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July? Definitely another scorcher–temperatures were in the high 80s during Independence day weekend. Speaking of which, we were at the Maxwelton Parade handing out sugar snap peas and flowers from the garden!

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Cukes and Tomatoes: great sandwich fixins.

Due to the dry and hot weather, we spent a good amount of July watering and harvesting. We made out quite nicely: 368 pounds of carrots, 278 pounds of tomatoes, 210 pounds of plums, and 153 pounds of summer squash from Good Cheer Garden and Bayview Garden! In fact, we more than doubled our harvest from last month, coming in at nearly 1,300 pounds at Good Cheer and over 350 pounds at Bayview, and thanks to in kind donations and gleaning, we raked in 4,870 pounds of produce just in the month of July.

And even though our spinach has been bolting like there’s no tomorrow, our tomatoes are loving this weather and have been putting on their second growth.

Also, on July 21, students from the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Students came to visit and lend a hand with weeding projects and blackberry removal. Especially since it’s been so hot, we’re so grateful to folks who are still coming by to help out during our Wednesday work parties. Thanks to our volunteers, we’ve been able to harvest and bag an enormous amount of produce, pick, braid, and hang our garlic for curing, and enjoy delicious salads during lunch. Thanks and stay cool out there!

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anh and spinachA big welcome to new Good Cheer Garden apprentice Anh Bui!

“In July of 2013, I left my job of over 5 years in medical-device marketing and advertising to find work I could feel more connected to. I had always been interested in sustainability and began reading more about food access, social and environmental justice, climate change, and culture, as well as attending conferences on these topics. A major influence, and a big reason why I am here, came from listening to Elizabeth Mpofu, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Organic Smallholder Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF), champion farmers’ rights for food and land sovereignty and their struggle with industrial agriculture, GMOs, and subsequent loss of indigenous seeds and knowledge. I am here to learn how to grow food, educate others in growing food, and play my part in (re)connecting people with land, food, and water. It is my hope to merge my experience in marketing and advertising with my passion for local food, economy, and community.

