Growing up on Beacon Hill in Seattle was a good foundation for learning to love gardening. We played outside everyday in the summer feasting on fresh raspberries, apples and pears from the neighbors yards. Even more fundamental was the ancestral knowledge that was passed down from my grandmother. She gardened every day bringing what she’d grown or preserved to the table for her family. Hers was a rough life that demanded she work the soil so that her family could grow. All that work turned into love for coaxing food and flowers from the earth and transforming them into the most delicious meals. I remember her kitchen as full of the of garden produce, fresh milk and cream, and wonderful smells and tastes. It was an everyday magic that fascinated me and kept me experimenting with gardens and growing for most of my life.
After living abroad in Turkey and China for the past 16 years, I’ve returned home to Whidbey Island. It’s a blessed place we inhabit here and I feel lucky to have landed back in such a clean beautiful environment after years of fighting pollution and watching over development take it’s toll. China is a country of gardeners. Seems like every small plot of land, including little patches near the sidewalks are cultivated for growing vegetables. While teaching at Nanjing International School I started an after school garden club that was affiliated with Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program. We cultivated our little plot on the school grounds and grew enough vegetables to sell in order to raise funds for environmental causes funded by Roots and Shoots. After several years we joined forces with the upper school and moved our garden plot to a larger section of land on the school grounds and called ourselves ‘The Green Team’. The school where I taught grades two through five during my 8 years in Nanjing is an International Baccalaureate school and a critical component of the curriculum is to understand the world we live in and take action as a global citizen to make it a better place.
Nearly 30 years of teaching on three different continents has taught me that I really won’t have enough time to learn as much as I’d like to. Like my grandmother, I started out scrambling to survive and make my way. At some point what I was trying so hard to accomplish changed into a fascination and excitement that sometimes exhausted me, but never left me bored. My degrees received in Special Education, Education and English Language, seem minor compared to the years of work with children from all over the world. Nothing is more rewarding than facilitating curiosity and watching those sparks catch fire. I am lucky to be back on Whidbey in the growing community garden at the Elementary School coaxing food from the soil, transforming time into learning experiences for students and continuing the legacy that acts as a catalyst for a healthy world.
I have come to know first-hand children have an instinctual sense of place in nature that comes forward given the opportunity to be in it. They also have a great capacity to care and nurture living creatures and plants. On completion of my Master Degree in Education, I spent a few months riding my bike around New Zealand participating in Willing Workers on Organic Farms. This experience opened my eyes to a lifestyle I wanted to create. Growing my own food, connecting with nature daily and using my education degree to involve children in this passion. I have taught environmental education and organic farming in California, Colorado and Washington. After four years as a children’s garden coordinator for Seattle Tilth where I wrote and implemented a “Teach Peace though Gardening” curriculum, involving homeless youth, I brought my education experience to Whidbey Island. For the past twenty years, I have cultivated Full Moon Rising Farm and Wilderness, a summer day camp program here on Whidbey Island that incorporates, gardening, farm animals, art, story and wilderness skills. Every summer I am reminded how outdoor experiences enhance children’s connection to themselves, wake-up their senses, builds self reliance, and self confidence. I am excited and delighted to continue this discovery throughout the school year with children here at the South Whidbey School Farm.
Outside the school garden, you can find me evolving my new Therapeutic Yoga and Massage practice at “Unwinding Path Bodyworks” on my farm in Freeland. I am also the happy Mom of Sage Mauk, BHS graduate of 2014 and Sawyer Mauk a tenth grader at BHS.
Seth Raabe grew up on South Whidbey, graduating SWHS in 2000. He received his bachelors degree in Ecological Agriculture from Evergreen State College in Olympia, studying abroad in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Hawaii. He lived and farmed on Maui from 2002-2017 and recently moved back with his wife Kaua and 2 year old son Ezri. In addition to his work with the School Farm program, Seth also teaches the High School Agriculture class.
I am inspired by the enthusiasm of children for fresh food, for working on the farm, and for learning about the world around them.
I am passionate about doing what I can to make a positive difference in the world — caring for the soil (and each other), planting and tending the seeds, nourishing and cultivating our community, and continuing to learn and grow every day.
I’ve been on South Whidbey since 1989 when I first came to the Whidbey Institute Westgarden and started learning gardening there. Many years of gaining experience on the land and in the community followed. I realized that caring for land, growing food, and sharing it, are keys to the vibrant community we have here on South Whidbey.
The contributions that Jude Bierman made to the School Farm program have been extraordinary. Her robust confidence in the children to take on big projects, and in the farm team and the community to help make them happen, was boundless. Because of Jude’s vision and determination, the School Farm program includes a culinary program, the Thanksgiving Farm Feast, and Earth Day events. as well as a inquiry based K-6 farm-based education program. As a teacher with decades of experience, Jude helped craft the farm-based curriculum to integrate it through the grades and was a tireless and in depth consultant to the teaching team.
Jude’s practical and organizational skills created the Dream Team of volunteers that built the hoophouse, the harvest shed, and many other infrastructure improvements, including a clever handwashing station that accommodates 7 children at once.
Jude’s immense contributions to the program continue to grow and expand, bringing learning, joy and nourishment to the children she is devoted to.