Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fruits and Flowers

Summer in Somers beams on, and here are some more things the garden has to show for it!

Our sunflowers are growing proud and strong--and we don't just love them because they're beautiful! They are attracting plenty of interested birds and insects who help pollinate our plants and keep the garden a healthy, diverse little ecosystem. . . And not only that! In the fall, the after-school Garden Club can use the seeds to roast for a tasty snack. Did we mention that these sunflowers completely seeded themselves this year? How wonderfully low-maintenance.

If you'll remember those promising brownish berries just on the verge of ripeness from my last post, my volunteers and I were thrilled to see juicy red berries ready for our consumption this past week. There aren't any camps going at this time of the summer, but a few lucky students stopped by the school and got to harvest a few for a snack.

On the left are some exquisite bean flowers on the purple bush beans from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds via FoodCorps... Thanks, FoodCorps! And on the right is the beginning of one of many zucchini that have shot upwards and outwards for the past month. Those things can grow.

And the whole garden, in all of its newly wood-chipped order. We hope the wood chips will keep it looking sharp when kids come back to school! Thanks SO MUCH to our volunteers who made this possible, and happy end of July, everyone!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July Comes Around

After months of cold and wet weather, the Montana summer has finally exploded into days of 12-13 hours of hot, beautiful, bask-ible sun. And suddenly everything is growing, including at our Somers School Garden! Here are some highlights . . .

The broccoli is forming heads:

 The garlic scapes are curling and bulging with future flowers:

Our newly seeded zucchini and buttercup squash are growing leafy:

Our Red Russian Kale and red cabbage are growing big and strong:

And our raspberries are forming, to be ready in a few weeks! See those greyish, aggregate fruits full of possibilities? Yum.

Things are really happening! We can't wait to get harvesting and prepping food for our school food program--stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

And . . . We're BACK! The 2014 Edition

Three years later, I am reviving this blog from the very beginnings of the Somers School Garden in Somers, Montana, to share with the world how our garden is doing in the summer of 2014! My name is Zoe Tucker, and I'm the current FoodCorps Service Member serving in Somers and Lakeside as well as in Bigfork and Cayuse Prairie Schools. I've been teaching in classrooms, assisting with procuring local food for the cafeterias, and engaging kids in the garden this whole school year (check out the Montana FoodCorps blog here), but now that it is summer in Somers again, it seemed like the time to start posting some pictures. . . 

Like this one of third graders at Lakeside Elementary dissecting some dirt earlier this spring!

Anyway, some high points of the year: at Somers Middle School, we had a small but faithful Garden Club crew who met after school to plant seeds, transplant starts, weed, generally tend the garden, and come up with ideas for how to make the garden more popular among the other students. We will resume that next fall and hopefully it can grow a little each year! Led by Robin Vogler, our intrepid Food Service Director, held our annual Montana Food Day in October to showcase local Montana produce across the menu, and tried out a few new recipes and items such as Montana lentil hummus and local beets, both of which went over pretty well with the middle schoolers. At Lakeside Elementary, we continued serving snacks through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, highlighting many delicious local products including apples, butternut squash, radishes, and even kale for National Kale Day. We also continued to cultivate our hydroponic greenhouse at Somers, which we use primarily to grow head lettuce for the school salad bar. Nice, eh?


In May, we had a wonderful work day featuring the folks from Montana Conservation Corps--our ever-faithful helpers in the garden--and the awesome youth from the Center for Restorative Youth Justice. This was the BEFORE, A.K.A. the Land of Quackgrass:

The worst of it--it's hard to look at:

But our devoted volunteers really went at those vicious rhizomes, and here is AFTER:

Note the brand-new three-bin compost system next to the school, the newly transplanted broccoli on the right, and a significantly reduced population of quackgrass. . . We hope.

Thanks, MCC and CRYJ! You all rock. Now, our broccoli, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, pumpkins, onions, garlic, tomatillos and sunflowers are on their way to success. More pictures coming soon!

Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, or ideas at zoe.tucker@foodcorps.org.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First Year Garden Yield

Winter has come to Somers, Montana and although some plants are hanging in there, Robin Vogler (Food Services Director and Nutrition teacher) sent us the harvest totals:

120 pounds of zucchini-not counting a random few
114 pounds of pumpkins
23 pounds of buttercup squash
53 pounds of hubbard squash
15 pounds of potatoes- these were Delicious, served them oven roasted, olive oil & sea salt-YUMM for our Montana Harvest Menu Day
19 pounds of carrots-although very few of these were edible-strange deformed and bitter-unfortuneately
Broccoli is still alive
Cabbage- no yield,but nice foliage :)
5 pounds lettuce varieties
Onions/garlic still in the ground

We are SO excited about how much this garden produced, especially since none of our plants were able to get into the ground until July!  And we know the garden will get better every year. 
Thanks to everyone that helped to make the garden possible and have continued to sustain it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

New Pictures and News Stories

School is back in session, and although we (Tory and Jean) are back on our respective home coasts, the garden is still growing, so much the beds can barely contain it! Robin and her Nutrition students harvested zucchinis and green onions the other day for a class project, and she took some photos of the garden growth (more photos below).

In addition to being a Blog of the Month for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, the garden has also been getting some nice local recognition, in the West Shore News, and as part of a story about the Montana Foodcorps in the Missoulian.

There are two amazing women that we need to thank for their roles in this project, and we’re so glad that they are featured in these stories: Robin Vogler, our site supervisor and the Food Services Director and Wellness Program Coordinator for the Somers/Lakeside School District, and Crissie McMullan, a founder of Montana Foodcorps. Both bring so much energy and passion to their work, and it was such an honor to be able to work with both of them for a summer. In Robin’s five years at the Somers Middle School she has transformed the school food service from reheated processed food to made-from-scratch, healthy food that the kids love. For more details on Robin’s amazing work, check out the piece she wrote for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. She buys produce from local farmers, but she wanted to reduce the food mileage even more and grow food right on campus. So she asked Crissie McMullan at Montana Foodcorps for volunteers to make the garden happen, and we were lucky enough to get selected. Crissie started Montana Foodcorps after the work she was doing to get local food into the University of Montana was so inspiring that people kept asking her to come to their community to get local food into their schools. And Crissie is amazing but can only be in one place at one time so she created Foodcorps to send volunteers to those communities. Montana Foodcorps is now a model for the National Foodcorps program, which is currently in 10 states. For more information, check out Crissie's Montana Foodcorps blog.

Finally, here are more new pictures of the garden! A white pumpkin looks like it will be ready for Halloween (below), the zucchini and potato towers are looking great (middle) and the chard is getting huge (far below)!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Our End of Service

Exciting news: our blog has been chosen as a Blog of the Month by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution! We are so honored, Jamie is such an inspiration. We can't believe that a blog we started mostly so that our moms could stay updated on the progress of our garden is being recognized by one of our idols!

Today is our last day of service and the ending is bittersweet. We're glad we've accomplished all that we have and excited about what's next, but it's tough to leave this beautiful place! Below is a picture of the raised beds, the plants are beginning to spill out of them! Below left are our potato towers with lots of potatoes leafing out the sides. Below right is a sunflower in the courtyard.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Potluck Success!

Last night we had our potluck dinner at the school. Unfortunately it stormed so we moved the dinner into the cafeteria, but we were glad to be out of the rain! We had lots of great food and company and would like to thank all who attended and brought a yummy dish. If you weren't able to make it, be sure to stop by and see the garden sometime soon, the plants get bigger every day!

Our term of service ends Saturday and we'd like to thank everyone here for their help and support. This has been an incredible experience and definitely one that we'll never forget.