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2015 was an outstanding year for tomatoes.

2015 was an outstanding year for tomatoes.

Despite the heat and drought this summer, starting in June and extending through August, the Good Cheer and Bayview Gardens have produced over 8,600 pounds of food for the food bank this season: over 2,000 pounds of greens; 1,500 pounds of summer and winter squash; 1,300 pounds of tomatoes; and 1,100 pounds of carrots.

At Bayview Garden, we increased production by over 50% compared to 2014: over 1,050 pounds of produce has been harvested and recorded, not to mention the three remaining beds we have to harvest from through the winter.

In looking to increase production even further in 2016, we gave the Bayview Garden a little makeover, involving herb beds and concrete slabs, a covered bench, and rototilling.

The Bayview Garden gleams in sunshine before its big makeover.

The Bayview Garden gleams in sunshine before its big makeover.

On a sunny October morning, we disassembled three herb beds surrounded by concrete slabs in order to lengthen the beds on the west side of the garden. Along with a veritable pile of rocks, we also managed to shuffle a covered bench outside of the garden to make even more space.

That afternoon, Camille tilled up the Western half of the garden, (not without any issues from our finicky walk-behind rototiller, of course), while Anh transplanted lavender from the freshly disassembled herb beds next to the covered bench they had shuffled out of the garden just a few hours prior. Planning for narrower paths between the beds, we expect to be able to fit 20 beds in the same space where there were 14, an anticipated increase in growing space of nearly 45%.

Camille Green, Good Cheer Garden Manager, with our season's first beets.

Camille with our season’s first beets.

One of our biggest goals this year was not only to increase seasonal distribution of produce and ensure there is fresh produce in the food bank during shoulder months, but also to have a more consistent season. Through careful planning and planting, we increased harvest yields by at least 30 pounds per month from January through May; were able to harvest at least six crops 10 or more days before their earliest donation date, including bok choy (4/8), beets (6/3), peas (6/3), carrots (6/10), zucchini (6/11), and tomatoes (6/26); and have late season and overwintering beds in the ground.

Donated produce has also been pivotal in supporting the food bank’s Fresh Food on the Table Program: over 11,000 pounds of produce from home gardeners; 6,300 pounds from local farms and the Bayview Farmer’s Market. We are especially grateful for the Gleeful Gleaners, who captured over 3,200 pounds of food, and Deep Harvest Farm, Ebb Tide Produce, Greenbank Farm, Pam’s Place Produce, Quail’s Run Farm, Willowood Farm, Bur Oak Acres, Plum Hill LLC, Mutiny Bay Blues, and SkyRoot Farm for donating nearly 4,000 pounds of excess produce this year.

The garden has benefited and grown from the help of over 940 volunteer hours this year and we are truly grateful for our incredibly dedicated volunteers and the many organizations and groups who have come to lend a hand harvesting and bagging produce, transplanting seedlings, prepping and planting beds, weeding, removing Himalayan blackberries and other invasive species, as well as repairing fences. A special thanks to the Master Gardeners, local Girl Scout troops, Windermere Real Estate, and students from University of Washington, Greenbank Organic Farm School, Bastyr Center for Natural Health, Seattle Waldorf 9th grade class, South Whidbey Academy, and Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies for their service in the garden this year!


Apprentices and Mentors in the CGLT: Anh Bui, Camille Green, Cary Peterson, Halley Shriber, Margaret Pickoff, and Abigail Lazarowski

anh and chinese cabbage

Anh with some beautiful purple chinese cabbage


Nicole watering starts to give away

Anh Bui focused her time at Good Cheer, and did an incredible job moving into a leadership role at the Bayview Garden. For the first time ever, we also hosted a UW Senior Capstone student. Nicole Bergman spent two months on Whidbey helping to develop our seed and starts giveaway program.

We’ve had such a wonderful season and it is no doubt due to the helping hands and support of the amazing volunteers, community members, and local farms we at Good Cheer Food Bank and Garden feel are family. Thanks to all for a great season and see you in the spring.

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For those who have not been over to the Bayview Garden across from Bayview Corner (behind the old school building), Saturday, October 10 from 10 AM-1 PM, during our fall work party, would be a particularly fabulous time. We’ll be harvesting winter squash and putting the garden to sleep for the winter. Come lend a hand and stay for lunch!

Fall Bayview Garden Work Party Flyer_9.28.15

But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we have a few Bayview Garden updates to mention from this season: we dug two new beds in the spring, have grown radishes, turnips, tatsoi, bok choy, baby bok choy, carrots, beets, chard, zucchini, eggplant, eel river melons, padron, anaheim, and bell peppers, and loads of winter squash. And in fact, we sowed buckwheat on half of a beet bed, which led to many bees visiting the garden to help pollinate our winter squash. So far, we have harvested over 625 pounds of produce, and we still have about six beds of winter squash going right now!

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Enjoy the great weather we’ve been having and hope to see you October 10!

