Yet again, we had a gloriously sunny and productive day for MLK Jr Day of Service.

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Our 20+ volunteers helped us kick start the season!

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Arwen, Jenny, and Elana show off their shovel skills!

We turned all the cover cropped beds, weeded and edged our overwintering beds, sifted and turned compost, organized the storage area, and cleaned out the rain barrels.

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abigail and carlAt the end of the work party we shared soup and bread, and even a fresh garden salad.

THANK YOU a thousand times over for everyone who came out to help! Not only did we get a huge jump on the season, but it was a special reminder of how motivated and active this community is. This project runs off the energy of the people who spend time tilling the soil, tending the plants, and sharing good food and good ideas with one another. Work parties start at the end of February, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here’s to the start of another amazing season!

 

 

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Some of the group at our picnic lunch

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’” Each year, Americans across the country answer that question by coming together on Martin Luther King Day to serve their neighbors and communities. Since 2009, the Good Cheer Garden has launched the garden season on this National Day of Service.

Join us for our annual work party on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, January 19th, from 9 am – 12noon.  Weather permitting, we’ll be:

  • turning over cover crops
  • making our own potting soil, and starting seeds to plant in the hoop house in February
  • cleaning tools, and organizing pots and garden equipment
  • harvesting compost
  • preparing the greenhouse and hoop house for early spring plantings

Help us start the season off right! Picnic lunch at noon with hot soup, bread, and some winter greens!

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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).

2014 apprentices!

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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August was a record month for local fresh food at the food bank. The Good Cheer garden produced 1,624.5 pounds of produce, and there was a total of 8,505 pounds of produce to move through the food bank! That’s 200 more pounds out of the garden, and a whopping 2,500 pounds more in donations from other gardens and farms than last August.

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Henry and Madeleine showing off their beets!

It’s been a spectacular season, and we are certainly reaping the benefits. With the help of our regular volunteers, plus the new faces who show up each Wednesday, we have been able to plant, cultivate, and harvest the most productive August to date at the Good Cheer Garden. We also received some much needed help with weeding and harvest during the Windermere day of service at the end of the month.

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That’s one mighty bean harvest

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Diligently weeding the lettuce!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As always, thanks to everyone who helps to make this garden the success that it is. We love seeing you guys out here digging in the dirt!

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Also, don’t forget to mark your calendars for the harvest party on September 13th from 11-2! Come eat some food, listen to some music, do some crafts, and enjoy some time in the garden while celebrating all the hard work that former garden coordinator, Cary Peterson, put into this garden.

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We must apologize for a delayed update on the garden, although rest assured that our absence in the online world is simply a sign of a gloriously busy summer!

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Every Wednesday our fleet of volunteers helps to harvest and bag kale, chard, lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots, and beans, and get cucumbers, zucchinis, and tomatoes out into the food bank. Camille and Sonya do another harvest of beans, cukes, zukes, and tomatoes on Monday and Friday just to keep up with the prolific plants. The abundance at this time of year is a wonderful thing, and keeps us busy.

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On the 4th of July we continued the tradition of biking in the parade in costumes, bearing baskets of fresh vegetables to hand out in lieu of candy.

 

 

 

Keep an eye out soon for our first harvest of winter squash! We’ve got some particularly huge specimens growing up at the Bayview Garden behind the former Bayview School – come swing by and check out what’s growing over there at our satellite garden.

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Although summer isn’t quite over (no, not yet!) we already have fall and winter on the mind as we plan for our overwintering crop rotation. This past month we’ve been busy planting greens and roots to be harvested for the food bank in the fall and winter.

As always, thanks to all the awesome volunteers who continue to come out and help us keep this garden in good shape! The flowers look beautiful, the vegetables taste great, we have more plums than we know what to do with, and we’re getting excited for next season.

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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!

Squash interplanted with lettuce

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!

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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