Grow Whidbey evolved out of the Community Gardening Leadership Training (CGLT), a program focused on giving motivated individuals the skills and experience needed to lead community farms and gardens. Since its inception in 2011, CGLT has brought 20 apprentices to Whidbey Island (five of whom have stayed on the island) to work in our network of community gardens located at the food bank, the local public schools, and the Whidbey Institute, an educational non-profit. As the Whidbey Institute garden began to grow in a different direction, the program decided it was time to transition into a new phase.
Grow Whidbey was conceived in 2016 as a more focused collaboration between the South Whidbey School District Farm and Garden Program and the Good Cheer Food Bank Garden. Both programs focus on bringing freshly grown produce into institutions that do not normally provide healthy food options to their students and clients. The Big ACRE (Abundant Community Resources for Everyone), a new farm located on school district land that now grows produce for both organizations, exemplifies this connection.
In addition to growing fresh produce for those who need it most, Grow Whidbey is also dedicated to hands-on garden based education, both of the youth in our public school system and of the next generation of leaders through an apprenticeship program. The goal of the Grow Whidbey apprenticeship program is to give motivated individuals the skills and knowledge needed to become growers and teachers in the field of sustainable community agriculture.