Abundant Community Resources for Everyone
The Big ACRE is Good Cheer’s new one acre farm that will grow food for South Whidbey Good Cheer Food Bank and South Whidbey School District cafeterias.
The farm project was conceived of and initiated by Camille Green, Good Cheer Garden Manager, in August 2015 and approved by the Good Cheer, SWSD, and NILA boards in December 2015. In exchange for produce for the school cafeterias, the South Whidbey School District is allowing Good Cheer to develop and manage a farm behind the old Bayview School building. As produce from The Big ACRE will be served to students in SWSD cafeterias, everything will be grown and harvested according to the Food and Garden Safety Protocol agreed upon by SWSD and Chartwells.
Over the years, the Good Cheer Garden, the Bayview Garden, gleaning programs, and produce donated from local gardeners and farmers have increased the amount of fresh local food in South Whidbey.
In 2015, South Whidbey Good Cheer Food Bank distributed 33,461 pounds of locally grown produce; however, this represents only 25% of the produce that went through the food bank. The remaining 75% was sourced primarily from food purchases off island, grocery rescue, and donations from regional food distributors.
With the support of the community, Good Cheer is endeavoring to become less dependent on these sources and to increase the amount of locally grown, fresh produce available to the underserved and youth in South Whidbey. In alignment with Good Cheer’s mission to create a hunger-free community, “ACRE” in The Big ACRE stands for Abundant Community Resources for Everyone.
Unlike the Good Cheer Garden and South Whidbey School Farm and Gardens, important educational demonstration sites that also produce a lot of food, The Big ACRE will utilize farm-management practices to focus on production of hardy greens and root and storage crops.
Of note, The Big ACRE’s crop plan intentionally emphasizes a strong fall, winter, and early spring harvest for two reasons: first, local produce donations during these times of the year tend to be scarce, and secondly an “off-season” harvest aligns more seamlessly with the school year.
By complementing farmers’ and gardeners’ typical harvests and peak times, we expect to make significant improvements in providing year-round crops like carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage, onions, winter squash, and potatoes to the food bank and to the school district as well as create more space at the Good Cheer Garden for growing herbs, quick greens, seed stock, and flowers.
Not only a productive space, The Big ACRE will also serve as a unique educational and volunteer space, particularly for the Community Gardening Leadership Training apprenticeship program, but also for other groups like WSU Extension Master Gardeners, SWSD students, service-learning groups interested in agricultural production and non-profits, and the broader island community.
For more information about how you can support or donate to this cause, please contact Camille Green, Good Cheer Garden Manager, at email@example.com.