by Marianthe Bickett, Farm to Table Apprentice - June 1, 2016

Just as I started my position as Farm to Table Apprentice at Woolman, the students began a unit on food access. First they watched the documentary A Place at the Table, about food insecurity in the United States. The documentary highlighted the lack of federal funding for the food stamp budget, as well as the subsidies the government provides for industrial agriculture that allow processed, sugar-laden food products to be so cheap and readily available. Families forced to survive on these services end up relying on refined carbohydrates and sugars, contributing to the prevalence of diet-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The students discussed the film afterwards, deciphering where their experiences fit in among the spectrum of food access. The film was powerful, and I could see the awareness and motivation it brought to the students.

In our next class, students got to put this newfound information into practice. The class was split into four groups, and each group was assigned an identity: farmer, college student, single parent or insurance broker. They were assigned a likely budget based on those identities, and then asked to prepare a snack for the class using that budget. We priced everything in our kitchen to match market prices, and gave each group different allowances – for example, the farmer had a very tight budget but eggs and produce were free for them!

I am always impressed with the students' skill in the kitchen and this class was no different. Every group managed to prepare something tasty and healthy, although the differences in what they could each afford were striking. All in all we had two different smoothies, two varieties of egg scramble, a big kale salad and popcorn made in coconut oil sprinkled with cinnamon and dark chocolate chips.

Here at Woolman, we have the luxury of a big garden that gives us fresh produce, herbs and fruit. We buy organic pantry ingredients, and we have talented staff that prepare healthy meals that accommodate many different dietary needs. We eat vegan cashew cheesecake, sweet potato fries, homemade kraut and huge fresh salads on the regular. So it is all the more important to learn about and recognize the food disparity that exists in our country, and for our students to be inspired to find creative solutions so that this kind of fresh, delicious healthy food becomes more accessible to everyone. 

Kale Salad getting thoroughly massaged by our farmers

by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff, Maya Horton, Farm to Table Intern - April 28, 2016

Woolman meals rival your local five star restaurant, and leave you wanting more, but luckily there is always more...

Living at Woolman has it perks, but if you ask where the real heart of the school is, it isn't hard to find; The kitchen is warm and enticing, overwhelming and easy, and over the stove and inside the oven, between stirs and blends, you cook with others, and this is where the magic happens. 

Here are a few photos of what a week of eating looks like at Woolman! Enjoy- and if you really want, stop by for a meal!

1.Sauteed Sesame Kale, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and Local Grass Fed Beef with Red Sauce

2.  Shaksuka, Sauteed Cabbage and Kale, French Fries

3. Fresh Baked Bread (by our students!), Coconut Milk Corn Chowder, and Vegan Cashew Cheesecake

4. Vegan Gluten Free Black Bean Burger, Chickpea Salad with Sweet Potato and Mint

We are so grateful for access to organic and local food, sometimes even from our own garden and orchard!  Meals at the Woolman Semester School are made by us, the WHOLE community! Each meal has 3-4 designated community members (students, interns, and staff) to make a meal! We love learning about new recipes, ingredients, and food from different cultures, and as always, we are happy to take requests!

by Charlotte Lippincott, Farm to Table Manager - March 17, 2016
This week in Farm to Table class, we explored coevolution, fermentation and the gut!
 
The human microbiome is arguably understated, considering how central it is to our experience of health, wellness and life itself. The gut assimilates the food we eat into nutrients while also moderating our immunity, detoxification, brain development, energy levels, cell regeneration, and countless other body systems. As such, these crafty little inhabitants of our microvilli serve as the mediators between our selves and the world around us. They also constitute a world within us: scientists believe that at least half of the cells in our body belong to microbes, constituting over 10,000 species. So when you “trust your gut”, you are taking advice from trillions upon trillions of microbial voices. Our microbiome is amazing!
 
After getting better acquainted with our microcosmic counterparts, we discussed the benefits of fermentation and made kimchi, a traditional fermented Korean side dish. Students split into stations and chopped and grated napa cabbage, green onions, carrots, daikon radish, garlic and ginger. Together we salted and massaged the veggies with chili flakes and pack them tightly into jars, to be shared after spring break. We tasted kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, kefir, and some homemade pickled limes; it's always exciting to watch students react to new tastes, or see their eyes light up with familiar flavors. Fermented foods have a more profound place in our diet than many may realize; cheese, yogurt and kefir, coffee, bread, beer and wine, soy sauce and most other condiments, pickles and some meats and fish we have subsisted on, thanks to the process of fermentation, for thousands of years. Only relatively recently has Western culture waged a war against bacteria, and within our current industrialized food model we are increasingly disconnected from the process of growing, preparing, preserving, healing and connecting through our food.  

