Kids in the Garden and Community Support

It’s already been a busy month in Middleton!

Kids in the Garden: We just wrapped-up our first after school program! We had a wonderful five weeks learning about the greenhouse and seed starting, planning dream gardens, preparing the garden for planting, and cooking!

2Showing off their dream gardens

We made many tasty seasonal dishes with the kids including carrot muffins, apple crisp, spinach frittata, and oven fries. Our snack for the last day of the program was 5 weeks in the making: we planted greens in the greenhouse back in April and they were finally big enough to harvest for a tasty salad. We made a home made balsamic vinaigrette dressing and enjoyed the fruits of our labors 🙂 Continue reading

Getting better all the time…

Mosquitos and sweaty brows characterized Little Rock Summer of Solution’s first large group meeting on a recent and unseasonably warm 75-degree January day.  Despite the discomfort, our team showed their dedication and energy through active participation, which bodes well for our ability to make great things happen in what promises to be a hot and challenging summer ahead.


Our gears quicken their pace every week.  After our January meeting, we organized working groups for outreach and fundraising. We have begun prepping our garden and starting seeds in the greenhouse at a nearby urban farm.  Donations of all kinds have started rolling in– a printer, a bucket of heirloom seed packets, $$$$, time/labor from volunteers, and a zine rack all in the past few weeks.

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Building Community in Arleta

I hope that you’re enjoying this time of the year with loved ones. I really appreciate the holidays because it gives me a chance to spend quality time with those who I am close to. This year has been very busy for me as I am going to school and starting a community program in Arleta with the guidance of Grand Aspirations. I’ve gotten to know some of the people behind this organization over the past five months due to my participation in a program partially supported by GA located in East Los Angeles called La Causa Summer of Solutions. I’m happy to be under the wing of an organization that is run by young people who are enthusiastically and successfully creating programs that integrate community building, social justice, and sustainability.

1Jaqueline Bartz, Program Leader

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Little Rock Summer of Solutions: Getting off the ground

This Winter and Spring, our team in Little Rock, Arkansas will be organizing Little Rock Summer of Solutions. We are really excited about putting together this 8-week summer program that will address environmental justice issues in a traditionally underserved area of town. Our focus area is ripe for social reform, we have a passionate team, and we believe that our initiatives will bring healthy food, homes, and community feeling to our neighborhood focus: the 12th Street Corridor of Little Rock Arkansas.

The Central Arkansas community:

There is already a huge movement in the central Arkansas community for urban development and community cooperation. Young people are breaking new ground in the local food movement, alternative energy sector, anti-oppression work, and entrepreneurial innovation as evidenced by a growing wave of youth-run urban farms, energy auditing businesses, feminist book clubs, non-profit organizations, cooperative start-ups and other initiatives.

For the last few years, members of the Little Rock community have worked towards the historic preservation of the downtown area, a traditionally low-income neighborhood. Assortments of sustainable, small businesses are opening here, and seasonal community festivals are bringing new energy downtown. While several of our potential Summer of Solutions program leaders and participants have been elbow deep in this work for years, the low-income inhabitants of the neighborhood have been excluded from the benefits that are accruing to already privileged individuals and groups. Our work will be focused on co-creating community programs that are designed to benefit the members of the community where we will be working. Continue reading

Art in the Garden and Share the Good!

Cross-posted from Summer of Solutions Hartford

It’s been a rainy week at the Burns School Garden!  In order to stay out of the mud, this week we did a botany/art workshop in the garden with kindergarteners!

This summer we spent over a month removing small shards of glass from this planter that was left over from an old construction project on the building. Now it’s full of greens!

The students drew loose-leaf lettuce, kale, swiss chard, and arugula.

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Meet Middleton’s Fall Interns!

Cross-posted from Growing Food and Sustainability

Even though the summer is over, here at Summer of Solutions-Middleton we are continuing to involve students in our garden project. We are working with the Ecology Clubs at both Middleton High School and the Clark Street Community School, providing students with projects to fulfill their service-learning hours, and outreaching to teachers to help them to see our gardens as teaching spaces. Much of this has been possible because of the help of our two fall interns, Caila and Sara.

Caila Fredrick

Hey! I’m Caila Fredrick, a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. First and foremost, you should know that I love to eat. You could say this motivates most of what I do, from packing my backpack with 10% books and 90% snacks, to hopping on board with Gabrielle and Natalie as they bring high school students out of the desk chair and into a classroom filled with dirt, plants, worms, and good old-fashioned working with your hands.

