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With the season’s abundant generosity of sunshine, fresh food, and community, it didn’t seem quite possible that it would end. Summer held out just about as long as it could, it seemed – right up until the Equinox, which fell on the 23rd. The Fall season has officially begun. The rain is falling, the days are colder, and the garden is in transition once again.
Just about all of our overwintering beds are planted – we’ll have spinach, kale, chard, carrots, leeks, and beets growing, which will be lightly harvested this Fall and Winter for the Food Bank, but mostly will provide for early spring. And the true mark of the shift into winter in an organic garden has begun – we are sowing cover crop. Planting cover crop at this time of year helps prevent soil erosion and the leaching out of water and nutrients in the rainy winter months, enhances soil fertility and builds up the soil ecosystem and biodiversity, and when we till it in come January, the rich blend of legumes and grasses in the cover crop will decompose, adding organic matter and nutrients to the soil.
The garden will look very different in a few weeks, and while the harvest is certainly slowing down, we are, for now, still enjoying the bounty of our summer crops. In the month of September we have harvested over 1,700 pounds of produce for the Food Bank from the Good Cheer and Bayview Gardens, and we expect at least another hundred or so in the next week.
The highlight this month was undoubtedly Good Cheer’s annual Harvest Party on September 13th. We gathered to eat delicious food, hear local music, make art in the garden, and celebrate the season and our community. It was also a day that we all honored and gave thanks to a very special and beloved person: Cary Peterson. Cary was the driving force behind the creation of the Good Cheer Garden in 2009, and managed the garden up until last year. In addition to all her work at Good Cheer, she has done and continues to do so much for community agriculture and transforming our food systems on the south island, including most recently the South Whidbey School Garden to Cafeteria program where she is now focusing most of her energy.
We are so grateful for all of your hard and heartfelt work, Cary, and are so incredibly lucky to have a person with such vision, ability, drive, and passion working for change in our community. Thank you Cary Peterson!
And, of course – a huge thank you to all our volunteers, without whom these important community projects couldn’t continue to flourish.
One last thing! Mark Sunday, October 5th in your calendars. Sonya, who has been our apprentice in the Community Garden Leadership Training program, is hosting a work party from 9am-noon at the Bayview Garden, our satellite garden behind the old Bayview School. We’ll paint the shed, pull blackberry, sow cover crop, and generally beautify the garden. We hope you can join us! Lunch provided.
So much has been happening at the Good Cheer Garden! Thanks to all the help from our volunteers so far this season, we have harvested just over one thousand pounds of produce in June and July alone (and July is just getting started!). We are also starting to harvest from the Bayview Garden, our satellite garden just across the field and right behind the old Bayview School (now the Whidbey Island Community Education Center). Two months ago this space was waist high in weeds and grasses, but thanks to volunteer help it has totally transformed and is now completely planted and producing for the food bank.
On the last Saturday of May, Good Cheer and the Bayview Garden received a huge surge of help from a group of students from Bastyr University in that school’s Naturopathic Medicine program. Thanks to their hard work and enthusiasm, all the remaining beds at Bayview got weeded, turned, and prepped for planting. That day was an incredible boost for the progress of the Bayview Garden – we are so grateful the service of these wonderful folks!
Since then, thanks to this tremendous volunteer effort, all nine of the original beds are now planted at Bayview. And in late June we even created a 10th, along the fenceline –
The Bayview Garden is now growing kale, arugula, radishes, carrots, leeks, a ton of winter squash, some delicious herbs, and PLUMS! – all of which will go directly to the food bank. We’ve already harvested over 50 pounds of greens. Stay tuned for more soon!
It’s been a whirlwind month. We started off the month with a series of service days. First, on the last Saturday of May, 26 students from Bastyr University in Seattle came out and put in two solid hours of work for us. Then, on Wednesday, June 4th, about 20 9th grade students from the Seattle Waldorf school came out for the first half of our work day, and about 10 middle schoolers from Billings Middle School in Seattle came out for the second half. When you do the math, that’s about an extra 130 volunteer hours of work put into the garden. A huge heartfelt THANK YOU to the groups who traveled out to see our program, and help us out in the garden.
