Welcome Kathryn Ruesch, 2018 apprentice!

A big and warm welcome to 2018 Grow Whidbey School Farm apprentice 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!!


Posted in Grow Whidbey apprentices

Cougar Cookbook!

Ready for some delicious eating in 2018? Susan Milan’s Health and Wellness class at the South Whidbey Middle School can help with some terrific recipes!

The students have put together the Cougar Cookbook which includes Appetizers, Main and Side Dishes, and Desserts. All of these were taste tested in class, and can be made with fresh fruits and veggies from the school farm, local farmers, or your own garden! Some of these recipes come with nutrition information so you can see how healthy they are.

Click HERE to download a copy of the Cougar Cookbook, have fun cooking and eating, and let the students know at schoolgardenswhidbey@gmail.com how tasty their recipes are!

Posted in Culinary, SNACC

Thanksgiving Harvest Feast 2017 – a wonderful celebration!

The third annual Harvest Feast for SWES students and their families took place on November 16th in the school cafeteria. The collaboration between the School Farm and the cafeteria featured garden fresh vegetables grown, harvested, prepared and served by the students. It was easy to see their pride and their knowledge as they served the food to parents and guests who attended the event and shared in the bounty. The farm served kale salad, oven roasted squash, pumpkin pie, and mashed potatoes while the cafeteria prepared the turkey, dressing, gravy, oven rolls and cooked the frozen school farm green beans. A feast indeed!

Preparations began weeks ahead of time under the steady direction of our Culinary Arts coordinator, Nicole Whittington-Johnson. The students and the culinary team in collaboration with WIN and volunteers began to prepare the vegetables. Pumpkin was cut, cleaned and roasted by the fifth and sixth grade students. A puree was prepared and the delicious pumpkin pies followed.

The Makah Ozette mashed potatoes were planted and harvested by the grade three students. Due to storm and electricity outage, the students were not able to come to the WIN kitchen to wash and prepare potatoes. That stage of the job was left to the WIN volunteers and the farm/culinary team. However, the students did enjoy sampling the finished product.

A light brushing of olive oil and dusting with spice made our garden squash tasty and delicious. Grade four students who planted and harvested the squash helped prepare a variety of tasty squash for the feast.

Grade five and six students took charge of the decorating and serving on Harvest Feast Day. They managed to sign up and take complete responsibility for their scheduled time and duties in a way that made the day smooth sailing for the whole team.

To name all the people who helped make the harvest feast a success would be nearly impossible as it was truly a community supported event. The sustaining support of the South Whidbey school community, Chartwells, Goosefoot, the Goose Grocer, students, families, farm and teaching teams, plus numerous donors and volunteers are the heart of our program. This event is a demonstration of the community we are building through sustainable growing of delicious healthy food. A huge thank you to all. A special thank you to Jude Bierman for her vision and guidance.

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Posted in Events, SNACC, Thanksgiving feast

Harvest Feast 2017

Here’s a link to our post about the Thanksgiving Celebration!

Posted in Events, Thanksgiving feast

Goodbye to the Bean TeePees 2017


Just Before the Fall of our Scarlet Runner Bean Tee Pee

We said goodbye to our two beloved scarlet runner bean tee pees this month. The beans had mostly dried and the vines were beginning to yellow.  The abundant green canopy was slowly disappearing.  It was time to say goodbye until next year.

Mrs Boin’s grade three students and the grade six farm team were the groups that accepted the challenge of taking down the tee pees.  It was an operation that required a good deal of communication, strength and cooperation. The students were not deterred and met the challenge with energy and grace.

The entire bundle of drying beans, vines, and bamboo poles are now safely undercover in the harvest shed.  Students coming to the garden in November can see the tee pees and pick the dry beans from the vines.

Of course the dried bean pods with the black and purple beans inside have remained popular and all the students went home with a good sized handful in their pockets to plant at home, which is just what we’ll do at the School Farm in the spring.

Posted in Lessons, Updates from the garden!

Decomposing Pumpkins!

Enthusiasm for Halloween pumpkins is going strong at the School Farm.  The  pumpkins that rot after they are carved and used for Jack o’ lanterns take on new life as they decompose and they keep the fun alive a little longer for the children at South Whidbey Elementary School.  Families brought their pumpkins to school where they were scooped up by the School Farm team and lined up along the north side of the field between the garden and the school.  The orange line makes an impressive statement of progressive decomposition.

Young learners used their senses to observe the pumpkins and took some time to draw their favorites.  We touched, smelled and looked closely at the pumpkins and gave them a little thump to hear the different sounds they made.  Tasting was left for imagination only.

Older students were able to use their estimation skills to guess how many pumpkins where lined up, then they counted to check how close they were to guessing the actual number. Additionally, some students took the time to put the pumpkins into categories some of which were: extra large, tiny, green, decomposed, not carved, tall, fat and many more. We even took some of the mold into the science classroom and looked at it under the microscope.  The possibilities for learning are many and the students were engaged in the exploration from start to finish.

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Special thanks to Linda LaMar for photographing the decomposing pumpkin lessons.


Posted in Lessons, Updates from the garden!

Delicious Highlights from SNACC Classes

Our first culinary classes in September made good use of our abundant crop of cucumbers. Students learned how to make Tzatziki Dip. The overwhelming opinion about this recipe was ‘DELICIOUS’ and the next request was ‘Can I have the recipe to make at home?’.

Our next and most popular recipe was learning to make fresh corn tortillas and filling them with chopped up garden produce. Carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, and garden grown dry beans that had been cooked and spiced were added to the freshly made tortillas.

Each class, grades 3 though 6, alternates between garden and culinary arts classes weekly basis. All the students in a class have the chance to participate and learn the skills, ingredients, and preparation for each recipe and of course, sample the final product.

Grade 7 classes have also participated in SNACC classes. The students in Ms. Milan’s science class had the opportunity to learn to make fresh spring rolls with rice paper wraps and a peanut dipping sauce. This recipe took patience and careful handling of the ingredients to get a good ‘wrap’. Students had great success in both preparation and eating!

Nicole Johnson is our culinary arts teacher and she has been planning the recipes for the students this fall. We call our program SNACC (Student Nutrition and Culinary Community) and this is the second year of using our fresh garden produce in combination with other ingredients to make recipes that the children prepare and enjoy. The skills involved are many, some of which are: chopping, grating, mixing, seasoning, following recipes, measuring, communicating, and cooperating. Students are learning to notice flavors, and try new things and realize that they can make adjustments to the seasoning in a recipe. It’s nice to hear them discussing the flavor of a recipe and thinking about how they might change it to make it more to their liking.


Giving a recipe top star rating!


Posted in Updates from the garden!