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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!

Aug 18, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Current Project: Good Food Awards 2012

We are working tirelessly on securing as many entrants for the second year of the Good Food Awards ( The entry deadline is September 1st and we are hoping to surpass the 780 entries from our first year. The more states represented, the better! This year we have expanded to eight categories: cheese, beer, coffee, charcuterie, chocolate, spirits, pickles, and preserves. Stay tuned for more updates once the entries are finalized.

May 20, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Lunch for Today, Food for the Future

Hand-decorated bay leaves, a wheat berry salad with arugula and apples, local fresh flowers, family style serving platters, and farmer-hosts at each table –together these created the “Lunch on the Quad”, which brought to life the working solutions to our food system in Washington D.C.

The Future of Food conference, put on by the Washington Post Live, brought together a diverse group of stakeholders in the food movement, including CEOs, activists, policymakers, students and organization leaders, to talk about the solutions needed to fix our current food system. The Future of Food was a day-long conference with four panel discussions, speeches by industry leaders Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Patrick Holden (Sustainable Food Trust), and a rousing keynote by His Royal Highness Prince Charles. Seedling Projects collaborated with Bon Appetit Management Company and D.C. non-profits, with the generous support of Kaiser Permanente, to produce a lunch that continued the conversations sparked by the panelists and speakers over a family-style meal.

So, it’s just lunch right? At some level, lunch is always a meal falling approximately in the middle of the day. But each element of the “Lunch on the Quad”, which occurred inside two of Georgetown’s most beautiful rooms, the Copley Lounge and Riggs Library, carried meaning and intention. The intention to show how to eat a delicious meal that directly supports local farmers and is healthful and affordable (~ $10 person for a four-course meal). This intention combined with the lunch keynote by White House Chef Sam Kass and Blue Hill at Stone Barns Chef Dan Barber created lunch more powerful than just your everyday PB&Js.

Hand-decorated bay leaves. The children from E.W. Stokes public charter school and Martha’s Table donated their youthful artistic talents to decorate 350 bay leaves that sprang to life at each place setting. The leaf decoration, coordinated by Farm to Desk D.C. coordinator Peter Nalli, was integrated into a lesson on herbs. Our first group of artists hails from the E.W. Stokes public charter school, the pilot school of the Farm to Desk program which integrates food and ecology into lessons on math and english. The Farm to Desk program teaches healthy eating habits through an integrated food curriculum, a dining hall serving from-scratch food, and a thriving organic garden at the school, in addition to a growing online wiki of lesson content that aligns food curriculum with core learning standards. Our second group of artists came from Martha’s Table, a shelter in D.C. that recently replaced much of its canned food with freshly-cooked meals, adding emphasis to healthy food in their programs. Both organizations are pioneering the integration of fresh food and education into these children’s lifestyles.

A wheat berry salad with arugula and apples. Prepared and served by Bon Appetit Management Company, this meal showcased the best local farms and food producers, all within 150 miles of Washington D.C. Sourced through FRESHFARM Markets, which organizes eleven farmers’ markets in the D.C. area, these family farmers provided all the ingredients for the lunch, including spring flower honey from Bon Appetit’s own Jay Keller and watermelon puree from young Allesandra Bergmark of Even’ Star Organic Farm in Maryland. From these local ingredients, Bon Appetit Management Company cooked a meal centered around healthful whole grains and vegetables. Bon Appetit, leaders in sustainable food service with over 400 university, museum and corporate cafes, championed the meal with careful preparation, creative recipes and graceful service. The result was a delicious reflection of the D.C. region.

Family-style serving platters. In an experience concepted and designed by the architects and graphic designers at BCV Architects and Amy Barboro Design, we served each dish family style. This communal dining experience sat renowned activists and policymakers among students and farmers, passing platters of spring asparagus and mesclun greens as the conversation and ideas flowed naturally from the morning to afternoon conference sessions. Students in D.C. Central Kitchen’s “Fresh Start” program, a job training program for those overcoming addiction, incarceration and homelessness, served the platters and added additional local flair to the organizations involved.

Local fresh flowers. Local florist Sidra Flowers arranged each of the centerpiece bouquets. Sidra sources from local organic gardens, whether the backyard or farm. The fresh flowers in each bouquet bloomed life into each room.

Farmer-hosts at each table. Local farmers hosted each of the tables, travelling sometime two hours that morning to proudly represent their growing region. Interspersed amongst the other conference attendees, these farmers supplied not only the rhubarb and kale, but also a valuable farmer’s perspective to each table. The farms represented included Big City Farms in Baltimore, MD, Gun Powder Bison Ranch in Monktown, MD, and Wade’s Mill in Raphine, VA, among others.

In a special moment immediately preceding the lunch, Prince Charles met with one member from each organization and company collaborating on the lunch. These lucky champions of the sustainable food movement included Sarah Weiner (Seedling Projects), Hans Baldauf (BCV Architects), Jay Keller (Bon Appetit Management Company), Gwen Perkins (DC Central Kitchen), Jim Crawford (Tuscarona Growers Cooperative), Sam Kass (White House Chef) and Dan Barber (Blue Hill at Stone Barns). The special recognition for those producing lunch highlighted our renewed commitment to creating a food system that values the people working on the ground every day, from farmers to chefs, to community nonprofits.