As we explore fermentation in Farm to Table class, we find so many ways in which it connects to our greater values of peace, justice and sustainability.  The process of fermentation is an opportunity to reconnect with our food, our communities, and our own power to heal. It creates a space to celebrate food stories and locate ourselves within many intertwined, rich cultural histories. It is an opportunity to reconfigure our roles as consumers in a fragile, fossil-fueled, sterilized, capitalist food model. And it is an opportunity to proactively support the health of our body systems and communities outside of the pharmaceutical-dominated biomedical model. 

And it is a chance to share good company, microbial and human alike!
by Sophia Mueller, Fall '15 student - December 21, 2015
 
I frequently hear people complaining about their work. Many people don’t want to work or dread having to. However, imagine work being inspiring for you. Fun. Creative. Something you are crazily passionate about. As I write this essay I am in residence at The Woolman Semester School where the mission is “to steward diverse learning communities and educational programs that weave together spirituality, peace, sustainability and social action.” One way these important themes are woven together is through our requirement to participate in shared work. A lot needs to be done around campus; whether it is gardening, stacking firewood, or cooking, there are always opportunities to help out.
 
Shared work is one of my favorite parts of Woolman because I usually get to work outside in the garden. I love to work closely with the earth. I also love shared work because the whole Woolman community works together to make a comfortable, sustainable, and happy home for us all. There is something powerful about working with other people: I get energy from their motivation, and I can inspire them to keep working by sharing my enthusiasm. When many people work together to do something they care about, it becomes even more meaningful.
 
I find shared work to be very satisfying. I get to see the results of my work. No, it is not instant gratification, but I can see that what I do matters and has a positive effect. I remember planting radishes one day. Each time I revisited I noticed them getting bigger and heartier, eventually becoming ready to provide us with healthy nutrition. Sure this was more work than going to the supermarket and buying vegetables straight from the shelves, but it was important. We all worked together and had a direct relationship with the earth and our food. Shared effort makes work more meaningful. It connects and motivates people. When I feel deeply inspired to serve a purpose, and when I experience the power of people achieving something important together, work means a lot to me. 
by Charlotte Lippincott, Farm to Table Intern '15-'16 - December 20, 2015
The garden doesn’t lie, but it is especially honest in winter. The dense foliage that a few months ago dressed the earth with life has since receded, revealing the backbone--its essential form. The hedgerows that teemed with colorful perennial flowers and their loyal pollinators when I arrived in August are now pruned back, focusing their energies inward as they bear down for winter. The last of the fall plot gleams each morning with frost, and the sturdy, determined garlic push their bright green sprouts upward. 
 
My first week working in the Woolman garden, when this whole place was still unfamiliar territory, I cleaned tomatoes with the renowned farm apprentice Brianna. I remember us slogging through the thick forest of tomato vines, cutting off the discolored sunburnt ones and piling them into our wheelbarrows in the sweltering afternoon sun. Sweat streaked through the substantial film of dirt that comfortably clung to my entire body. But Brianna and I fell into conversation easily, bringing a lightness that made the hours pass more quickly. By the time we finished, we were itchy, sticky, scratched up, exhausted, and satisfied. 
 
Now staring at the same field, unassuming cover crop grows where those proud tomatoes once reigned. Bri has since gone on to Portland, to do amazing and important things. August in my memory feels distant, because of the abundance of experiences that have happened, and continue to unfold each day. I am constantly learning from the garden and the connections that are made within its fences. I covet the hours spent by myself rocking back and forth on a broadfork, exploring my thoughts and admiring the subtle, graceful systems happening below my feet. I am equally, forever grateful for the mornings spent with the intern work crews, cleaning carrots and picking beets and spilling our souls to each other, or reframing my entire worldview with Maggie as we bunch chard.  The garden extends an invitation to embrace change, and seek continuity and meaning within these cycles of growth. It is not hard to find metaphors that apply to your own life.
 
As the semester draws to a close, the air is heavy with nostalgia for the present moment, while stirring with anticipation for a winter of rest, reflection and going home. It feels fitting that the garden is slowing down, drawing itself inward, as if to mirror this introspection and reconnection with roots. I hope this winter presents for us all an opportunity to rest, heal and reflect with honesty, and prepare for another vibrant season. 
by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff - September 1, 2015

Welcome to the Woolman Educational Garden--a place of laughter and growth, a place where the word drought is never spoken in front of the plants (that would be rude), and a place where harvesting your first vegetable reminds you that all the hard work was undeniably worth it.

In the beginning--back in February--the garden felt cold, the orchard wet, and I did not understand the importance of straight and fluffy beds. I dreaded long afternoons...thinking maybe gardening wasn’t for me.  Every piece of information seemed part of some new language I hadn’t even heard the name of.  Words went in one ear and out the other in a series of explanations told by the wonderful, eloquent garden manager Maggie McProud.  After many mornings of seeding I thought I knew it all, but then I realized through all the cover crops we still had vegetables in the garden. That day I harvested my first vegetable--leeks. Later on that day I googled what leeks were.  Soon, what I was doing made sense, outcomes became clearer, and I understood what my purpose was in the garden: I was to facilitate the growth and care of these plants, and in turn they facilitated the growth and care of those who walked through the garden walls. 