My love for being outside and Mama Earth began when I was a brace-faced ten year old canoeing through the Northwoods of Wisconsin with Camp Manito-wish YMCA. I’ve been goofing around in the woods ever since, and now I strive to bring that love of nature into my kitchen…and into my belly. I believe in knowing where your food comes from, and in making it taste good. More importantly, I believe in sharing this passion, something I get to do with Growing Food and Sustainability. I especially look forward to bringing the philosophies of experiential education, which have been so powerful for me through work at Camp Manito-wish and through Adventure Learning Programs in Madison, into my time with the high school students in Middleton. Continue reading

After School at Burns

Cross-posted from Summer of Solutions-Hartford

Part II of our Autumn Update Series focuses on Summer of Solutions’ work at the Burns Latino Studies Academy.

When we arrived at the Burns School for the first time, it looked like this (actually, this picture was taken after we had hacked down and dug up all of the weeds and vines that grew along the fence):

By the end of the summer, our participants and volunteers had helped create an outdoor garden classroom for students and teachers to use throughout the year.

Working with COMPASS Youth Collaborative and the Latino Studies Academy administration, we were able to help the school set up an after-school program that will offer students garden-based education and recreation throughout the fall.  Burns created a position for one of our Program Leaders to work with teachers and students to care for the garden and teach a new outdoor and experiential curriculum.

We believe that making gardens and environmental-education accessible to all schools is essential to realizing social and environmental justice.  School gardens can serve teachers and students by offering outdoor, hands-on alternatives to classroom education.  Gardens can also teach students subjects like ecology and botany, and applied skills like growing food and cooking.

Finally, working with students is fun.  In a movement focused on injustice, oppression and crisis, the importance of fun cannot be overstated.

We hope that the two garden plots at the Burns School will continue to serve both educators and students as places of play and places of learning.  As we head into 2013 and the first full growing season at Burns, we envision a student garden that serves as outdoor classroom and functional vegetable garden.

Student gardens offer students not only curricular enrichment (and potentially, in the future, a real alternative to standard education), but also culinary enrichment (and again, potentially in the future, a real alternative to conventional food systems).

(fresh basil pesto)

You can’t beet this! (A beet-filled week at GFS)

Cross-posted from Growing Food and Sustainability

We had a new crop of young ones in our program last week and it was a blast! We painted signs in preparation for our Harvest Festival and harvested 24 pounds of beets!

4-year-old Finn, with a beet as big as his head!

Along with the excitement of new program students, we also had to say goodbye to the triplets: Ancha, Rama, and Modu. We are lucky to have had this family as a part of our program for our first summer. Their high energy and enthusiasm never wavered, whether they were harvesting and eating raw kale leaves, painting signs to decorate the garden, or engrossed in a Magic School Bus book.

Their mom, Viki, told us that she feels that they will apply all that they’ve learned through the program in school, at home, and in life. It is a wonderful feeling for all of us to have formed such a strong relationship with a family that will continue to be involved and support us in coming years.

With all the beautiful, ruby-colored beets laying around, I was inspired to paint portraits of the triplets using beet juice as a natural dye.

Ancha enjoying her kale. The beet juice is still wet and bright pink.

Rama taking in the garden. The beet paint is half dry.

Modu showing off his cherry tomato. The paint is dry and golden brown.

We sure will miss the laughter, shouts, and energy they brought to the program, and we’re already looking forward to seeing them again next summer.

Of course, I can’t end this blog post without a reminder for our Harvest Festival, this Saturday the 11th in Fireman’s Park from 4-7pm. I looked at the forecast and it is supposed to be sunny all day with a high temperature of 82 degrees. Should be fantastic! Come and join us for carnival games, live music, and purchase fresh produce, kale pesto, and baked goods at our market stand.

Hope to see you then!


Middleton’s Community Greenhouse and Video Debut

Start your seeds in the MHS greenhouse this spring!

This spring, Growing Food and Sustainability (SoS Middleton) has programmed and cleaned-out the greenhouse at the high school so that after years of disuse, it is now up and running and growing beautiful seedlings!  Our program only needs to use a fraction of the greenhouse space, so we would like to invite all community members to start garden seeds in the greenhouse this spring!

Every weekend this spring we will host weekly Community Greenhouse Hours when the greenhouse will be open and a Program Leader will be present.  This is time when anyone using the greenhouse can check on their plants, plant more seedlings, remove their seedlings, etc.  Community Greenhouse Hours will be posted on our website homepage.  For guidelines and more details, please click here.  We look forward to seeing the greenhouse teeming with life and activity!

Watch Growing Food and Sustainability’s Video Debut!

