Our First Two Years and Growing Strong

By: Gabrielle Hinahara
Location: Middleton, WI

Around this time two years ago, my sister Natalie and I hatched the idea for Growing Food and Sustainability. It’s amazing to see how far our program has come since then, when it was just words and a vague vision in our minds.

Our first year taught us so much: we kept a garden alive in a record drought, learned that 9 weeks of continuous summer camp is too much, discovered how to form a close-knit team in three months, and found out that working 55+ hours per week all summer ends up burning you out before the fall harvest. We met amazing kids, ate delicious produce, got a darker tan than ever before, and tried so many new things. It was exhausting, exciting, hard, inspiring, and we knew we wanted to give it a go for a second season.

8Campers Last Year Continue reading

Food and Discovery

By: Allison Guertler

Location: Middleton, WI

Coming from a student that just graduated from college, the world is a scary place. I took three years of Food Science before I decided it was not for me and graduated with Community and Environmental Sociology. No longer did I want to work in a food lab and create food for companies, but instead I wanted to get my hands dirty and work with those that make it happen. Growing Foods and Sustainably has given me this chance and they offered me what one of our little campers likes to call it: Farming School.

Campers at "Farming School"

Campers at “Farming School”

With only two weeks left of our summer, I have learned a great deal and have a better picture of what I want to do after this. Continue reading

In the Middle of it All

By: Katie Clements
Location: Middleton, WI

Growing Food and Sustainability has now reached it’s halfway point this summer, and I could not be prouder. The interns have grown closer and found work rhythms together, the kids are already giddy about coming back for the next session of garden camp (and as are we to receive them), and we are beginning to plan our upcoming community events including a benefit dinner and harvest festival. There have been major construction team accomplishments, and the garden is looking beautiful. While it seems strange to see the chard get harvested and watch the radish bed lay dormant, it is after all the middle of July. It seems about time for these things to happen, and we can simply look on our accomplishments, savoring our hard work and our harvest.

DSCF1318This coming week feels ripe for reflection. Continue reading

Celebrating a Bounty of Food, Friends, and Fun

Cross-posted from Growing Food and Sustainability

Yesterday was our biggest event of the summer, our Harvest Festival! We invited friends, family, neighbors, and community members to join us in a celebration of Growing Food and Sustainability’s first summer. Much has happened since Natalie and I first dreamed-up this program last October. A few highlights include…

  • Creating a 5,000 square foot Youth Farm where we have harvested 923 pounds of produce to date
  • Running a 9-week summer program for 26 students from 4-16 years old
  • Donating (and delivering with our bike trailer) 373 pounds of produce to the Middleton Outreach Ministry Food Pantry and 145 pounds to the Middleton Senior Center
  • Composting 887 pounds of food waste from Bloom Bake Shop and Roman Candle Pizzeria
  • Building a team of youth leaders to run our program. Ain and Lauren, our full-time participants, we simply couldn’t have done any of this without you! And to all of our committed part-time participants (Abby, Alyson, Asha, Colin, Katie, Lennea, Liz, Matthew, Morgan, Neil, and Teague), you kept our program rolling and contributed your talents and energy exactly when we needed them!

And now about that Harvest Festival…

Our wonderful volunteers made sure that everything ran smoothly and that everyone had fun! There were games, activities, music, and food for all to enjoy!

Farm Stand and Bake Sale at the Harvest Festival

Lauren putting our bike trailer to another use…

Bike-powered Hay Rides!

Our long-time friend and artist, Cathi, came all of the way from Chicago to run a ceramic plate-making activity! It was a hug hit with kids and adults of all ages.

Making ceramic plates!

Some of the kids took charge over the activities. Here, 6-year-old Elizabeth is running the face painting table.

Family face-painting

Seeing the faces of so many friends (old and new) at the Harvest Festival made me feel so supported in this work. Grandparents, parents, and family friends who have watched me and Natalie grow-up were there to cheer us on. I also realized how many new connections GFS has made within the community and how many new people I can now call friends. It felt incredible to know that the GFS team created this beautiful community in just one summer, and that these friendships and connections will continue to grow into the future.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to making our Harvest Festival such a success. We had so much fun celebrating with you and your generosity helped us to raise over $500 to send a group of our youth leaders to the Summer of Solutions National Gathering in Connecticut next week. THANK YOU!

~ Gabrielle, Program Leader

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!


The Buzz in Middleton

Cross-posted from Growing Food and Sustainability

This week Growing Food and Sustainability was fortunate enough to have Heather Swan give a talk on beekeeping during one of our training sessions. Heather informed us about behaviors and beekeeping practices as well as bee’s importance in agriculture as pollinators. She also gave insightful anecdotes about her own personal experience working with bees. When she was done we sampled some honey, such as the light and highly prized tupelo honey to the rich and molasses-like buckwheat honey.

Heather taught us many fun facts about honey bees:

-A healthy colony may contain as many as 60,000 worker bees.
-2,000,000 flowers must be visited to create a pound of honey.
-During the winter, bees will form a cluster in the center of the hive and vibrate to create heat. The center of the cluster may reach up to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.
-The military has used bees to locate explosives and illegal drugs because they have an extremely sensitive sense of smell.
-When bees are “swarming” in search of a new hive, they are in their least aggressive state.

Back in the garden:

We harvested our first cabbages and radishes. Plenty of rain and few weeds meant slightly less work in the garden itself. We have also been making kale pesto and screen printing T-shirts in preparation for our Harvest Festival on Saturday, August 11th.

A personal note:

I will be leaving Middleton this weekend and as such will not be continuing to work with GFS this summer. It was a pleasure to meet all of the hardworking participants with whom I grew, delivered, preserved, ate, composted and appreciated vegetables. This summer I got closer to my food, literally, thanks to GFS.

Sustain your Growing,