What a Wonderful Season!

It’s been an incredibly productive and joyful season here on Whidbey Island! Take a look at what we’ve been up to!

Over at the Good Cheer Garden, they’ve been incredibly busy growing food for the Good Cheer Food Bank.  As of last week their harvest total was 7,550 pounds of vegetables including carrots, tomatoes, spinach and squash. That is 35 more pounds than last year and they still have many beds of roots and greens to harvest! Overall they’ve been able to have a more consistent harvest throughout the season, which means food bank clients are able to get fresh produce even in the early spring and late fall months when there is usually a shortage. Anh, the Garden Apprentice, has been heading up the Bayview garden this year which is a small plot adjacent to the Food Bank. She grew a whooping 347 pounds of winter squash and a beautiful array of peppers. They just tilled up the whole Bayview garden as well, effectively doubling the growing space. They were lucky to have many helpers in the garden this year including several large service groups and a dedicated group of weekly volunteers. Amidst all the hard work there was plenty of time to celebrate as well; above is a picture of the Garden Manager, Camille, and Food Bank Produce Manager, Lissa, weaving the May Pole at a spring garden celebration.

The South Whidbey School District Farm and Garden Program  has been blossoming this year! Every class in the Elementary School, all the k-5 science classes at South Whidbey Academy, and even some High School students are engaging in garden based curriculum at the School Farm this year. They’ve been planting pollinator gardens, tracking plant growth, building soil, and sowing cover crop. Amidst the classes they’ve been growing fresh produce for the school cafeterias, Whidbey Island Nourishes, the Good Cheer Food Bank, and for students to enjoy every time they visit the garden. Above is an image of a few students eating their ‘Garden Tacos’ which they get get to create with greens, flowers and fruit from the garden. Students love them! Halley, the School Garden Apprentice, has been leading the way at the Langley Middle School Garden where all 7th graders are able to come and learn each week. With the help of some community members they’ve also been able to double the growing space at the Middle School. They’ve accomplished so much this year I can’t wait to see where they go in 2016!

The Whidbey Institute’s Westgarden has been loving the sun this year. Our tomato harvest has doubled and the garden is looking more colorful than ever! We’ve even managed to grow a few peppers in our greenhouse which is pretty amazing for our shady forest garden. One exciting addition to the garden is our new chicken tractor which we built to give our beloved chickens more space to graze. The third grade class from Whidbey Island Waldorf School as well as a new group of home school students have been joining us in the garden as well, making it a truly intergenerational growing space. Margaret, our Westgarden Apprentice, has brought many gifts to the garden including her keen observation skills, strong work ethic, and kind demeanor. With her help and the help of a few very dedicated volunteers this year, the Westgarden is looking incredibly well cared for.

While hands on gardening, teaching and volunteer coordination encompasses most what we do, apprentices have also been having weekly garden classes and going on some interesting field trips. Some of the classes have been centered around the Soil Food Web, garden mapping, irrigation, plant disease identification and suppression, seed saving and medicine making. We’ve also traveled all over Cascadia visiting farms, community gardens, and food related non-profits to help apprentices learn about our regional food system.

We have great gratitude for our apprentices and for all the people who came out to help this year! It’s been such a wonderful season!