Register and Spread the Word: Summer Camps at Sideyard Farm

20 Apr

s & t camp

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Sideyard Summer Camps

31 Mar

Salutations Everyone,

Thank you for your interest in camps at The Sideyard Farm this summer, and for your patience as we get our ducks in a row in the new space and with new leadership. We are happy to be announcing fresh partnerships and programs, and that the Kids’ Garden will have more space than ever before on the newly expanded farm.

We would like to accommodate everyone we’ve worked with before, but we are aiming to start small this summer and develop as we go. We may not have the right camp for your family right now, but we’d love to hear your input on developing future after-school and home-school oriented programming at this site. Please keep in touch, and spread the word if you know anyone who would like to register or contribute to our scholarship fund.

Although we’re not quite ready to accept online payments yet, please let us know as soon as possible if you would like to place your camper on the list for any of our four week-long day-camps, and whether you would like to request scholarship support. (projectbeetgeneration (at) gmail . com) We will update payment options as soon as possible.

2015 Sideyard Summer Camps:  PLEASE NOTE, SOME DATES HAVE CHANGED (updated 4/1~no fool!)

Each 5-day camp will run Monday-Friday 9am-3pm at the new farm on NE Simpson and 48th. Campers are asked to bring a hearty lunch each day. Cost is a self-determined sliding-scale of $200-$300; any contributions above $250 will go toward scholarships for families unable to pay tuition.

June 22nd-June 26th: Herb Medicine Camp (Ages 7-10)

In this week, students will learn the basics of identifying and utilizing locally abundant and reliably useful herbs for everyday self-care. Over the course of the week, students will construct a basic first-aid kit for themselves and get to know their herbal allies through tea, theatrical play, scientific study, and writing.

Lead Instructors: Lara Pacheco with Mara Reynolds and Caienna Bierwirth

June 29th- July 3rd: Cycles of the Earth, Moon and Womb (ages 9+)

In this week we will explore the four seasons of the earth, four phases of the moon, and four weeks of the menstrual cycle. Through experiential play, inquiry, art, and gardening we will celebrate the connections between these interwoven cycles of the natural world. We will cultivate awareness of the way these cycles affect both the earth and our holistic selves as humans ~ mind, body, & spirit.

Instructors: Samantha Zipporah with Lara Pacheco and Mara Reynolds

July 6th-10th:  Herb Medicine Camp II

Depending on interest, this will be a repeat and/or expansion of the earlier Herb Camp.

Instructors: Mara Reynolds with Lara Pacheco and Kate Coulton

July 13th-July 17th:  Fiber Camp (Ages 10+)

In this week, students will explore the wild world of fibers, and how they have been dyed, spun and manipulated around the world to create everything from rugs and clothing to baskets and fishing nets. We will explore the chemistry of plant-based dyes and pigments, learn how to spin and use different types of yarn, and experiment with basic weaving techniques.

Instructors: Mara Reynolds with Caienna Beirwirth

Summer Camps Ahoy!

22 Feb

After a too-long hiatus, Project Beet Generation is thrilled to announce we have accepted the torch that’s been so lovingly kindled and passed by Living City, and we’ll be hosting farm camps for youth at the newly-expanded Sideyard Farm this summer. This also means that The Seedlot, our pilot educational space, will be finding a new home in NE Portland’s Cully Neighborhood, and we couldn’t be happier.

Registration will officially open at the farm’s grand opening on March 28th, and camp descriptions and instructor bios will be posted soon.

Camps will take place during the following weeks this summer:

June 15th -19th

July 6th -10th, 13th-17th

August 17th-21st

Themes, age groups and instructors for each week are still being pinned down, but here are some of the themes and topics we’re interested in exploring:

–Plant allies for self-care and kid-friendly first aid

–Fermented foods and cooking from scratch

–Garden art and science: plant-based dyes and pigments

–Insects, bugs, and habitats

It is our vision that all of our offerings will be open, inviting, and accessible to anyone interested, and all will be offered at a sliding scale/open to barter and trade.

Check back soon for links to contribute to our scholarship fund or reserve a space for your camper, and let us know in the comments what you’d like to do at camp on the farm this summer! In the mean time, enjoy pictures of some of the fun things we’re doing currently in various other educational gardens @projectbeetgeneration on Instagram.

