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Monthly Archives: June 2014

This blog is a Kitsap Sun reader blog. The Kitsap Sun neither edits nor previews reader blog posts. Their content is the sole creation and responsibility of the readers who produce them. Reader bloggers are asked to adhere to our reader blog agreement. If you have a concern or would like to start a reader blog of your own, please contact

EduCulture Stole My Heart…then Gave Me Strawberries


We use revolutionary incrementalism: small steps, big ideas. ~ EduCulture founder and director, Jon Garfunkel.

Tears popped into the corners of my eyes this morning as I walked away from my experience with EduCulture on a Bainbridge Island farm. I began dreaming of what the world would be like if every school had a program like this.

I wish I’d had my big camera, but my phone had to suffice as I didn’t want to seem too imposing as a visitor…

EduCulture‘s brochure says they bridge “local farms, classrooms, lunchrooms and the larger food community through edible education programs.”

This week I had the privilege of seeing this bridging in action – and tasting the results.

I joined 25 fourth graders and their teachers from Wilkes Elementary as they literally tasted the fruits of their labor – fresh, perfectly ripe Shuksan Strawberries picked from plants at Morales Farm, from which they took young plants and transplanted to Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms (which is where the photos are from).

Students from Wilkes, Ordway and Blakely Elementaries and Island Coop Preschool have also planted greens and heirloom potatoes, pumpkin and squash, which students next fall will harvest. The potatoes are the Makah Ozette Potato, which was cultivated by the indigenous people of this region. They grow a few types of strawberries, which at one time Bainbridge Island was famous for, and they’re helping to bring the endangered Marshall Strawberry back from it’s endangered status.

Curriculum in these schools has been tied to their farming projects, such as math, science and social studies, and the classes walk to the farms to learn plant, tend and harvest plants.


The Student Story

Students today didn’t get to just reach in and grab the strawberries. There was a great deal of learning just in the eating of the berries, which is one of the things I loved most about the experience.

First, the EduCulture instructor, Madison Taylor (known as Madi), had each person smell the large mound of strawberries in her bowl.

“Mmm…I can smell these! I can’t usually smell the ones at the store!” exclaimed one student.

Then Madison had everyone take one berry, but asked them to resist the temptation to pop the whole thing into their mouths and instead just bite the tip off, paying attention to all the flavors they experienced.

There were shouts ofEduC4 “Sweet! Sour! Bitter! Delicious!”

She then had everyone bite their strawberry in half and asked them to look at the color.

“It’s bright red!” exclaimed many. One student said, “The ones I get at the store are usually white.”

She finally let them eat the entire berry while explaining that the reason the flavor, smell and color of these berries were so deep and complex was because they were fresh and ripe, whereas the ones bought in grocery stores are often not completely ripe or, if they are, they’re often unnaturally ripened by ethanol and other chemical processes.

One teacher’s face fell, “But not for organic ones, right?!” she asked.

Madison assured her that no, organics are usually not ripened by ethanol (though I’ve read that farmers who don’t use chemical processes to ripen fruit are feeling the pressure due to other farmers getting their products to market sooner).

As she let the students take more berries and eat them, she then explained that when the class took strawberry runners, or “babies,” to another bed and planted them, it allowed the “mother” plants to grow big and strong.

She also explained, “These are Bainbridge Island strawberries,” through and through. Their mothers came from other mothers who came from other mothers on this same farm, and the berries they were eating carried flavors from the land here.

“What if I took soil and plants from Bainbridge to California, what would happen then? Would the berries taste the same?” asked one student.

“Try it and let me know what happens, because I’m curious, too!” she answered.

Past to Present

The Suyematsu and Bentryn Family Farms where the students have been planting, learning and harvesting was started in 1928 and is the oldest working farm in the region. Many immigrant families have worked on these farms to earn enough money to start their own farm or restaurant, including the locally loved Sawatdy Thai restaurant on Bainbridge Island.

In 2000 part of the 40 acre farm became publicly owned, and in 2007 the Educulture Project was founded by a handful of local teachers and farmers. EduCulture then began using the land as “a center of teaching and learning, and a seedbed for our local edible education movement.”

Two other farms on Bainbridge Island  are also used for EduCulture – Morales Farm and Heyday Farm.