As the garden is in full swing--with harvests going into the Woolman Semester Kitchen, into a restaurant in town, and (for a lucky few) into their homes--there is a lull engrossing the space between the garden gates. The space that needed me so badly a few months ago is now blooming all on its own. The bees, ignoring me as I walk by, pull nectar from their flowers; the carrots are freely dwelling beneath my feet until it’s time to be pulled; and the hummingbird buzzes rapidly past my ear, whispering that everything will be ok. 

by Maggie McProud, Garden Manager and Farm-to-Table Teacher - June 4, 2015

"Our garden quietly affords our community with a space for reflection, inspiration and guidance through these metamorphoses, simultaneously providing nourishment to support our path forward."   – Maggie McProud

We are on the cusp of summer and already we have much to be grateful for in The Woolman Educational Garden. For those of us who live and learn here, Woolman inspires transformation and adaptation. Our garden quietly affords our community with a space for reflection, inspiration and guidance through these metamorphoses, simultaneously providing nourishment to support our path forward. The garden has recently reminded me that the path to discovery and adaptation demands a willingness to digest and decompose ideas we have come to rely on in order to breathe new life into the systems and cycles that support us.

In our Farm to Table class this semester, we discussed one of my favorite concepts – Permaculture Design. Roughly, the concept is this: we cannot truly solve the challenges we face using the same form of consciousness that created said challenges. Einstein succinctly captures the potency of this concept in one of his famous quotes, yet it has taken many years of farming to comprehend the massive implications of this idea and to employ this concept as a strategy to make positive change.  It is this very form of ‘consciousness evolution’ that we aspire to engage with in our farming practices but can also be applied to personal development and to community living. In Quakerism and Quaker education, this process is beautifully captured as Continuing Revelation.

Our mild winter and rain shortage has dramatically increased pressure from ‘pests’ this spring. This change begs new approaches and adaptations to our farming practices. When faced with problems in the garden, we encourage our students to ask: How have we played a part in this dynamic instead of assuming this phenomenon is happening to us? The weather is obviously out of our control, but it doesn’t take us long to realize we have been catalyzing natural processes for our benefit and are partly responsible for all the outcomes whether or not they were intended.

One of our biggest obstacles in the Woolman Garden is the presence of symphylans (read more here). This soil dwelling arthropod lives off organic matter and root hairs, virtually stunting the majority of plants growing in their presence. In fact, their populations thrive with most ecologically literate farming practices! Incorporating compost, minimizing tillage and mulching are just a few of the techniques we use that support and spread this organism. We have found solutions that reduce crop damage but nothing to eradicate the problem completely. With the increase in symphylans this Spring, we are being forced to think outside the box, especially when it comes to composting our green waste – symphylans have always found their way into our finished compost piles no matter what we do. In response, we have actually decided to think inside the box and compost using Vermiculture! (Here are a few pictures of Tyler's beautiful craftsmanship on the new worm boxes!)

"By facing our original challenge creatively, we have been reminded that adapting from old systems to new methods of problem solving truly supports resiliency both in our garden and in our community."

This new solution provides us with the same function and meets our needs while simultaneously adding countless benefits to our program.  Our new worm bins provide more biological diversity, richness to our soil, educational opportunities and craftsmanship to our garden.  By stacking functions, we have designed our worm boxes into our preexisting vegetable processing station and upgraded these systems with additional improvements.  By facing our original challenge creatively, we have been reminded that adapting from old systems to new methods of problem solving truly supports resiliency both in our garden and in our community.

Thank you to everyone who helped to create this new system, ‘pests’ and all!

by Brianna Beyrooty, Staff, Farm Apprentice - May 13, 2015

Interns play an integral part in the garden. They spend 10+ hours in the garden a week doing everything from seed starting to pruning an entire orchard.  Intern garden time is a great way to bond over hard work and see something transform with their efforts every week.

Monday mornings start with a garden check-in, starting with silence interns share thoughts to start the week with. This is a way unique and effective way to ease into the week with a clear mind and heart.  With the intern’s hard work and dedication the garden gets the attention and love it deserves.

Here are some of the intern’s thoughts on working in the garden:

Joe- I like pruning and being in the trees in the orchard. I like not killing, but invigorating the tree to grow. I think I’m good with the ladder and enjoy the aggressive ladder work. 

Em-What I love most about working in the garden is the opportunity to be outside. Nothing makes me more jolly than the California sun! I’m also quite fond of whispering encouraging words to our growing plant babies and chasing away hungry quails.

 

Gio- Our farm manager Maggie McProud is my favorite thing about the garden! Granted, she isn't a plant, but she does support the interns as we grow as farmers and people. She is closely seconded by harvesting cherry tomatoes, pruning apple trees, and planting garlic.  It was harvest season when we first arrived at Woolman, so understandably we were easily enchanted by the incredible amount of produce that was picked and consumed every day. At one point, at the end of the peak season, we harvested over five hundred pounds of produce in one day (four hundred of which were tomatoes). 

