Welcome to the Seedling Projects blog! We like sharing our thoughts, and what we're up to. Education, environment, health and much more, consumes our thoughts day in and day out. Take a look...

Sep 21, 2011 | posted in Partners by seedlingprojects

Williams Sonoma

Founded in 1956, Williams-Sonoma, Inc. is the premier specialty retailer of home furnishings and gourmet cookware in the United States. Their brands are among the best known and most-respected in the industry. They offer high-quality, stylish products for every room in the house: from the kitchen to the living room, bedroom, home office and even the hall closet. The first Williams-Sonoma store opened in 1956, selling a small array of cookware imported from France. Since then, the brand has expanded to hundreds of products from around the world, more than 250 stores nationwide, a direct-mail business that distributes millions of catalogs a year, and a highly successful e-commerce site.

Sep 14, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Movements Are Funny Things

What exactly makes something a movement? In my first few months as the Program Coordinator for Farm to Desk DC, it is a question that I’ve returned to frequently. Theoretically, I am now both a member of the food movement, and someone tasked with helping to build the edible schoolyard movement here in DC. So, seems like I better get it figured out quick.

Here in this federal town, August is a time for getting prepared. After all the debt-ceiling shenanigans, Congress finally took its recess, giving the city a chance to breathe. And as parents went shopping for backpacks and middle school students raced to finish long-neglected summer reading lists, teachers laid plans for the coming school year. Right before students come pouring through those doors, everything seems possible, both good and bad. In my experience, you’ll find that teachers are a peculiar combination of creatively ambitious and terrified this time of year. They can’t stop thinking about all the engaging lessons and inspiring units they’ll provide for their classroom. And yet, they also can’t stop imagining all that will go wrong, all the stress and long hours that will eat away at whatever summer-vacation-energy-surplus they were able to acquire.

At least, that is how I always felt.

So far at EW Stokes Public Charter School – Farm to Desk’s Pilot School – I’ve found dedicated and passionate teachers fighting the same fights that teachers fight everywhere: staff turnover, programmatic change, test score anxiety, and too much to do with too little time. And yet, despite all that, the teachers and administrators are committed to an innovative and powerful wellness program that includes: lots of physical activity; a from-scratch kitchen producing healthy, delicious meals; environmental education; and a school garden.

What a privilege to be working with such a forward-thinking school. In the next week, I will start teaching a Food & Ecology class to the Third and Sixth Grade classes, and soon after that, I will lead student activities in the garden and new outdoor classroom with Jonna McKone, our Garden Manager. The Sixth Graders will learn about the history, legend, science, and math of apples, all in preparation for selling school-made apple products at a trend-setting city festival that reached out to usbecause they thought what we were doing was cool.

At the same time, I have been receiving inquiries from teachers and administrators all across the city, asking how they can incorporate food literacy into their academic programs. Last week, I had the first meeting of many with teachers who are particularly dedicated to bringing healthy food and habits to their students. We dined potluck-style and shared frustrations, strategies, and dreams for changing the way food and nutrition is taught in our school system. In this age of high-stakes testing, such conversations help me believe that schools can be about more than just Math and English proficiency; that they can be about creating healthy, creative, engaged citizens. In these moments, I think, now this is a movement.

Some days, the possibilities really do seem endless.

Sep 09, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Summer Happenings In A DC School Garden

A summer vegetable garden is incredibly quiet compared the usual bustle of the school year. The quest for carrots large and small; kids searching for bright red amaranth, and the excitement of watching pill bugs make their way through the dirt dies down once summer break starts. However, this summer E.W. Stokes Vegetable garden had a fair amount of activity thanks, in part, to the involvement of the school’s lead chef and cooking staff, the expansion of 13 raised beds to include a large, a traditional (in-ground) bed and the involvement of summer classes. For Seedling Projects’ program, Farm To Desk D.C., garden manager Jonna McKone spent the summer growing heirloom varieties of vegetables, establishing sustainable garden systems like composting, teaching classes with the school’s summer enrichment program and filling the beds with kid-friendly information.

During the summer Stokes grew: strawberries, onions, mustard greens, all sorts of cherry tomatoes including Sun Sugar and Black Zebra, Bianca Rosa eggplant, sweet peppers, potatoes (which did not do well – we are still trying to figure out why), endless varieties of mint, Genovese and Thai basil, string beans, flowers, radishes, turnips, lavender and rosemary. The school’s chef and cook staff used a number of the items throughout the summer to stock the salad bar and make lunches for the summer program.

In July, the garden had the pleasure of a group of regular visitors: a 2nd grade French class and a French class of pre-Kindergarden and Kindergarten students. For five weeks, each class would visit the garden at least twice a week to learn about the 6 parts of a plant – what we eat, how roots work, why leaves are shaped in different ways and how to identify what’s growing in the garden. We also started our seeds, weeded, dug up new beds, harvested and made pesto, tea and a basil salad with the school’s chef, Lisa Dobbs.

Once August started, the focus was on our fall seedlings and planning. We got some major projects out of the way like building a shed, starting a better compost system and creating an outdoor classroom of colorful tree stumps and tables. We got really lucky – a neighbor cut down a massive tree and donated their stumps to us. We also worked with a local non-profit Casey Trees that lent their tree moving expertise. Casey Trees managed the process of hauling the massive stumps with a forklift and donated the use of their dollys. We know have benches, tables and a sitting area for teachers to utilize. We hope the outdoor classroom gets a lot of use, both for garden-based classes and for general play and learning time. In addition, we developed a series of raised bed concepts for the garden as well as a brand new, in-ground bed! Right now there’s a perennial herb garden bed, a bed of fruits and coming soon: a bed of companion plants, native species and a “pizza topping bed.” Up next we will be building a sign and community board so parents, students and neighborhoods can volunteer more readily at the garden.

Now that school is underway and we are excited to get the kids back in the garden to learn and harvest!