And see that picture? That big blank space right up front and center is our future home at the farm! It’s gonna be a big spring you guys–if you’d like to volunteer or donate starts or seeds to help make our educational garden a reality, we’ll be doing most of our heaving lifting during spring break, March 23rd-27th. (And if heavy lifting isn’t your thing but you’ve got other skills or resources to share, please be in touch!) Contact: projectbeetgeneration@gmail.comIMG_4162

The sun is back! The sun is back!!

19 Apr

After a long, cold stretch, we’ve finally got a forecast with more blue than gray ahead.  It’s still pretty chilly if you’re in anything other than direct sunlight, but just a few sunny days and it’s as if Portland is born again. Thank heaven.

On Sunday we had our April community work party at the garden.  Unfortunately, I was on the tail end of recovering from my first experience with food poisoning, and in my haze I forgot to bring my camera. So hopefully my words will suffice until I make it back out.

Sunday was The First Sunny Day, and it was nearly perfect for gardening.  Four of my usual students came with their two respective moms, and one said family had invited their Girl Scout troupe, so we had five (?) new little girls and their moms in the garden to boot (I’ll admit I wasn’t in top form that afternoon and lost count).  It got a little chaotic with so many new kids and me feeling so drained, plus I think we were all a little sun-crazy, but fortunately there were plenty of adults on hand to supervise.  There’s a  biology professor at PCC who has brought her classes to the garden on field trips for the past year or so, and since they couldn’t schedule a trip with me this spring she offered her students extra credit to come help out at our work parties, so we had two new surprise helpers as well.

I pointed out two of our most predominant weeds, red dead nettle and bittercress (both very easy to identify and hard not to find once you know them) and set everyone to work throughout the garden.  Before long, I was nearly trapped in front of our compost bins by towering piles of weeds, trying to make room for it all and intersperse the fresh greens with the dried and composted material we already had.  At the end of a few hours, we’d cleared a few beds and were ready to plant potatoes, lettuce, parsley and mustard greens.  Our compost should be cooking (and thankfully, making more room) in no time. The kids busied themselves finding all the “edibles” in the garden (collards, chives, and pea shoots was all), and attempting to engage with the mud pit without actually getting muddy. At the end of the day the garden was picked clean and one little girl at least had a ring of green around her mouth that would rival the best milk mustache you’ve ever seen. She marched around the garden with a collard leaf in her hand and a smile on her face like most kids would with a lollipop of similar size.  What a wonderful way of measuring the success of one’s work!

In other grin-inducing news, I learned on Friday that I’ve been accepted to attend a three-day intensive immersion program this summer in Berkeley: The Edible Schoolyard Academy: Creating Garden and Kitchen Classrooms in Every Community.  The Edible Schoolyard, started by famed chef and Chez Panisse owner Alice Waters (who helped start Woodlawn’s educational garden back in the day!), is perhaps the most famed and successful garden-based education program around, and I’m really excited about the opportunity to not only learn first-hand how they operate, but to hopefully get myself on her radar as well.  [I went and visited the Edible Schoolyard last winter, I’ll post pictures shortly].

The cost of the Academy will be $650, which I’m not at all sure how I’m going to cover at this point (even if I do resume or find paid work immediately, I’ll probably not have that much extra before the registration deadline next month).  I’m going to apply for a scholarship through the Endowment for Unexceptional Humans (awesome!), but I’m also accepting donations, if anyone wants to help sponsor this exciting opportunity (for what it’s worth, since I can’t offer a tax deduction, my birthday’s coming up!)  I was just looking into setting up a “donate” button, but in my research it looks like PayPal takes a slice of the pie, and I’d prefer not to go through them–so if you’d like to contribute in any capacity (even with other scholarship leads), feel free to be in touch through this site. I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen, and I’m excited.

Well, all this talk of sunshine and now I’m sitting in shadows and getting cold.   I’m going to go catch what’s left while I can.

License to Grow

12 Apr

Spring is officially here: so what if we’ve scarcely broken 60 degrees yet, the days are long again and the landscape swells daily.  It’s not yet clear what the Children’s Gardening Program at Woodlawn will be like this year, but at least for that  I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I’m not out in the cold and gray, teaching uniformed children in the mud all day.  I mean, I do miss my job, but not so much the waiting-out-the-hailstorm-in-the-shed -when-classes-cancel part.  So even if I’m not working yet, at least I’m warm and dry.

