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
SNACC (Student Nutrition and Culinary Community) Coordinator

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.


Mike Ferncase

“I grew up in Encinitas, CA known mainly for it’s surf, and producing most of the Poinsettia’s for the U.S. Despite the large number of farms and other agricultural facilities I never really considered farming a viable career path. It wasn’t until I got out of the Army last May that my eyes were opened.

I’ve always had a passion for working with children, but it wasn’t until working on my first farm that I discovered which direction I wanted to take that passion. I joined the Army as a medic so I could learn to help people. After training I was assigned to pediatrics, where I worked for two years. Upon leaving the Army I was afforded the opportunity to work on a non-profit organic farm. This experience drastically changed my ideas about how I could make the greatest impact on my community. I had many duties while working at that farm, but the one that gave me the greatest sense of fulfillment was working with the underprivileged children that lived in the transitional housing the farm funded. Teaching local kids about the food they ate while helping them to develop a sense of understanding and respect for their environment was immensely gratifying. After that experience I needed more so I set out for SE Asia where I worked in several different farm-like environments over the span of about seven months.

I take immense pleasure in working on the land, and these experiences over the last year have only forged a stronger passion for environmental science and education which I plan on returning to school for once this apprenticeship is over. I believe working in medicine, and on farms has instilled a unique perspective for me. It’s quickly become apparent that farming is very much like medicine. Just as medicine uses science to help the patient, there is a science to cultivating healthy crops, and just as medicine requires a strong bedside manner, farming requires a thoughtful and compassionate nature to produce the desired products. This apprenticeship has only reinforced this belief, and I’m so grateful that I’m able to impart this knowledge and understanding to the next generation on a daily basis. Teaching children about the earth has been the most incredible, transforming experience in my life so far, and I can’t wait to continue that journey here in this amazing community.


Ryan Viscito

I grew up associating agriculture with vast corn fields, crowded cows, the pungent smell of commercial mushroom production, and the horse-powered farms of the Amish. I spent most of my life in eastern Pennsylvania, surrounded by yet disconnected from agriculture.

I did not realize this disconnect until two years ago. After earning a degree in early grades education, I moved to California to live, teach, and learn on an educational farm. There, I developed a connection with my food and the earth which had a profoundly positive impact on my well being. I simultaneously realized the potential of farm-based education to create similarly powerful experiences for children.

As I learned more about agriculture and ecology, my interest grew into a passion. I went back to Pennsylvania last year to farm full-time, and while I enjoyed it, I felt like something crucial was missing from the equation. I came to Whidbey to not only share my love of farming with others, but also to facilitate joy and wonder, and to inspire children to live happy, healthy lives. The school farm is an incredible place to do so, and I am grateful to be a part of it.

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.

Raelani Kesler
Assistant Farm Manager 2017

Raelani’s huge contribution to the School Farm program was her work in helping to create the beautiful garden in front of the High School. She began her work as an apprentice in the Grow Whidbey program but was hired as Assistant Farm Manager when the High School requested the garden. Raelani did the hard work of establishing the garden, installing the fence, planting and cultivating the crops. She coordinated work parties with students and volunteers so that when students and staff returned in the fall they were greeted with an amazingly glorious garden. It the living classroom for the students 7 – 12 at the High School, as well as the source of abundant and delicious vegetables.

Ariel Childers
Kindergarten teacher 2015-2017

The children had their first experiences and lessons in the garden with Ariel, who taught Kindergarten for two years, launching the program. Ariel created a special garden area for the Kinders, and was their first introduction to the magic and delight of the garden.


Thank you also to Liza Elman, 2016 SNACC program coordinator and 2015 apprentice, Tiffany Paine, Grade 1-2 garden teacher 2015-2016.