the gardens, that’s a lot of eating! Our vegetables are also delivered to Whidbey Island Nourishes and Good Cheer, as well as to school events and functions, teachers and staff.
In addition to the farm production and classes, there are events throughout the year. In October, 7th and 8th graders organize the Taste Washington Day event celebrating local and school grown produce. In November, the Thanksgiving Harvest Feast is organized in collaboration with the cafeteria. The School Farm provides, at no cost to all students and families, mashed potatoes, kale salad, roasted squash, carrot sticks and pumpkin pie. The students plant, tend and harvest the produce, and then help to prepare and serve it. In April, Earth Day is a day-long event at the School Farm with lots of eating and informative and fun mini-workshops with the children. In June, the Orca Picnic at the Elementary School marks the end of the school year. The School Farm augments the traditional hotdog and chips with a healthy garden salad, dressed by pea shoot pesto, all ingredients grown and prepared by the students.
Our partnership with Good Cheer is strong, and the Big Acre grows vegetables for the school cafeteria. The Grow Whidbey program, which trains apprentices in school farm and food bank community-based agriculture and education, has three graduates this year, two of them in the School Farm program, Mike Ferncase and Ryan Viscito. Both were important members of the farm team helping with production and curriculum. Next year the Grow Whidbey partnership will include South Whidbey Tilth as well as Good Cheer and the School Farm program.
We so appreciate all the invaluable fundraising that Goosefoot did on behalf of the program in the past three years, and the very generous match of the Goose! And we are deeply grateful for the ongoing support of $50,000 for the next two years. This is an essential bridge as we work towards being assimilated into the school district’s funding.
In 2017-2018 the budget for the school farm program is $165K, and is funded by the School District ($50K), Goosefoot ($50K), and community fundraising for $65K. Fundraising is ongoing and donations can be made HERE.
We hope that Goosefoot, the Goose Grocer and all the contributors and people who have nourished the program along through the years can feel the uplifting and happy energy that beams from the children who are the seeds of the future. We are changing lives.