The Farm and Teaching Team

We have a team of hard-working farmers and curriculum specialists teaching our K-12 School Farm program, and growing lots of food for the students to eat!

nadean-seeds1a_2919Nadean Curtiss
Curriculum coordinator

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.

Anne Petersen
Grades K- 2 garden curriculum specialist

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

7-8th grade Middle School Garden Science, MS Farm Team, and Farm Co-Manager

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.

 

Nicole Whittington-Johnson
Culinary Arts Specialist

My love for food started as a child. Maybe some of you can relate! I was born and raised in Arizona. A lot of our food was made from scratch, including tortillas made loving every morning by my mom. My sister and I had the pleasure of being her sous chefs. We started in the kitchen at a young age, helping with vegetable preparation for tacos, caldos, casseroles and whatever else my mom dreamt up to feed a family of six.

My love for food has grown over the years and has been expressed in many forms. I received a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition from Arizona State University. During this time I was able to volunteer with local soup kitchens, volunteer with community gardens, and work with the government subsidized program Women Infants and Children (WIC) educating mothers about nutrition. After graduating, I started working at one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Arizona. This is were my love for the culinary arts really started to flourish. I gained an extensive amount of knowledge about daily meal planning according to seasonality and sustainable farm practices. I found myself looking forward to the seasons and tasting the produce at it’s peak; grilled peaches with torn basil and fresh burrata in the summer, rutabaga mash and foraged mushrooms in the fall, roasted root vegetables and braised greens in the winter, sautéed asparagus with a softly poached farm egg in the spring. Now, I’m looking forward to being able to offer farm-to-school lunches in the very new future!

I’ve had quite the food related journey to get here (including pitstops in New York, Guatemala, Peru and San Francisco), and I’m so excited that I have landed in Whidbey! My dream is to spark excitement within the students and hopefully improve students’ food choices, while connecting them to the land, the environment, and giving them the lifetime skill set of being able to nourish themselves and others.

cary peterson photoCary Peterson
Program Coordinator

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.

Apprentices:

Kathryn Ruesch

I was definitely your classic “picky eater” growing up. Born and raised in the suburbs outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin my exposure to farming was pretty limited to the occasional long drives up north, passing the many dairy farms. In highschool my mom and I started a tiny garden in our backyard but my love and passion for food didn’t truly set in until college in Duluth, Minnesota where I studied Anthropology and Sustainability. My interests and taste buds grew exponentially! I began to enjoy cooking and sought out the connections between the food I was eating and the communities and environment I was a part of.

My senior year of college, I worked at an aquaponic greenhouse in Silver Bay, MN. The greenhouse was situated right on Lake Superior and even in the bitter, cold Minnesota winter our plants were flourishing and thriving. This same winter I traveled to Costa Rica with a group of students from the Anthropology department. Together, we lived in and engaged with a cooperative community focused on environmental sustainability through gardening and conscious ecological decision making. All of these experiences furthered my interests in food systems and sustainability.

Since graduating from college, I have been on the move quite a bit. I lived in Colorado where I worked for an organic food company and also at a restaurant that strived to provide healthy, affordable food to the average consumer. Both of these jobs provided me with excellent experience but I knew I wanted to dive deeper and work with food from beginning to end. I traveled through South America for almost 9 months and road tripped around the US before finding myself in Washington. I spent 6 months on Harstine Island, nannying and enjoying the glorious Pacific Northwest before finding this dream opportunity on South Whidbey.

I am incredibly excited to further my knowledge and work with students in the school farms in hopes of spreading my own passions for food and the outdoors onto the next generations!!

~~~Kathryn


Tran Hoang

I grew up on a chicken farm on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Interestingly enough, my curiosity in farming piqued while I was living in New York City, where I volunteered at farmers markets to escape my day job as an IT consultant. In a city where most folks don’t know their neighbor, I felt a strange sense of community. I loved connecting with my neighbors to promote local food. Since then I actively sought out opportunities to learn more about food.

I quit my first job after 3.5 years and moved to Portland, OR where I pursued a Masters of Science in Nutrition. The program exposed me to many teachings and beliefs around food, creating inside me a voracious appetite of curiosity for learning.

Post grad school, I worked as a nutritionist at a reputable grocery store in Seattle. It was what I considered a “dream job.” I had the opportunity to help others as well as eat really good food with great people. I continued to connect with my community, but my connection with food was stagnating. This itch to learn more was all too familiar. I realized I wanted to experience all aspects of the life cycle of food, especially growing food, which brought me to Whidbey Island.

As a school farm apprentice, I’ll have the opportunity to deepen my understanding of food, as well as my relationship with food. I’m thrilled to be part of the South Whidbey School Farms program this year and can’t wait to share my joy of food with the community!

~~~Tran

For our past School Farm apprentices click HERE

 

Past contributors:

Jude Bierman
Innovator and visionary, Dream Team and teacher

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.