Join these lovely ladies and the rest of the Middleton team for an incredible summer!  We still have openings for full-time participant positions and stipends available (allocated based on financial need).  To apply, please click here.  Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis until May 15th.  We hope you’ll join us!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email us at:

Gabrielle and Natalie Hinahara
Founders, Program Leaders

Expanding Team, Expanding Solutionary Vision

This month has truly been one of expansion!  The network of people working together to make Growing Food and Sustainability a reality is growing everyday, as is our vision for a youth-led, community-based sustainability program.  We are reaching out to our neighbors, engaging high school Ecology Club students, and exploring the idea of adding a third garden site at the Middleton Alternative Senior High (MASH).  In the process of planning our Summer Program for middle and high school youth, we are finding ways to incorporate a wide variety of sustainability topics, including composting, water conservation, reuse of resources, and people-powered transportation.  With spring right around the corner, it’s an exciting time in Wisconsin!

Expanding Team

In this early phase of our organization’s development, we are using door-to-door canvassing as a primary tool for local outreach, community feedback, and resource generation.  We set aside a few hours every weekend to walk around Middleton and engage our neighbors in a conversation about our project.  The response has been incredibly motivating!  We’ve met master gardeners, teachers, community activists, parents, and even a dietician.  We’ve compiled an email list of 149 people.  AND we’ve raised over $600 to support our work this spring!

Middleton’s Program Leaders, Gabrielle and Natalie, both served as president of the Middleton High School Ecology Clubwhen they were in high school, so it only makes sense that we would collaborate with this group of students!  The Ecology Club decided to dedicate their spring semester weekly meetings to help us design the gardens, start seeds and take care of baby plants in the greenhouse, recruit more high school participants, and plan an event at the high school to highlight our program.  What a great group of students to be working with!

Presenting to the MHS Ecology Club

We’re exploring a possible expansion of our program to a third garden site at MASH, the Middleton Alternative High School.  Since this school has more available land, we’re hoping to site our “farm-style” garden here so we can grow a wide variety of annuals in a row crop layout.  We think that this new location will be a huge asset to our program and to the students attending MASH.  It will provide easier access to our program for at-risk students and will tie-in perfectly with MASH’s upcoming transition to a project-based model of education.  Incorporating the gardens into this style of learning will keep them in use throughout the school year and will give students a hands-on opportunity to learn about sustainability and agriculture.

Expanding Solutionary Vision

We are expanding the idea of a “school garden program” to incorporate a wide variety of sustainability initiatives and opportunities for green business ventures.

We are building compost containers out of reused shipping pallets to compost all of the refuse from the garden and from all meals that we host in the garden.  We are also partnering with Bloom Bake Shop, a local bakery, to pilot a bike-powered compost service.  Starting in March, we will pick up their used coffee grounds and vegetable waste once per week, compost it at our garden site, and use the finished compost to organically fertilize the gardens.  If this project is a success this summer, we will expand our composting operation to include food waste from the school cafeterias and other local businesses.

Water conservation will be incorporated into the garden through daily water use practices (such as not watering the gardens during the middle of the day) and through the use of rain barrels.  A number of our workshop topics specifically relate to water conservation, such as how to conserve water at home and rain garden design and installation.

Growing Food and Sustainability incorporates art and creative expression through engaging projects and workshops, all of which focus on reused materials.  For example, we will teach students how to weave coasters out of old magazines and how to create beautiful mosaic frames using old CDs.  The coasters are also for sale on our website, with all proceeds supporting our program!  $12 for a set of 4.

The program’s reliance on bikes as our primary form of transportation guarantees that students will be involved with people-powered transportation on a regular basis.  We will transport all of the tools and supplies between our three garden sites by bike trailer, with students either walking or biking with us.  We will also deliver produce to the local food pantry once per week by bike trailer, and students will be invited to join us for this group bike outing.  These opportunities encourage individual use of people-powered transportation while simultaneously exposing our participants to the network of bike paths available within Middleton.

This summer we plan to pilot a raised bed home vegetable garden installation business at a local residence.  Community members who purchase this service will be provided with a custom-designed vegetable garden based on their needs, complete sourcing of materials and plants, installation, and instructions on plant care and harvesting.  We may also provide weekly maintenance for an additional fee.  The ultimate goal of this project is to train and employ local youth in work that benefits their community while simultaneously increasing local food production in Middleton.

Expanding into the Future

Last week we received three part-time participant applications!  We are looking forward to engaging these new team members in our work and to hearing their new insights and ideas for Growing Food and Sustainability.  Our goal for the summer is to involve 5 full-time participants, 5 part-time participants, and 5 high school interns.  If you are interested in joining our team, please apply online Applications are accepted on a rolling basis and stipends for full-time participation are available!