Other developments… I am now officially certified as a School Garden Coordinator, the most excellent training I’ve encountered since entering this field:

And last month we had another humble but I say successful work party at the Woodlawn Children’s Community Garden:

(These photos are of the same corner but from different vantage points~note the red car)

Again we focused primarily on the front area of the garden, what’s most visible, and started working our way back.  We pulled lots of weeds and planted some peas, radishes and a few different greens (interestingly, we’re out of spinach and carrot seeds because they were both so popular last year!).

Things went well, although it admittedly underscored for me how much more work it is to maintain a garden in this manner! The sun may still be hiding most of the time, but those weeds are in full-tilt growth mode, and many have already gone to seed.  The difference between organizing a work party from home as a volunteer versus as an employee/teacher with weekly on-site interactions with your target audience… well, it’s notable.   I’m pretty pleased with the work we were able to do on that drippy afternoon, all told, and thanks to everyone who came out to help! There are little sprouts popping up all over the place now.

And: the next work party is this next Sunday, the 17th, 1-4pm, so mark your calendars!

Thanks also to everyone who’s voiced their support for the Children’s Program at Woodlawn in recent months.  Within a week of my last post, I was called in for a meeting downtown with my former boss from Community Gardens and with her direct supervisor from Parks.  I learned that Commissioner Fish’s office secured $6,500 from the PP&R scholarship fund to provide one-time finances for a shortened version of the Children’s Gardening Program at Woodlawn, which they intend to run from June through October.

I am extremely grateful–not only for the funding the Commissioner and his team have secured, but for the efforts of all the neighborhood community members, families, businesses and participants on behalf of the Children’s Gardening Program.  We really did achieve something, and the Commissioner has held true to his word. You all deserve tremendous thanks and celebration.

I am somewhat concerned, admittedly, about the logistics of the plan to start in June.  In my experience with this position over the past several years, my start date has varied from as early as late-January to as late as May and June.  And I can speak from this experience as to the tremendous impact  of an early start, particularly with respect to the important metrics, i.e. # of participants, lbs. of food, etc., and the ability to track them meaningfully. My suggestion at the meeting was to let my position start back up right away, so I can use my new skills from the training to work on developing a gardening committee, organize a fundraiser as we’ve done in the past, and fill the gap to provide as full of a program as possible given that it’s already April, several months behind schedule.

Allow me to elaborate:

–School gets out in June, and families typically have set plans for summer activities by that time; by (re-)developing relationships with students and families through the spring, they are much more likely to set aside time to remain involved in the garden throughout the summer and subsequent fall.

–Partnerships with teachers have been strongest and most numerous in the spring; most of the teachers I’ve worked with in the fall were ones that began in the previous spring.  The most significant number of participants we’ve had (up to 200 students per week) occurred during the past two spring sessions (when my position started in February), including in-school and after-school participants as well as guest volunteer groups and field trips planned early in the season.

–Planning/planting for fall and winter crops begins in June, and it’s often too late to plant many summer crops at that point as well; the amount and cultural appropriateness of food we’d be able to produce and provide to families in need would be significantly reduced by starting in June.

–This is what the rest of the garden looks like right now (and this is after two work parties and a fair amount of volunteer help) :

…And we’re barely into spring yet! It’s really pretty remarkable how much constant attention a space like this requires, and how quickly nature takes back what is not claimed.  I went by the garden this weekend because it was sunny for a little bit, and I must admit it’s shocking to see the garden in this state. Part of me wants to just put in the work myself, but in all honesty all that work can’t really be done effectively by one volunteer, however passionate or well-connected.  To pick it back up in June though could be harder still. You need a person there regularly to keep a pulse on the land, keep participants engaged and invite others to participate. I’ve never seen the space so sloppy or unproductive, and it’s a bit of a shock to see the hard maintenance work we achieved over the last few years so quickly undone.  I know the neighborhood takes a lot of pride in the bounty and beauty they’ve come to see in that garden in recent years, and  wonder what they think it means that it’s fallow now.