Kat with weeds

Kat- Having never grown food before, working with the garden this year has given me a deep and visceral appreciation for cycles of life and the radical act that is taking that process into your own hands and belly. I love knowing that the sweat off my own back is a gesture of resistance against industrial agricultural practices that harm our planet, bodies and communities. I also love knowing that the greens and tomatoes on my plate haven’t been shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away and that their growth contributed to and not detracted from the health of the soil. I’m grateful to be understanding these cyclical processes of life and death, so essential to our basic existence, not in a textbook but through hands-on experience with a brilliant teacher like Maggie McProud leading the way.

by Sadie Weinberger, Community Intern '14-'15 - March 31, 2015

Springtime has arrived at Woolman! Jackets and sweaters are being shed, the days are getting longer, and temperatures are rising, much to everyone's enjoyment. The garden is waking up, the orchard is in full bloom, and some of the plum trees are already sprouting their leaves.

Maggie, Bri, and the interns have been hard at work for a month pruning the apple, pear, and plum trees. After hours of staring at fruit trees and planning our cuts, our hard work started to pay off as we became more and more familiar with the structure and growth of the trees. They are looking happy and healthy heading into warmer temperatures, and we are looking forward to a bounty of fresh fruit come fall. 

Everyone is hard at work in the garden, too. We've been tilling, bed prepping, laying irrigation, and transplanting hundreds of plants. Baby cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and lettuce plants are poking their heads up and greeting the spring! Our asparagus starts, which have been in the greenhouse for a year, are finally in the ground. Though we won't see them matured for another year, their fuzzy green tops adorn the beds and bring joy to the garden.

During shared work, the whole community contributes to getting the garden ready for summer. Below, students and staff weed beds of garlic.

by Brianna Beyrooty, Farm Apprentice - March 16, 2015

My name is Brianna Beyrooty, I'm the new Farm Apprentice at Woolman. For the next 9 months I will be working in the garden, experiencing a full season of farming. From Permaculture to weeding, I'm excited to get my hands dirty and see what this beautiful earth has to offer!

The great thing about the garden here at Woolman is that we are always looking for ways to improve and expand our thinking when it comes to gardening. Permaculture gives us the principles to do so, and is a great way to live in a sustainable way within our garden walls. The more we can reflect and observe nature’s already complex system we can take from that system and mimic what we see to have a more sustainable, ecological, and well-rounded environment.  
 
In our Farm to Table course students can directly see the principles they are learning about take effect in their own campus garden! Here are some principles of Permaculture that we use every day in the Woolman Garden on campus:
 
Sheet Mulching!
 
 
This is our sheet mulching between our raspberries. Sheet Mulching is a way to emulate nature’s own forest floor, sheet mulching is done by laying cardboard sheets down, along with a composting a material then finishing with a layer of mulch on top. By sheet mulching we can eliminate the need for weeding as well as protecting and giving good nutrients to the soil as the cardboard and organic materials disintegrate over time. 
 
Forest Garden!
 
 
Our forest garden creates a native place for plants to naturally work together with each other. It’s low maintenance and gives the local flora and fauna a great place to interact. 
 
Composting! 
 
 
When we compost we take leftover food from our dining hall and let earth transform it into nutrient rich soil for our garden. This eliminates waste from our school and turns our food into our own usable treasure! 
 
Swale!
 
 
We installed swale in our garden last Fall, we have two 75 foot swales that collect run off water from the soccer field. Otherwise this water was flooding our garden during rainfall, so now we can slow down the runoff and spread it so it will slowly sink deep into the soil. The swale is directed into a 100-foot French drain to maximize drainage, minimize erosion and prevent water from flooding our garden plots.
by Gray Horwitz, Environmental Science Teacher - March 4, 2015

Happy March! It is hard to believe that the semester started almost six weeks ago. We have some updates for you from different aspects of Woolman life, written by various teachers.

Students and interns had a gorgeous 3 days on Staycation last weekend! They headed down the coast to the Big Sur region, camping at Plaskett Creek campground which bore a lovely resemblance to Frodo and Bilbo’s shire. A 6 mile hike up the switchbacks of the Cruickshank Trail was well worth the trek when met with epic oceanic views at the summit and a West Coast sunset at the shore in the evening. Saturday morning started early to get down to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While the tentacle exhibit was incredible, the simple pleasures of double rainbows, tacos, and accoustic melodies of fellow students were a wonderful completion to a weekend away. 

In Peace Studies students just finished a unit on oppression, power, privilege, and allyship. This week they started learning about US empire, militarism and native sovereignty. Here is a link to one of their readings by feminist activist Andrea Smith. In Peace Projects class the students came to a consensus that for their collective action organizing project they want to focus on three issues: Pro-Choice, Immigration Rights and Islamophobia. In groups they have been researching each issue and will present this week on the root causes and effects of injustices and articulate their own visions for social change on their issue. We will then as a class look at the intersectionality of each issue and dream up an action to implement that will address all three.
 