In 2010, EduCulture partnered with the Bainbridge school district and now uses hundreds of pounds of corn, potatoes and raspberries grown by students and local farmers are featured in the school lunch program.

In 2013, the EduCulture Project partnered with food communities in Suquamish and Seattle to launch the Edible Democracy Project, which is an entire blog post in itself.

Special Note: Jonathan Garfunkel, founder and director of EduCulture Programs, wanted to give a shout out to Brian MacWhorter and Butler Green Farms.  It is on public land he leases at Morales and Suyematsu & Bentryn Farms and through his partnership that we have these plots. This photo is from his farm…


Learn more and get involved

(or get help starting your own farm to school project!)


Recommended reading by John Garfunkel, EduCulture Founder and Director:

Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods by Gary Nabhan

Renewing Salmon Nation’s Food Traditions by Gary Paul Nabhan

Terroir-ists Manifesto for Eating in Place by Gary Nabhan (read this first about terroir if you don’t know what it is)

Never do unto others what they can do for themselves ~ Ernesto CortesEduc5

Happy Hummers: Healthy Hummingbird Food

Rufous Hummingbird. Photo by Roger van Gelder of Bainbridge Island.

I have grown quite fond of hummingbirds, the beautiful little helicopters of the bird world. I’ve had occasion to hold them in my hand twice now and feel I’ve been touched by forces of nature. One time was to pull a foxglove flower off a little guy’s head!

Spring_Courtright_HummingbirdThis is a photo of a Rufous Hummingbird with a foxglove flower stuck on it’s head! Don’t worry, we pulled it off and it flew away.

My boyfriend Will is even more enamored with these little guys than I am and he has feeders everywhere.

One night a few weeks ago, he treated me to their “evening feeding.” We stood still outside between two feeders just before sunset, and we were swarmed by hummingbirds!

I was moved to tears as they hovered inches from my face to look at me with bright, intelligent eyes, then chirped in their curious manner and hopped back onto Will’s finger to sit as they fed.

The next day, I rushed out and did something very uncharacteristic – I bought hummingbird food from Fred Meyer. I know, I KNOW, what was I thinking, right?! All that fake coloring and who knows what else. It didn’t even attract hummers – they liked my red-flowering currant far more than the food I put out.

safe_imageAnna’s Hummingbird feeding from a Red-flowering Currant.
Photo by Roger van-Gelder




The next time Will came over and saw the container full of red dyed sugar water, he tsk-tsked me and told me about his magic hummingbird food.

I’ve been using his sugar water recipe ever since, and I’m happy to say I have two hummers who buzz around all throughout the day to drink my now dye-free food. As I write, one is visiting my feeder…

We use organic, fair trade, non-gmo sugar, which we buy in 10 pound bags at the Silverdale Costco.



On, Bob Sargent is quoted as saying, “‘Hummers need nectar to power the bug eating machine that they are.’ Think of them as miniature flycatchers, and sugar is just the fuel for getting their real nourishment.”

When I read that they eat soft bodied insects and spiders I decided I love them even more – natural bug control by beautiful birds!

Will’s Happy Hummer Recipe:

2 parts water
1 part sugar
Mix thoroughly
Rest of the year: 
3 or 4 parts water
1 part sugar

Will credits George Gerdst, birder extraordinaire, for the winter recipe. George said the higher sugar content helps the little hummers survive freezing winter nights and keeps the mixture from freezing.

We’ve found that they really like feeders with a little bar to stand on, like the one below, but they’ll drink out of anything red. It’s important to refresh the mixture every 3-5 days if it’s in the sun as the sunlight damages and spoils it.

Happy hummer photo by Will Fletcher

We have two kinds of native hummingbirds west of the Cascades: Rufous and Anna’s. Rufous hummers arrive by May and stay through October, with males arriving 2-3 weeks before females. They winter in Mexico and nest from southeast Alaska to northern California, and at least as far east as Georgia. Anna’s live here year-round, hence the need for sugar water that doesn’t freeze.

For a list of plants that attract hummingbirds in Washington state, visit the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation page here.

Male Anna’s Hummingbird. Photo by Roger van Gelder of Bainbridge Island.

Thank you to Roger van Gelder and Will Fletcher for the great photos.

Thank you to these great websites for the information provided in this article:  – great FAQ section!
Hummer Bird Study Group
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

Happy Birding!