My suggestion, which I think is logically and logistically sound, is to let the program (i.e. the program coordinator position) start soon, as in right away.  That way we could resume partnerships with the students and teachers and families at Woodlawn and build up their enthusiasm with the spring… we could all together much more easily whip the garden back into shape, and have crops ready to harvest before school gets out. I’d also be able to recruit far more participants, engage more volunteers, and grow a significantly more food–and not just more food, but things like  tomatoes, beans, peppers and okra that are culturally appropriate to members of that community.  And my thought too was that if we could get that early start, we’d easily have time to organize another fundraiser, set a specific fundraising goal, and fill the gap on our own so we could still provide close to the full program.  To start things six weeks earlier would require less than $2,000 in fundraising on the neighborhood’s end–something we’ve done three times already.

I explained my concerns and suggestions at the meeting, nearly a month ago now, and in subsequent emails, and follow-up calls along the command chain–but have not heard anything back, yea or nay.  When last I checked in with the Community Gardens office, both of the staff people I know have to interview for their jobs this next week, and I wonder the degree to which this transition may be a contributing factor.

So there we have it…good ol’ Portland spring, true to form: blue skies out of one window, hailstorm out the other. The bees are back, the birds are singing, every day seems to uncover some long-forgotten color and scent. It’s blissfully warm in the sun and shiver-frigid in the shade.  But the days are longer every day.  Slowly and surely, things are growing out there.

Calling all Gardeners!

8 Mar Dahlias

The time has come for action. Spring is fast upon us, and prospects for the Children’s Gardening Program at the Woodlawn Community Garden are dim but brightening.

Last week I had a long but great meeting with the Chair of the Board of Directors of Friends of Portland Community Gardens–the organization which helped found the Children’s Program and has historically been the chief fiscal agent for it.

It was great to sit down and talk honestly about where the 25-year-old non-profit organization stands, where they’re headed, and how the Children’s Gardening Program fits into their agenda. We agreed, I think, that although the present situation is somewhat dire (yes, they’re 25 years old and still working on a phone number, current website, brochures;  their members could be counted on your hands and they can’t really address educational demands for now), it is also an opportunity to rebuild properly from the ground up.

And she encouraged me to approach Portland Parks Commissioner Nick Fish and ask him to follow through on the promise he made at the last Stone Soup fundraiser at Firehouse that my position would not go unfunded again this year. He secured $125,000 for building new community gardens this year (to fulfill the extraordinarily ambitious promise of 1,000 new plots by 2012), but hasn’t made any mention of the Children’s Gardening Program.  I’ve been somewhat wary call him on it–it’s really awkward to have to ask for your own salary. But I don’t think anyone could argue I’m in it for the money.  And if I don’t ask and be specific, I suppose I can’t expect much.

The way I see it, even with the cash infusion they’re a long way off from filling 1,000 new garden plots by 2012 (that’s less than 10 months away and there’s no count on the website!). Especially considering there’s still only one permanent full-time staff position at Community Gardens–and they’re rehiring right now.

Last year, I worked with as many as 200 students per week in the Woodlawn Community Garden.  Some of the oldest had been in the garden longer than I had–throughout their entire lives at Woodlawn School–while the youngest were just learning to walk and speak.

If we can’t build 1,000 new plots, can’t we at least maintain and develop our relationships with these hundreds of young community gardeners and in the process properly equip them with the lifelong skills, knowledge and resources that will enable them to start gardens at home and be leaders in their communities?

To my knowledge the program’s budget has not yet exceeded $20,000–and there were two staff people then.  Times are tight, to be sure, but this is program represents an extremely sound investment. It’s an affordable, long-term asset–and more importantly, an achievable goal.

So my tactic on this front for now is to:

  • Rally the troops! Last year’s participants, volunteers, anyone interested in getting involved;
  • Clarify what we want and what we’re able to commit to. Last year about 1/3 of Woodlawn School students accessed the garden as part of their school day–can we get everyone involved this year? And we raised $5,000 last year, 40% of the budget–I know we can do even more this year if we set our minds to it;
  • Present a coordinated ask to the Commissioner. Let’s be organized, consistent, and overwhelming. No one can speak better to the critical importance of Children’s Gardening Education than those of you who have been or hope to become involved–share details of how the program has impacted your neighborhood and family; envision what our fair city would be like if every community garden had such programming.