Woolman’s Technology Committee is organizing Tech Free Day challenges for the campus. These are opportunities for us to explore our relationship to and dependency on the various forms of technology in our lives. All community members will be encouraged to leave their cell phones behind and be intentional about using as little electricity as possible. Our first challenge will take place next Wednesday, March 11 on the five-year anniversary of the tsunami and nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. We will be joining forces with efforts around the world to take a stand for clean, safe, and sustainable power by unplugging from the grid.
 
The attached pictures show Lily playing with the bluegrass Fruit Jar Pickers in Rough and Ready, CA, gnocchi and quiche meals, students working on EnviSci energy audits, and pruning in the orchard.
 
by Maggie McProud, Farm-to-Table Coordinator - December 2, 2014

It’s been a very busy season in the garden this year!  The fields have been put to bed and are bursting with a think blanket of cover crop spouts.  Our community has been working hard all year to tend and celebrate the little sweet spot on our campus that provides such bounty.  Since January we built a new and very nice green house, remodeled our beehive, installed a huge drainage system as well as three water catchment elements to preserve our soils, reduce run- off and increase the water holding capacity on site.  All the while, we're pumping out hundreds of pounds of the freshest of foods, rich in nutrients for our community in as well as inspiring young people through garden education.  We had a wonderful season with our small and loyal CSA members.  Woolman has also been selling produce to Summerthyme’s Bakery, where we are featured in their weekly specials. Wow, no wonder we're tired! A huge THANK YOU to the students, interns, staff, visiting students and volunteers who all played a part in making this season a success!

In the Intern Garden Class and Farm to Table, we've started exploring the ethics and principles of Permaculture.  Permaculture is best described as "a system of assembling conceptual, material and strategic components in a pattern which functions to benefit life in all it’s forms. It seeks to provide a sustainable and secure place for living things on this earth."  It's been a wonderful and interesting opportunity to brainstorm ways we might design our lives to be more ecologically and socially resilient in this time of globalization. In the Woolman garden, we hope to inspire mutually beneficial approaches to life though observation, careful thought, smart work and cooperation, leaving plenty of room for imagination and enjoyment. As Einstein said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking we used when we created them."
 

by Susan Bell, Student - September 27, 2014

Before I visited the Berkeley Edible Schoolyard, I had fairly low expectations. I thought it was an interesting program, but I was skeptical. In my past experiences with observing similar programs, I have been disappointed because they have not been entirely successful.

Within the first ten minutes of hearing the woman speak about the program and the kids’ involvement, most of my expectations were exceeded. I was impressed with the facilities of the kitchen, and the layout and upkeep of the garden. I was surprised by the organization of the schoolyard, from color-coded tools to agendas written out for students. It was also nice to see the kids learning to become most self-sufficient, and leaning life skills. I think this program is very sturdy, and does wonders for the students and the school as a whole.

One thing I learned about the program that I did not realize before is that they incorporate animals into their program. I think this is a valuable lesson to help kids understand where their eggs and meat come from by creating relationships with chickens.

I would have liked to spend more time in the kitchen to observe their cooking program. From just walking around, it looked like the kids were enjoying themselves and having fun learning.  I think the most impressive aspect of the program was the enthusiasm from both sides, the administrators and the students.  I got the idea that the students look forward to the class, and the class has grown to make the school a better place. 

by Heather Sieger, Student - September 25, 2014
On Monday, our second stop was at Wolfskill Experimental Orchard, or National Clonal Germplasm Repository, which is owned by the federal government and land is leased from UC Davis. I enjoyed seeing this “living library” of so many different species and varieties of fruits and nuts. First, we learned all about how grafting works. Grafting means to take a limb off of one tree and line it up with a similar part of another tree and since trees’ immune systems are so much different from our own, it heals up the cut and the new branch will grow into the tree. It was common here to see walnut trees with the bottom of their trunks a darker bark color than the top because of the types of trees grafted onto one another. The darker color is a type of walnut that has a strong root system that fights off bacteria and diseases, which the top kind is another variety that we want. I find this interesting because you could have so many different varieties of a fruit on one single tree, and for apples, all of each variety comes from one tree and then is grafted onto other apple trees.
 
Since this is a Germplasm Repository, they do not harvest the food grown here and just keep it as a place to preserve species and varieties of grapes and fruit trees and nuts. I was impressed with all of the grapes—there are 3500 varieties at this orchard, some with seeds and some without. How are seedless grapes grown? They actually have seeds when they are young, but at a certain time as they are maturing they get a mutation that kills them. In order for these to reproduce from seed, someone must go into the grape as it is young and take out the premature seeds before they leave.
 
