The Farm and Teaching Team

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

John LaVassar
Garden Science Specialist

I am excited about my new position as Garden Science Specialist K-6. There is so much science to teach and I have a fantastic garden lab to teach in thanks to Cary and Company.

My history on Whidbey Island is long. I grew up in Seattle, coming to the island since I was a newborn. My father bought a cabin on Goss Lake in the 1950’s, and my five siblings and I were year around weekenders at Goss Lake and Mutiny Bay. My two older sisters, who were 19 and 16 in 1968, ran the Mutiny Bay Cafe that summer. At 7 years old I was their chief food taster and I spent the whole summer at the cafe. After that summer we ended up putting our trailer down the road at Robinson’s Resort until it closed years later. Winter of 1968 my mom started LaVassar Florist in our basement of our Ravenna home. Since my Dad was soon to retire from the Seattle Fire Department he joined the flower operations and so did I.

When I reached business manager in my early 30’s my wife Gail and I moved our family to Whidbey. I went back to school at the University of Washington, and completed a BA in History in 1997 and my Master in Teaching in 1999. After leaving the flower shop at 39 my first job was a Computer Specialist K-5 at Mill Creek Elementary in Everett and fortunately the next year I landed the Computer Specialist K-5 position here at South Whidbey.  I spent 5 more years as a specialist and I have had several assignments since. This year I finished my 21st year teaching. Both my children were South Whidbey  graduates and both are very successful out in the world. I am a grandpa now and I cherish my two grandsons.

My first 6 years as a multigrade computer specialist are an experience that I look back on fondly. I like getting to know all the students at all ages in the school. I look forward to working with the garden team and being your 5-12 year old son/daughter garden teacher.
Cary Peterson
School Farm Manager 

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 and working on the land and in the community followed. Caring for land, growing food, and sharing it are keys to the vibrant community we have here on South Whidbey. In 2009 I started the Good Cheer Food Bank Garden, and then started the School Farm program with the School District in 2013.

Kylie Neal
Assistant Farm Manager and Culinary Coordinator

I attended the University of Kansas and graduated with a BA in Sociology. Immediately following graduation I participated in my first farm apprenticeship (2006) near Lawrence, KS. I then moved to the west coast and began growing vegetables in the PNW climate. I have farmed in various capacities in various climates from Kansas to Portland to Illinois and finally I arrived on Whidbey Island.

I am passionate about growing food, getting my hands in the dirt and sharing what I know about everything from planting seeds to preparing yummy fresh food with people of all ages. Honestly, I really love eating and I have found that homegrown food or food from local farms is the best tasting food and the simplest to prepare (it stands alone) and I love sharing that yummy yumminess with as many people as I can. It is an added bonus that this food is more nutritious and better for the environment than much of the food that we find in the grocery store. Another added bonus is that growing your own food you are using your body in a way that keeps you healthy also. It’s all a win!
Seth Raabe
High School Agriculture teacher, 7-8th grade Middle School Garden elective, MS Science in the Garden. 

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. Seth teaches the High School Agriculture class, as well as Grade 7 – 8 Garden Elective and MS Science in the Garden.

Screen Shot 2019-11-11 at 3.21.04 PM


AmeriCorps Service Members

We are delighted to be part of the AmeriCorps Food and Farm Educators team of Common Threads.


Sarah Klimek

I’m thrilled to be moving up to Whidbey Island to spend a year growing food, working with kids and building community with the South Whidbey School Farms. Originally from Baltimore with a background in education, I spent some time throughout the Midwest studying and working as a librarian before deciding to pursue my love of farming full time. I’m an outdoor explorer at heart and love to hike, bike, camp, and play disc golf in my free time. I  love to cook and bake as well. I’ve lived and farmed in the Pacific Northwest and am excited to be in the area once again!

Mary Wingerson 

I’m a native of Washington state, and went to college years in New England, and I’m grateful to be back in the best corner of the world. I first touched base on Whidbey last year as a WWOOFer (WWOOF = worldwide opportunities on organic farms) and was deeply inspired by the community’s commitment to providing good food for everyone. I’m honored to be a part of the South Whidbey Schools farm and food education team, and can’t wait to watch South Whidbey students grow alongside their garden. In my spare time, I enjoy good food, good books, and the company of most humans and animals.