BY DIANNA MACLEOD
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributor
February 3, 2016
Last fall we reported on a partnership among several Island nonprofits—Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN), Good Cheer Food Bank, the Whidbey Institute and Goosefoot Community Fund—to support a bold plan to provide school children with the educational and practical benefits of growing a garden, the kind of benefits most children once received in the course of daily life. The partners decided they would prepare the ground, plant the seeds, add hard work and patience and a sunny outlook…and wait for the South Whidbey School District Garden Program to take root and sprout.
That sunny outlook was helped along by a promise by the Goosefoot Community Fund—an organization that exists to build a sense of community, preserve rural traditions, enhance local commerce and create a sustainable future for South Whidbey Island— to raise $15,000 each year for three years and a commitment from the Goose Grocer to match that amount every year.
During the 2013-2014 school year, the Goosefoot Community Fund had raised more than promised. That amount of $22,000—matched by the Goose Grocer—helped to create a half-acre farm on the Maxwelton Road school premises. The School Farm included a 960-square-foot hoop house (the “Big wHOOP”) erected on the fringes of the elementary school playground, a large plot of ground plowed and ready for planting, and a cluster of small buildings. Once those were in place, teachers developed a curriculum that included lessons taught by earth mover and seed shaker Cary Peterson on the how’s, why’s, and what’s of growing a garden. (What makes a healthy soil? Why are worms our friends? How does a seed make a plant?) Before the year was over, students were contributing home-grown vegetables to their school cafeteria.
So it was no wonder that a large group of planters and sowers—the many volunteers who helped with teaching, curriculum development, building the School Farm infrastructure—gathered at the Goose Grocer on Thursday to celebrate the presentation of the second big check—this time in the amount of $52,000—to the South Whidbey School District Garden Program, the little sprout that could!
A big whoopee greeted the big check. Children would continue their collective love affair with the earth and its bounty. Students would continue to feel the pride of farmers who were raising food for their school as well as extra produce to donate to the food bank. Kids would still be able to pull on their garden gloves and pick up their trowels to spend time in the garden during recess.
The whoopin’ and hollerin’ was followed by some eatin’ of a big cake that boasted a frosting photograph of a plate of fresh vegetables and letters in shades of orange (to match the carrots in the photograph), green (think lettuce), yellow (squash, anyone?).
By the way, the cake turned out to be everything a cake should be: gooey, sugary, chocolatey—a wonderfully bad cake to celebrate a wonderfully good achievement by wonderfully dedicated people.
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To read the feature Big wHOOP from November click here.
Donations to the School Garden Project can be sent to Goosefoot, PO Box 114, Langley WA 98260. You may also donate online at www.goosefoot.org; be sure to make your contribution to the School Garden Program. Questions? Call 360-321-4232.
Dianna MacLeod holds a degree in journalism from the University of Michigan. An alumna of Hedgebrook, she moved to the island in October of 2011 to complete a novel—and never left.
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