We also got to see and taste olives, pistachios, and figs. Olives taste really bad when they are first picked off of a tree, they are very bitter and need to go through much processing to taste how we are used to them tasting. To make olive oil, the olives are juiced and then the oil and water that comes out is separated because the water holds the bitter taste while the oil is what we know. The pistachios have three layers, the seed, the shell, and an outer coating. Unique about this nut is that the shell forms before the seed inside forms, which is opposite than must nuts like almonds and walnuts. The figs were different colors, so that wasn’t what told us they were ready to be eaten, but rather when their stems were leaning downwards. I really enjoyed spending time at and learning about the Wolfskill Orchard!
 
by Estrella Acosta, Staff - February 4, 2014

How does what we eat contribute to using the earth’s resources sustainably? This is a hotly debated topic on the Woolman campus. Merriam Webster defines sustainability as “being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Buying local, buying organic, going vegan, going vegetarian, freeganism (using what others throw away), growing your own—these are all food choices individual Woolman community members have made as ways to lessen their personal carbon footprint. Here is what Woolman is currently doing to eat sustainably:

We buy organic whenever possible. Why organic? When done right, organic usually means more vitamins and minerals than conventionally produced food, no carcinogenic herbicides and pesticides in the food or in the soil, better working conditions for farm-workers, and humane conditions for animals. These are some of the many reasons cited by people choosing to buy organic as a way of eating sustainably. “Organic is something we can all partake of and benefit from. When we demand organic, we are demanding poison-free food,” says Maria Rodale, granddaughter of Jerome Irving Rodale, one of the first advocates of organic farming in the United States. “We are demanding clean air. We are demanding pure, fresh water. We are demanding soil that is free to do its job and seeds that are free of toxins. We are demanding that our children be protected from harm. We all need to bite the bullet and do what needs to be done—buy organic whenever we can, insist on organic, fight for organic and work to make it the norm. We must make organic the conventional choice and not the exception available only to the rich and educated.”

We buy local whenever possible. How sustainable is organic olive oil shipped on a diesel-burning ship from Australia, then trucked from the port in Oakland to the UNFI distribution center in Rocklin and then up the hill to Woolman? Amelia Nebenzahl, the kitchen manager for Woolman and Global Issues teacher, is committed to buying locally whenever possible. "My colleague Gray Horwitz, Woolman’s environmental science teacher, helps me do extensive research to make sure our food is organic, comes from farms and companies with sustainable and humane practices whenever possible, and is produced close to home. Our eggs, butter, much of our produce, and other key kitchen staples are from right here in Northern California."

We grow our own. The Woolman garden is the best of all possible worlds. It is extremely local—300 yards from the dining hall!—organic, grown with love by student and faculty hands, and often harvested hours before mealtime, still brimming with the enzymes and nutrients only found in fresh food.

Maggie McProud, Woolman’s garden manager and Woolman’s Farm to Table teacher, comes from a local family of organic farmers (Riverhill Farm) and is proud to be carrying on the tradition at Woolman. She is passionate about food and cares deeply about where our food comes from. “Organic is great! But, it doesn't solve all our problems especially environmentally. Organic Agriculture can be another form of ‘big ag’ with all the same problems as conventional. The industry is growing fast enough that it’s hard to regulate practices and there is a lot of misleading marketing. For lots of crops this is the most practical way to grow them for big populations, but for veggies and any animal products, it is safest for you, your family, and the environment to support a local farmer who has a good reputation for land stewardship and clean food and water.”

What else can we do to eat sustainably? Maggie says, “Shop at co-ops that sell local produce. Shop at the farmers' markets, and the money that would normally go to the middle man goes to the farmer. You also get fresher food! By supporting them you are also supporting the culture, economics, and vitality of your community.”  

And, of course, Maggie fully supports growing your own: “Growing and preparing your own foods is one of the most politically, socially, and environmentally radical things you can do today. There is little else that we as a culture do so regularly that is bogged down with gross resource consumption, social inequity, and economic/political influence than our daily consumption of processed and industrialized foods.” Go Maggie!  


We don’t currently grow all the food we need at Woolman, so every Tuesday morning Amelia and community intern, Chloe Jacobson, meet the UNFI truck and potentially the most cheerful delivery driver in the world, Darrell Echols. UNFI is the largest organic and natural food (yes, not always organic, but at least not filled with additives and preservatives!) distributor in the world and was founded right here in Nevada City. The company was started in 1976, out of the back of the founder’s Volkswagon van. Then called “Mountain People’s Warehouse,” the company still uses the slogan “to boldly go where no distributor has gone before.”


Darrell Echols, who has been a driver at UNFI for 15 years, says he loves his job: “They are a great company. They take care of their workers and really walk their talk—trying to be sustainable and all of that. They are constantly reviewing how they can reduce their carbon footprint—like having fewer trucks on the road, loading more into each truck. Things like that. It makes more work for the drivers, but I get paid by the hour, so it works for me!”

 

Can’t get enough of this topic? Are any of the following missing from that stack next to your bed?