Thanks to all who were able to come to our work party and harvest potluck celebration this past Wednesday! The morning was a bit cool, but the clouds burned off and it warmed up to a breezy 72 with lots of sunshine–perfect for bouquet making, hat decorating, singing, and playing lawn games. Larry Dobson even stopped by on his stilts! In addition, we truly apologize for our oversight in scheduling the potluck celebration on Yom Kippur and missed those who may have been observing the holiday.

Perfect weather, delicious food, and happy people!

Perfect weather, delicious food, and happy people!

A huge thank you to all in the kitchen who worked with great gusto to make such a delicious and bountiful spread of dishes for the party, notably Good Cheer Food Bank staff Karen Korbelik, Lissa Firror, and Scott Stark, as well as Linda, a regular Good Cheer Food Bank volunteer.

Pretty sunflowers make for pretty bouquets.

Pretty sunflowers make for pretty bouquets.

Meanwhile, in the garden, volunteers Anne and Liz made four beautiful (and enormous) garden salads that fed our tummies and our eyes, thanks to some last-minute floral touches from Kim. Not too far away, Pete, Reed and Jenny, Madir, Briar, and Constance were busy bagging 42 pounds of beets, 94 pounds of carrots, and 49 pounds of greens harvested that morning by Camille, our garden manager!

On the floral side of things, Halley and Devyn harvested four overflowing buckets of sunflowers, calendula, dahlia, buckwheat, cosmos, and other flowers for the bouquet-making station for volunteers and guests.

Needless to say, the celebration was a great team effort. We had a wonderful time sharing food, fun, and hope those who stopped by did as well. As the leaves change color, we are excited to harvest our winter squash, sow cover crop, and put our garden beds to rest, but stay tuned for more information on a Fall Fruit Tree Pruning class as well as a Winter Squash Harvest Work Party at Bayview Garden!

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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!


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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It’s been so scorching lately, we couldn’t resist from making a Nelly reference. In all seriousness, we haven’t the faintest idea what happened to “June-uary”, as it seems like we’ve just jumped straight to August. Aside from the weather, things have been popping here at the garden too: sunflowers, zucchini and summer squash, tomatoes, beets, carrots, garlic, and so many different flowers.


Buzzz Buzzz. Hard at work.

The bees aren’t the only ones who have been busy in the garden; in the last month, we’ve had a continued streak of support from various volunteer groups who have come to help out and enjoy the garden with us: naturopathy students from Bastyr Center for Natural Health, UW student, local Girl Scout troops, Windermere Real Estate, and Seattle 9th grade Waldorf students. A HUGE thank you to all who have come out!

153In addition, things over at the Bayview Garden are coming along rather swimmingly. All of the beds are planted, and we just harvested the first of the carrots this week! Peppers, eggplant, and melons are under plastic; radishes soon to pop, and beets coming up. Until next time, enjoy the photos, try to keep cool and hydrated as the temperature rises, and hopefully see you at our Wednesday work parties.

Also, we’re having a volunteer appreciation party for all of Good Cheer’s awesome volunteers on Tuesday, July 16 from 5-7 PM in the garden. Hope to see you there!


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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.


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.

 kevin-bio-photo_4820   kaitlin-greene-bio-photo_4534

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

2014 apprentices!

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.


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.

Kathy receiving veggies LMS 23may14 P1340364

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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We’re planting in the hoophouse! It’s our annual mid-February excitement here at the Good Cheer Garden because we know in 4 weeks we’ll be harvesting fresh veggies for the Food Bank!

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We have kale, arugula, lettuce, spinach, chard and peas! Except for the peas, which we direct sowed, all the starts were grown in the greenhouse using soil blocks and grow lights.

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Out in the field, we’re separating out and replanting the strawberries, and the garlic is poking out of the straw and seaweed we planted it in this fall.

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MLK day_3033 And it all began on the Martin Luther King Day of Service on January 20th when over 30 volunteers of all ages came out and turned over most of the cover crops and mulched with leaves! Volunteers also helped us organize our garden materials, started seeds, sifted compost and made potting soil.

It’s been a great launch to our 6th growing season!

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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.

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!

We had stunning success with our garlic this season after we planted it in seaweed. So, when the fall storms came, we went back to the beach to collect seaweed for the garlic beds again.

Middle School students from Wellington Day School and their teacher Cormac McCarthy enthusiastically helped us plant it!

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First we gave the seaweed a little rinsing. The garlic was carefully separated into cloves.

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A bed was prepped and then the fun began. We laid the seaweed down about 4 inches thick and also took some time to explore all the creatures still in the seaweed.

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The bed was then covered with about 4 inches of straw. We pulled the straw aside to create planting holes and filled them with compost.

wellington planting garlic1_0427 Then we planted the garlic! Care was taken to make sure the clove was oriented correctly with the roots on the bottom.

Thank you Adrian, Alejandro, Collin, Donovan, Gabe, Izzy, Kaio, Kellen, Makenna, Lulu, Molly, Serena and Mr. McCarthy!

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