Also, at the beginning of the month we welcomed Kaitlin Greene to the Community Gardening Leadership Training Program, and in the middle of the month we welcomed Kevin Dunham. Both will be focusing their time at the school gardens, but can be seen tromping around the Good Cheer and Whidbey Institute Gardens as well. To read more about the two newest members of our team, visit their biographies on the South Whidbey School Garden website.
With their arrival, all four of this year’s apprentices are here and doing great work at Good Cheer and our partner gardens!
At the Good Cheer garden we’ve had our first big harvest of beets and carrots, tomatoes in the hoop house are starting to ripen, we’re putting zucchinis in the food bank, and we still seem to have leafy greens coming out of our ears. And it’s not just at our garden! Last week, a food bank client donated four giant bok choys that they had grown from starts we gave away to them earlier in the season. This is a wonderful example of one of the many ways that we are attempting to develop a holistic food system in our community, and one of the many reasons we’re grateful for the people who live here.
Tomato blossoms, fresh peas, blooming cosmos and calendula, zucchini starts, and beet thinnings: there’s a lot going on in the garden right now. Slowly but surely is color being added to the garden. Shocks of yellow tomato flowers, red poppies, white pea blossoms, and lavender phacelia now compliment the deep purples and greens of the heartier leafy greens.
Our first blooming calendula, and two different types of phacelia keep the bees, and the gardeners, happy.
At the beginning of the month we welcomed the spring with a May Day Celebration, at the same time that we welcomed our new apprentice, Sonya! Sonya is the newest addition to the Community Gardening Leadership Training Program, and will mostly be working at the Good Cheer Garden, and our satellite garden next door at the Whidbey Island Community Education Center.
Abigail (left), Sonya (center), and Camille (right) stand with Larry beneath the May Pole.
We are also very proud of Cary Peterson, who has helped make great leaps and bounds with the school garden programs on South Whidbey. As mentioned in our New Seasons, New Changes post, Cary helped start the Good Cheer garden in 2009, and coordinated it until focusing instead on the school gardens this season. Last week was the first official school lunch that used produce that students helped grown, tend, and harvest from the on-site garden. Check out the South Whidbey School Gardens blog, and this nice article from the South Whidbey Record.
Here the Good Cheer Food Bank Executive Director, Kathy, and our Produce Manager, Lissa, accept fresh produce from LMS students.
Our volunteers continue to amaze us as they continue to help us pull in larger and larger harvests. Tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers, beans, and winter squash are growing in the garden, and our hoop house tomatoes are starting to fruit.
As always, a huge heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers. They are what make this garden possible!
A big welcome to new Good Cheer Garden apprentice Sonya Ekstrom!
“In my life I seek to find work that grounds me in my own body and imagination, which connects me to people and the land, and which addresses the real problems threatening the planet and our communities on the local and global level. In the past few years I have found these aspects converge for me in the simple act of growing and consuming food locally and seasonally, with the understanding that my health and wellbeing are bound up with the larger health and stability of our planet and its systems.
Originally hailing from Davis, California, I am coming to Whidbey from Seattle where I have lived, worked, and studied for the past six or so years. Before arriving on the island in the beginning of May I had been working as an intern for Seattle Tilth, an experience that ignited my desire to more fully immerse myself in the practice of growing food – eventually leading me here. I am thrilled to be a part of this program, learning alongside such an inspiring and motivated group of people, and experiencing the majesty of the Pacific Northwest for the first time outside of the city!“
The Food Bank has been growing. Last year, over 25,000 pounds of fresh local fruits and vegetables were made available to food bank clients. In that total, over 7,000 pounds came from the Good Cheer Food Bank Garden, over 1,000 came from the schools, and over 16,000 came from other local gardeners and farmers.
In fact, our work was recently recognized by Food Lifeline, a Washington Food Bank Distributor. The Good Cheer Food Bank and Thrift Stores was given the Award in Excellence in Food Resource Development for our work in bring more good food to food bank clients.
With a growing program comes new staffing needs, and we are pleased to announce that Lissa Firor started as the Good Cheer Food Bank Produce Manager in November, and Camille Green started as the Good Cheer Food Bank Garden Manager in January.
