Welcome Mike Ferncase!

A big and warm welcome to 2017 Grow Whidbey School Farm production apprentice 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.

~~~ Mike

Posted in Grow Whidbey apprentices, Updates from the garden!

New High School Garden launched!

We have launched a new garden at the High School! John Patton, HS Principal, asked us if we could turn the lawn out front into a garden that would grow vegetables for the students, flowers for pollinating and beneficial insects, and herbs for culinary classes, as well as provide a wide range of garden-based curriculum opportunities for the High School students and incoming Middle School students. Yes!

On March 8, the only sunny day in weeks of rain, Chris Korrow came with his super shovel spader and tilled the field that had been staked out with beds for growing and a large area for picnic tables and gatherings.


On Earth Day, over 300 HS students will be helping to install the fence, amend the beds with compost, terrace the slope, and plant veggie starts. Stay tuned!


Posted in Updates from the garden!

Welcome Ryan Viscito!

A big and warm welcome to 2017 Grow Whidbey School Farm curriculum apprentice 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.

~~~ Ryan

Posted in Updates from the garden!

SNACC Time with the Students

In January the school garden expanded into the realm of fresh food preparation. We are now teaching cooking classes for the third though fifth grade students. There have been four successful classes so far where the students made a delicious pumpkin dip. We used the pumpkin puree that was processed and frozen from our all school Thanksgiving Feast. Our goal is to source food directly from the school farm and  increase the connection from garden to table.

This new program is called SNACC (Student Nutrition and Culinary arts Community). It integrates the importance of fresh food and community through cooperation and sharing the food that the students have grown and prepared.


Here is the recipe if you want to try our Pumpkin Dip at home!


Posted in Goosefoot, Lessons, SNACC, Updates from the garden!

Winter’s Rhythm Gives Way to Spring

January 2017 saw the first students making forays into the winter garden with exclamations of  ‘The bean teepees are gone!’, ‘The garden looks empty.’  Then on closer examination, they found wiggling worms in the soil and a world of wonder in the seemingly empty garden scape.

They noticed that the cover crops they planted in the autumn have created a bed of green on the garden beds and the pumpkins they placed in November have decomposed at the base of the fruit trees in the orchard.


Finding the different types of cover crop in the garden beds

During garden class time the students are learning that winter time is all about letting the garden rest and building the soil through cover cropping and mulching the garden beds that provide the much loved vegetables that we eat throughout the year.


Sharing in the Garden Circle


Grade Two students rolled up their sleeves and flipped the cover crops they planted this fall in their new little cove garden. We said a thank you to the cover crop before flipping it into the soil and noted that the green growth that we planted will now decompose and invite worms and micro organisms to feed and build the soil.

In anticipation of spring planting, the Grade One and Grade Two students have planted peas in clear plastic trays that have been placed in light boxes in the hallways at the Elementary School. Students can watch as the peas germinate and sprout inside and then continue the cycle by planting the little plants in the garden when the soil warms up.

Students found the tall bamboo poles that made the bean teepees with dried vines and bean pods still attached. Piles of dry beans, ready for pulling from the vines were pulled, opened and sorted into big bowls of purple and black scarlet runner beans, black and white orca beans and brown and white rockwell beans. Students from SWA, and grades two, three and five participated in opening the magic beans and sorting them into type. We took the dried vines and empty pods to the compost bin.  Due to the enthusiastic students, we were able to get our entire crop of dry beans ready for storage and potential cooking.
Finally the energetic Grade Three students took buckets and shovels to move a big pile of leaves to make way for the load of rich compost that was delivered last week outside the western side of the garden fence.

The garden may look empty, however it’s just a moment in time as we prepare for spring planting. The students are learning to care for the land and grow food by participating in activities that honor the rhythm of the seasons all year long.

As we sing in our garden song:

It’s all in the rhythm of the earth…

It’s all in the rhythm of the sun…

It’s all in the rhythm of the moon…

It’s all in the rhythm of rain…

It’s all in the rhythm of our heart…


Posted in Updates from the garden!

The new season has begun!

It has been a ferocious winter with lots of rain, freezing weather and snow, but in between the gusts and downpours, the students have been helping to turn over cover crops and get the School Farm ready for the new growing season. We’ve started all classes K-5 and the students sowed peas to examine before being planted out.

The pumpkins fertilizing our fruit trees are decomposing quite nicely. The dwarf scotch curly kale is quite sweet and delicious, a favorite with the children. And quite spectacularly, Val Twomey’s class helped move the veggie tunnel! Never underestimate the capacity of 20 second graders!

Posted in Updates from the garden!

We met the match… and more!


From L to R: Kevin Engstrom, Linda Racicot, Jo Moccia, Sandy Whiting, Cary Peterson, Marian Myszkowski, Charlie McKissrick

big-check-cake-heart_8591A happy crowd gathered at the Goose Grocer to celebrate the generous $73,575.36 check that Goosefoot and the Goose donated to the School Farm and Garden Program!

A lovely cake with a heartfelt wordle, and carrots and kale harvested from the Big Acre rounded out the festivities.

A huge thank you from all the farmers, teachers and volunteers who work to make this program happen. We couldn’t have done it with Goosefoot and the Goose!



Thanks to the wonderful generosity and support of our community, Goosefoot has met the match… and more! $36,787.68 was donated and the Goose Grocer is going to match it all!

Come to the big check ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 2nd at 4 pm at the Goose Grocer. Goosefoot will be presenting the South Whidbey School District with a check for $73,575.36 for the School Farm and Garden program!

Read the Press Release HERE.

An enormous thank you to Goosefoot and the Goose Grocer, and to our community!

Posted in Funding support, Goose Grocer, Goosefoot