Articles:

Wendell Berry, "The Pleasure of Eating"
Sacramento Food Co-op, "Organic Heros, Amigo Bob Cantisano" 
Orion Magazine, Sandra Steingraber, "The Fracking of Rachel Carson"

Books:

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma
Eric Herm, Son of A Farmer Child of the Earth

Websites:

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
United Natural Foods
Organic Consumers Association
Briar Patch Co-op--Eat Local

by Maggie McProud, Garden Manager and Farm to Table Teacher - January 6, 2014

The garden is tucked in and resting for the winter season.  Our cover crop survived the cold snap in December and is waiting patiently under its protective straw quilt for longer days to come.  In the Woolman hoop house we have spinach, salad mix, kale, cilantro and radishes eagerly waiting for Wombats to return to campus.  We are so lucky to have the hoop house—most farms in our area are not able to harvest these crops this time of year!

The crop plan is coming together and I am fine-tuning our seeding schedule.  Between the 45-plus crops we grow, multiple successions and varieties, crop rotation from season to season and direct seeding dates vs. transplanting dates you can imagine how complicated our garden becomes.  It’s been very pleasant to have the peace and quite to focus on planning and improving our garden program.

In the coming year I will be focusing on simplifying the Farm to Table program at Woolman.  My dream is that Woolman will be a place where people of all types can fall in love with food and become inspired to grow and prepare their own nutritious, fresh and sustainable sustenance.  It’s a challenge to carve out time for the garden amidst the hustle and bustle of all the other AMAZING things that we do here.  Thus, it seems even more important that we accomplish what matters most and do it very well.  One improvement that will help this effort tremendously will be a new green house!!!!!

For those of you who don’t know I am fundraising for a 12’ x 24’ green house.  I am excited to make propagation, one of the key components of farming, into a successful, inviting and educational experience for years to come!  We have been having a very hard time with our transplant production, which has left students, interns and myself very discouraged and intimidated.  Our current green house is not hot enough to start transplants early in the spring so we use a heated incubator. We cannot start our next round of transplants until the first batch is mature enough to survive under the cooler temperatures in the green house.  This creates a bottle-neck and delays our entire production schedule.

Using a proper green house, Woolman will be able to plant/harvest crops earlier in the year, creating a longer season with greater yields. We will also be able to grow sprouts and shoots through the winter and have room to grow more transplants to donate to The Yuba River Charter School.  Most importantly, the new green house will allow us to produce transplants that are nice enough to sell.  My goal is to have at least one annual plant sale to raise money for the garden and do outreach for our amazing program at Woolman.  Thank you so much to those of you who are helping making this dream a reality!

by Yasha Magarik, Community Intern - June 28, 2013


The Woolman Farm is in the lull of midsummer, after the annual crops have been planted but before most of them are ready for harvest. Besides trellising tomatoes, monitoring irrigation systems, and regular weeding, the newer parts of the garden are mostly waiting. Meanwhile, we find ourselves with time to catch up on other garden projects. The two days of rain earlier this week not only invigorated our parched land; it also gave us the opportunity to help Maggie, our Garden Manager, begin planning curricula for the fall and to start many of the seedlings for later season crops, like fennel, leeks and millet. On Tuesday interns researched the viability of laying hens, identified new tools to buy with money from our recent Whole Foods grant, and reorganized our seed storage system.

We also have a short window of time to care for our perennials and the sections of the garden associated with them. Last week, with help from Family Work Camp, significant progress was made on finishing the cob bench in our Edible Forest Garden. Speaking of the EFG (as we’ve affectionately dubbed it), the edible plants are out in force. Berries both familiar (strawberries and alpine strawberries) and strange (gooseberries, mulberries, and black raspberries) have popped out all over the garden; the grapes seem to have benefited from extreme pruning and even the Lappin cherries that we grafted in March have taken off. Now is a time of both bounty and expectation; it’s exciting to ponder how much progress our garden makes in a single year--and also comforting how firmly the cycles within each year assert themselves.

by Maria Doerr, Alum (Spring 2012) - January 12, 2013

                                                                         

It's hard to believe it's been almost a year since my first days in Nevada City. The following is a college application essay I wrote about a very dear Woolman experience. I am so thankful for the wholesome, enlightenment Woolman promotes and sustains. Best wishes to the incoming Spring 2013 class!

 

Washing Leeks

The sun sat heavily on the surrounding Sierra Nevada foothills. The acre garden spread out in all directions—to the east lay the tool shed followed by rows upon rows of lettuce, kale and spinach to the west. My classmates were dispersed through the garden, some weeding in the strawberry bed, others hoeing an area destined for tomatoes later in the spring. At the washbasins, constructed from old bathtubs on wooden stilts, I eyed my assigned task: a box heaped with dirty leeks to be stripped and cleaned before their final destination in the campus kitchen.

I dumped the leeks into the bathtub of cold water before me and began to swirl the leafy greens around until the water became a dusty brown. My forearms deep in the tub, I searched for my first target, pulled out a large leek and began to wipe away the grime.

“Wow.”