Both Lissa and Camille came to Whidbey as Community Garden Leadership Training Apprentices in the 2013 season. Lissa quickly settled into her role inside the food bank, doing an unbelievable job of organizing the walk-in refrigerator, preserving produce, coordinating volunteers, and tracking donations. Camille put her roots down in the garden and made quick friends with the compost worms and soil microorganisms, gratefully utilizing our stellar growing season to help grow the biggest harvest yet.
During these transitions, we want to especially acknowledge Cary Peterson, who helped to start the Good Cheer Garden in 2009.
Cary has been an extremely dedicated Garden Coordinator as well as vegetable consultant, soil specialist, food security advocate, and community facilitator. Her years of dedicated work and focused energy, attention, and knowledge have been instrumental and invaluable in building the garden and in getting it to the place it is today. We are grateful to have benefited from her drive and passion for so many years, and are excited for future partnerships as Cary turns her considerable energy and enthusiasm to helping to develop the South Whidbey School Gardens, and continue the Community Gardening Leadership Training program with the Whidbey Island Community Education Center.
As our community food system grows and develops here on South Whidbey, we want to thank all the volunteers, donors, and generally supportive community members who are helping us to develop a more self-sufficient and sustainable means of living. Here’s to another great season!
Congratulations, and much appreciation to Camille, Lissa, Alexa and Casey for their completion of the Community Gardening Leadership Training in the Good Cheer Garden, Food Bank, Whidbey Institute Westgarden, and South Whidbey Academy, South Whidbey Elementary School and Langley Middle School Gardens.
- Camille Green moved into a leadership role in the Good Cheer Garden
- Lissa Firor managed the over 24,000 lbs of produce that was grown for the Food Bank locally
- Alexa MacAulay coordinated the Whidbey Institute Westgarden
- Casey Jackson taught science-based curriculum while managing the South Whidbey School District gardens.
While gaining experience in our community food system, their hard work and leadership made a big contribution towards our record harvest this year for the Food Bank!
As some of our crops are reaching the end of their life cycle, others are coming on quickly. The past two Wednesdays have seen a harvest of around 500 lbs of produce for the food bank! An energetic group of students from the University of Washington’s Urban Farm recently came by the help out in the garden. With the extra muscle we were able to flip, harvest, and clean up our compost bins, harvest rhubarb, beans, and beets, rebuild a terrace bed, and weed and prepare a couple new flowers beds!
Flowers are blooming, tomatoes are dripping off the plant, beans are trying their best to take over the garden, winter squash keeps on sneaking up on me, plums are attracting gleaners (both human and avian), and every day is another adventure and lesson in maintaining the garden without interfering too much in what nature wants to do. Check out our slideshow of beautiful pictures!
A big welcome to Lissa Firor, 2013 Good Cheer Food Bank apprentice!
“I first fell in love with fresh veggies as a three-year-old helping in my mother’s garden in rural Northeast Oregon. Not until years later did I start to grasp the ways in which so many of the environmental and social issues that matter to me could be traced back to food production and distribution systems. Since graduating with an Environmental Science degree from the University of Idaho, I have worked and volunteered in production market gardening as well as outdoor education for youth.
I’m still searching for the niche where my interests and talents are best suited to make positive change in the world, but a few of the things I am captivated by at this point in my journey include:
- The many ways that growing, cooking, & sharing food contribute to a strong sense of community.
- Learning to live more simply and deliberately by shedding cultural norms and material goods.
- Cultivating and sharing strategies for bringing our personal values and actions into alignment.
- Exploring how connections with the natural world also help us to form deeper and more meaningful relationships with ourselves and each other.
I came to Good Cheer because I am interested in making healthy eating and environmentally-sound food choices available to people from all walks of life. I feel strongly tied to the Pacific Northwest, and would like to help more rural towns start farmers markets, co-ops, and food banks. The Good Cheer model is an exceptionally innovative example, and I’m excited to join and learn from the wonderful folks here in the kitchen, food bank, and garden!”
The apprentices for the Community Gardening Leadership Training are all here!
Stay tuned for news of all they will be doing and learning!