- Gavin Crynes

Photos by Nikki Kahn and Tracy Woodward of the Washington Post

Apr 04, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Farm to Desk: volunteers move soil, plant new salad garden

With a lot of linseed oil, a little lifting, and a great team of almost 30 volunteers, the new salad garden next to the kitchen at E.W. Stokes took shape on Sunday!

After several days of chilly rain, Sunday was a sunny day perfect for community gardening. Four of the raised beds from the old, bulldozed garden were relocated, renovated, and painted to extend their life for a few more delicious growing seasons. Volunteers also moved countless wheelbarrows of soil and compost as they amended the soil and changed the configuration of the remodeled garden. To refuel: homemade oatmeal raisin cookies and dried fruit and seed trail mix, with some cool, cucumber-infused water to wash it down. A special thanks to Amy Bartscherer, our fabulous coordinator, the JCC’s Behrend Builders, and the parent and student volunteers from Sidwell Friends School.

Mar 31, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

Up this weekend: Farm to Desk at E.W. Stokes

Farm to Desk digs into spring this weekend at E.W. Stokes! With the help of the Jewish Community Center’s Behrend Builders, we’re reconstructing the raised beds on campus, as well as amending the soil to give our seeds the maximum amount of love. We couldn’t do it without Amy, our garden manager, the fabulous parents at Stokes, and the JCC’s enthusiastic support of labor on their Spring into Action Day. Check out the JCC’s other great projects here.


Jan 19, 2011 | posted in Blog by seedlingprojects

One More Thank You: The Interns!

I enjoy making things happen from behind the scenes. As Alice Waters’ assistant, quietly fixing problems, it was a modus operandi that maximized what could be done, and continued to serve when I moved on to other endeavors. This weekend I was quite literally thrust onto stage: Dominic Phillips, brilliant event producer and co-founder of Seedling Projects, insisted that as the Director I must say a few words to close the Good Food Awards Ceremony, stage fright be damned.

Relieved that that was over, I wandering down to the reception looking forward to some incredible food. My beeline for the prosciutto was foiled by a pair of coppa producers from Georgia, a kimchee crafter from Washington DC, coffee roasters from Massachusetts and a dozen other winners who, one after the other, stopped me to say thank you for starting the Good Food Awards. Many of them had tears in their eyes. I didn’t know quite how to respond – but it was an experience I will never forget, and which I know will influence what I do in the future.

I imagine many of the 71 winners felt the same way on Friday night: widely appreciated for what they do for the first time. And perhaps today they feel like I do, a little shell shocked and hopeful that they were gracious in the face of a new sort of appreciation.  Working in their garage roasting coffee, in cellars cleaning up exploding kegs, tediously seeding ground cherries to make preserves or spending a week picking June Bugs off raspberries to keep them pesticide free, they are not usually in the public eye. When they are through with their work, the fruits of their labor sit proudly on market shelves, giving us endless joy, but they remain in the garage or the kitchen and rarely get to see how thankful we are for their exceptionally delicious beer, charcuterie, cheese, chocolate, coffee, pickles and preserves.

On Friday night, the fooderati of the Bay Area and beyond came out to thank them. It was standing room only after the hundreds of chairs were filled, and the applause when their names were announced reverberated all around the historic Ferry Building. At the Saturday Good Food Awards Marketplace, thousands of people were there to taste and buy their wares – we actually ran out of tasting spoons – and many of the winners sold out. For a salami maker from Salt Lake City or farmstead cheesemakers from Wisconsin, it must have been quite an experience to see just how many have an interest in tasty, authentic, responsible food.

Photos by Marc Fiorito of Gamma Nine Photography

Many hands went into the creation and implementation of the first Good Food Awards. We managed to thank most of them from stage, or on signage this past weekend. However, there were a handful of people who have no logo to paste on a sign or fancy titles to recount. Without their dedication the Good Food Awards would never have come to life. So, I’m pleased to now give the Seedling Projects interns their first lesson in accepting public thanks. I have a feeling it is a skill they will need in the future.

Norris Hung, thank you for your creativity, good humor and keen eye in designing so much of our signage and materials. Hannah Hausauer, thank you for tirelessly scouring the country to get entries and diligently helping the press team get the word out. Sarah King, thank you for being my right hand woman, always with a smile and a cool head. Gavin Crynes, the most frequently asked question I got all weekend was “Is Gavin here? We would love to finally meet him.” Thank you for taking such good care of everyone honored this weekend, without ever letting slip any of the event logistics. Do you ever get tired?

To all of you, and to the three interns who came before you – Amy Chu, Emily Morgan and Shane Michalik – congratulations on a beautiful weekend, and thanks for your hard work.

- Sarah Weiner, Director of Seedling Projects

Gavin Crynes, Amy Chu, Emily Morgan, Sarah King, Norris Hung, Sarah Weiner, Hannah Hausauer