I am pretty confident that if we have enough seed money to tide us through this season while our supporting organizations refocus and get in gear, we can rebuild the program as a pilot, with the Friends and Community Gardens office (vs. alongside them), and design a model that builds community and food security though equitable access to garden-based education, is predominantly self-sufficient, and can be adopted by other communities and expanded to other sites.

(Why do I still feel like the little girl in The Secret Garden?)

So I’ve written a letter which will soon be going out to every participant whose contact info I have.  In the mean time, I encourage you to read it, share it, and follow through with some contact.

All the tools and parts are on the table, it’s time to start building something!  If you’d like to join the team, be in touch.

Marching Forth

4 Mar

February is such a tease. Every year, I somehow forget that the bulk of winter is AFTER the new year, and am a fool for the first sunny day. It’s probably good I’m stuck indoors for the time being while the sky drips freezing gray; if it were sunny or warm outside, there would be little to keep me out of the dirt and in front of the computer. For now, it’s a bit premature for growth spurts, impending though they may be. The crocuses seem to have withdrawn their earlier bold statements; the daffodils remain tight-lipped. But the branches on every tree turn more colorful and textured with each day, and I believe today is the last until Halloween that it’s going to be dark before six.

Last I wrote I was about to attend the MercyCorps orientation for small business people… it was interesting, and a good resource, but they don’t have much experience with developing social or hybrid business models, and don’t fund non-profit efforts.  Fortunately, enough has happened in other fronts to keep me distracted…

I met up with Stacey at the Sideyard 1, and here are some pics of what the space is looking like–she’s put a lot of work into it since we visited last summer:

This former bathroom will serve as a storage space and mud-room. Look! A place to hose down kids! Or at least their boots. Stacey was so proud of the giant beet she painted on the floor–adorable!Then we have the kitchen space, also with a fresh coat of paint–so it’s not quite set up either.  And yes, that’s the periodic table of vegetables on the wall. 

Last indoors is the odd former bedroom, which if we clean up right could be a nice indoor teaching space for cold and rainy days, and potentially a great spot to display student work, photos and some of our goods. I can just picture the jars of tomatoes, the tinctures and salves and tea blends, science-fair-style displays, paintings, recipe books, t-shirts, packages of seeds…a chalkboard!?

Moving on…Here are the chickens, all grown up and soon to meet their new sisters.

This is the area Stacey is offering up to share… I’m a little concerned about the giant old apple tree, but I’m sure we’ll make do.

This front hill-side patch was where we picked squash for our pizza last summer.  I think it’ll look great covered in nasturtium and cucumbers this year.  And I love the painted window frame for a sign–Rebuilding Center, here I come!

This is the adjacent area where Stacey will be growing her main crops for restaurants around town.  In the background you can see the hoop house and the sheltered prep station.  To the left in this picture is the building with the kitchen and classroom areas, and soon there will be a large sheltered area with picnic tables.

I’m really excited about all the potential of this space–it’ll be such a big difference to have a fully stocked kitchen (not to mention the bathroom) on site; to work with chickens; to have my own indoor teaching space; a sink outside! At the same time though I’m trying to be realistic and pace myself.  I don’t exactly have any savings, and the business plan is emerging primarily as a byproduct of the presented opportunity.  I’m not that familiar with the land or the neighborhood yet, and don’t want to make assumptions about turnout…and I’m still not finished at Woodlawn.

So my thought for this year is to try a once or twice-weekly Supper Club class. (In the summer I’m totally hosting the Breakfast Club. Yes.) Students would help plan and plant crops, raise them to harvest, and the latter half of every class would be in the kitchen, where we would work on either a whole meal or an entree using ingredients we grew.  Students leave each entree session with a course ready to take home and eat with their families.  On meal nights, maybe once per month, families would be invited at the end of class to share a feast featuring the student’s work.  (Wouldn’t everyone love an edible piano recital?)  The kids could compile a book of recipes and growing tips as they go. [Would people sign their kids up for this?  What would a reasonable cost be?] There’s a lot of critical details to sort out with pricing, liability, etc. but I think it’s a reasonable point from which to grow, eventually offering similar classes focused on flowers, seeds, food preservation, medicinal plants, garden art, etc….



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