In Long Beach, California, where I was previously, I volunteered at the community garden I lived next to, co-created and maintained the garden blog, and worked with Foodscape Long Beach to increase community awareness and education, outreach, and participation. A Southern Californian for the last 15 years, I am used to gardening in short sleeves and a light jacket, but now, I bring with me my rain gear, warm puffy jackets, a big smile, and beginner’s mind to this awe-inspiring program in the Pacific Northwest. I am honored, excited, and so grateful to be a part of the Good Cheer Team and am certain that I will learn much more than I ever dreamed from this majestic island and its wonderful people.”

~~~~~ Anh

It’s officially spring and things are moving along quickly! Several beds are planted out in the field, our hoop house crops will soon be ready to harvest, tomato seedlings are happily sprouting under our grow lights, the worms in our worm bins are developing a voracious appetite, and we can practically watch the grass grow.

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Anh, Karl, Margaret, and Halley are really excited about spinach!

This March has been a particularly busy, albeit delightfully warm and mild month. Mid-way through March we welcomed our three new apprentices to the Community Garden Leadership Training Program, a partnership between the Whidbey Institute, the Good Cheer Food Bank, and the South Whidbey School Farm and Garden program.

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Anh, Halley, Camille, and Margaret color coordinating!

Halley will be focused at the school farm and gardens, Margaret at the Whidbey Institute, and Anh here at Good Cheer! A big heartfelt welcome to Halley, Margaret and Anh!

As if it wasn’t exciting enough to gain three new apprentices in one week, the garden was also host to two service-learning events last week! On Tuesday, 12 college students from Whitman College came to help in the garden during their Alternative Spring Break. Wednesday was another busy work party, with almost 20 people present at our picnic lunch, and on Saturday we hosted a Master Gardener Compost Workshop in which 10 more people help us harvest, build, and turn compost. Between the service events and the work parties this month, 55 volunteers have put in 185 hours of work at the garden, and the month isn’t over yet!

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Master Gardeners? More like master compost turners!

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Whitman Alternative Spring Break students

Happy gardening, and we hope to see you guys out there at our Wednesday Work Parties!

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Looking for a meaningful apprenticeship in a wonderful place? Consider moving to Whidbey Island to help grow food for the Food Bank, for our schools, and for partner non-profits through our Community Gardening Leadership Training! Find more information about the program, and the applications here.

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Contact for more information:
Abigail Lazarowski, cultivatingcommunitywhidbey@gmail.com
802-377-9487

The beds are mostly put to rest, the overwintering crops are all in, and the rain seems to have moved back in for the winter. The end of a season seems to come out of no where, the flurry of the growing season quickly subdued with late sunrises and early sunsets.

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Overwintering leeks and kale amongst our cover cropped beds.

This was another record season! As of the end of October, through our Fresh Food on the Table Program we have received over 31,000 pounds of local produce for the Food Bank. That’s a total of over 6,000 more pounds of produce than last year, and the season isn’t over yet. Of that total 7, 240 pounds of produce was harvested from the Food Bank Garden, and 472 from the Bayview Garden. 

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None of this would have been possible without the help of our generous donors, our dedicated volunteers, our hard working apprentices, and our enthusiastic partner farms and gardens.

The below graph gives an idea of where the local produce came from this year (accurate up to the end of October). “In Kind Donations” means local gardeners who donate surplus from their home gardens, and it accounts for about a 1/3 of the local produce in the food bank. We do not actively seek donations from home gardeners or other local farmers, which means that about half of all the local produce in the food bank is donated entirely on people’s own volition! Which means that we live in one generous community. The other half of the produce is actively sought by volunteers who glean from home growers, and by our apprentices and garden managers who glean from the Bayview Farmer’s Market, and who spend their days growing food for our local food system.

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A huge THANK YOU to the Market farmers from the Bayview Farmers Market, the CSA at Greenbank Farm, Gleeful Gleaners, Rotary Gleaners, home gardeners and local farmers who together contributed more than 17,000 pounds of fresh vegetables and fruits to the Food Bank!

We’d also especially like to thank the Community Gardening Leadership Training apprentices, coordinated by Cary Peterson, who helped grow and distribute the produce: Abigail Lazarowski (Whidbey Institute Westgarden), Sonya Ekstrom (Good Cheer and Bayview Gardens), Kevin Dunham and Kaitlin Greene (South Whidbey School District Gardens).

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Sonya and her first winter squash

Sonya and her first winter squash

Good Cheer Apprentice, Sonya, did an incredible job not only working at the Good Cheer Garden, but in helping us to bring the Bayview Garden back up to speed! The smaller satellite garden produced 200 more pounds than last season, and with Sonya’s stellar leadership the garden received some much needed TLC, and is ready for next season’s apprentice to leave their mark. Thanks Sonya for all the awesome work you did this season!

Our season is wrapping up, and as our gardens need a little rest, so do our gardeners! Have a lovely winter, and thank you for helping to make this the best season ever!

 

Happy October! This month got off to a fantastic start with a special Sunday work party in the Bayview Garden (Good Cheer’s satellite garden). We were thrilled with the turnout! About 15 members of the community showed up on a gorgeous Sunday morning to generously donate their time and effort to prepare this garden for winter, and help with some much needed maintenance.

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Together under the sunshine we harvested the rest of the winter squash (220 more pounds, putting the total from Bayview this season at 370 pounds!), prepped beds to be cover cropped, pruned perennials, pulled an incredible amount of blackberry, and painted the shed. After only three hours we completely transformed this space.

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Thanks to everyone’s help, the Bayview Garden is now fully cover cropped for winter, has two overwintering beet beds, and soon will have a bed of garlic planted. We cannot thank you all enough for your enthusiasm and support!

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Our appreciation to:

John Chaffey, Reed Kaltenbach, Jenny Kaltenbach, Kyle Kaltenbach, Steve McLean, J.C. May, Briar Rayne, Katy Richardson, Beno Kennedy, Abigail Lazarowski, Kevin Dunham, Lissa Firor, and Cary Peterson.

~~~Sonya

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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And, of course – a huge thank you to all our volunteers, without whom these important community projects couldn’t continue to flourish.

 

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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.

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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.

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The first two beds planted at the Bayview Garden back in May – squash!

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Getting bigger every day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

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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 —

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We ripped out a lot of sod!

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More squash please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

~~~Sonya Ekstrom

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All 10 beds planted!

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.

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The top photograph is of the Bastyr students, the middle of the Waldorfians, and the bottom of the Billings students.

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.

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With their arrival, all four of this year’s apprentices are here and doing great work at Good Cheer and our partner gardens!

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Abigail, Kevin, Kaitlin, and Sonya at the Whidbey Institute West Garden

At the Golissa and huge bok choiod 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.

 

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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.calendula  two phacelias

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.

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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.

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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.

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As always, a huge heartfelt thanks to all our volunteers. They are what make this garden possible!

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