This was food. Food that had come a long way to reach my hands. This plant was seeded in October, watered daily, protected from the cold and nurtured until February when someone plucked it from the ground and sent it to me for cleaning. From here, it would go to the kitchen where a group of students and faculty would use it in an edible masterpiece.

I shook the leek dry and sought my next victim. Pulling back the thin outer layer of skin along the stalk, I uncovered the tender white center. I reached for the knife to cut away the entangled roots and coarse, green tops. The box of clean leeks was growing steadily.

How many people did it take to grow this little plant?  Many. Behind each stage in this plant’s life was a different person with a different task who had invested time and effort in its cultivation. The seeders, weeders, waterers, harvesters and washers.

I looked around the garden at my classmates and teachers scattered among the rows of bounty doing their respective chores. In our small community, we worked, studied and played together. We had been brought from across the country to this small Quaker school in Northern California to learn about peace, justice and sustainability. We represented a range from New York City to the suburban Midwest, the incorporated areas of Los Angeles to rural Vermont. We came as pagans, Christians, Jews, atheists and Quakers. As bisexuals, heterosexuals and transsexuals. As mixed races and Caucasians. Our differences had brought us together in this place to learn and grow.

We had raised this. This leek. This meal-to-be. Our daily labor and individual tasks made the farm and community whole.

With a satisfying plop, the last leek dropped into the box. In the distance, I could hear the dinner bell ringing.

by Malaika Bishop, Farm Manager - November 15, 2012

 

This season we grew the most beautiful flowers yet.  While this is great for the beneficial insects they attracted and all of that, I have a new appreciation for the inherent value of beauty on the farm. There is something so heart opening about walking into a space where there is care for aesthetics and beauty. The flowers travelled about campus making regular appearances at meal times, in the administrative offices, as birthday surprises and even to our CSA member’s homes and the vegetable stands at our partner schools. 

Our local school partnerships also blossomed. I now wear another hat as the Farm to School director for Live Healthy Nevada County; creating farm to school partnerships with eleven K-8 grade schools around the county. Woolman is the “farm partner” for 3 local schools, meaning that we provide classroom visits, produce for their campus produce stand, and farm field trips of up to 60 students at a time rotating them through activities such as apple picking, cider pressing, wheat threshing, bug explorations, harvesting, and composting. 

Fall on the farm was abundant. Again, the interns made the herculean effort to harvest, can, dry, freeze, and ferment; preserving that fresh produce in its prime, just minutes away from where it grew, still vibrant and chalk full of phytochemicals.  Woolman students enjoyed their farm time in the through weekly shared work, their farm to table class, their natural building class, and several sustainability projects.  Interns spent participated in all aspects of running the farm and got the theory behind it in our weekly farming class. In addition, we had campers, work campers, home schoolers, volunteers, and community members all helping out and harvesting from the garden.  All tolled; about 700 people participated in growing (and more in eating) the food from the Woolman Farm this season.

While the season is coming to a close and summer crops are being pulled to make way for cover crop, things are just getting rolling in our newly constructed hoop house. Through grand community effort; our hoop house now stands tall and we are harvesting our first summer squash, basil and lettuces from within, while looking forward to spinach, turnips, and greens to relish this winter and spring!

 

by Ike Oedel - October 14, 2012

The food intensive was simultaneously as eye opening as it was repetitive. The variation between the different stops was stark, and thus the experience of each followed suit. My own personal growth from the trip was not, in fact, from the food system itself, but from using the food system as an allegory for the rest of systems to make the change into sustainability and the seemingly post-post-modern society. A lot of the troubles I have with my vision of the future come from my inability to mentally manufacture a flowing, working society that will encompass the ideals put forward by so many of the tours on the trip.

In order to cater to a more grade-driven side of this (suddenly self-referential) blog post, I believe I will opt to err on the side of a specific instance from which I can tie in another concept. The 'incident' I will refer to, I believe, will be the Cactus Pete (bitter, or sweet? We man never know) Fiasco. The ideologies proposed for discerning between truly sustainable and thoughtful arguments and practices in the first article we read was used by us all during the speech. As the Anti-Gmo speaker got up, it was inherent in his speech that he was not using any sort of defined, thoughtful argument, as well as not showing proper education in the topic or full account of both sides of the argument. Naturally, we quickly used the A-Q list of criteria found in Schneider's article to discern if we could trust and agree with the speaker. This was not a thought-out process by us, but more of a subconscious classification from the built in organization of our brain. We filed it away under 'untrustworthy'.

The rest of my personal growth and connection to external, seemingly unrelated learnings found throughout the experience was through group and personal discussion. The food system itself was not as highly prioritized because it was merely a byproduct of a convoluted system. Questions arose about whether it was a good idea to try to change the system or work to make the system better, as well as the finer details of social movements themselves. In a oddly Herzogian twist, themes of violence, time, and death were very much present in at least the conversations I had with staff and speakers. My views, negative for the purpose of being countered to learn from, were pleasantly shot down and new ideas were opened up to me. The community and energy present on the food trip was, I might go so far as to say, intense.