Updated: May 11, 2020
For the past 6 weeks I've been busy visiting farms, farmers, educators and restaurateurs in the surrounding river valleys. While all around us supply chains are being stretched and broken, a beautiful web in the making for several decades is emerging as a community based food system being cultivated by dedicated farmers, educators and eaters in our region. A long proponent of local food and herbs as people's medicine, we at RavenCroft Garden, are working to strengthen community by introducing our food growing and serving friends and neighbors in the new Weaving a Web of Life blog series. Join me as I visit the weavers of that almost invisible web in the Snoqualmie, Snohomish, Skykomish and Sammamish river valleys. See who the close to the ground food movers and shakers are and what they're doing as the world goes through this time of challenging growth.
First up is Zsofia Pazstor, of Farmer Frog. Farmer Frog is a farm based education center dedicated to cultivating community through growing food and bringing children and adults back to the garden to learn. Located in Snohomish County on the original Lloyd Estate on Paradise Lake Road in Woodinville, Washington, the site lies in the Paradise Valley Conservation Area and is located on the historical farm of the Lloyd family, who homesteaded the land in 1867.
Zsofia and I met through the Edmonds Community College Horticulture program. When the 2008 economic downturn hit she and her husband Zsolt, decided to start a school garden at their children's school, Olivia Park elementary. This project was a way to put their horticultural talents to use until the economy picked up. The garden brought not only the children and school a meaningful new component to the educational experience, it also brought the parents and even the grandparents of those children and neighbors of the school together in an uplifting and vital community centered in the garden.
The Olivia Park garden was so successful Zsofia imagined a bigger opportunity to grow children and gardens and Farmer Frog was born. Based in the Paradise Valley east of Woodinville, Farmer Frog is "developing a Kindergarten to 12th grade STEM-based curriculum that they call “SOIL to STEM”: Social Outreach Innovative Learning (SOIL) leading to Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM). SOIL to STEM is a project-based, hands-on learning system rooted in agriculture that helps children succeed in the 21st Century. The curriculum incorporates the Farmer Frog school gardens and meets both Common Core requirements and Next Generation Science Standards.
As the corona virus hit, Zsofia and her team rapidly pivoted and began delivering food, originally intended to be sold onsite and at farmers markets, to home bound people in the community. Together with other organizations Farmer Frog has been moving large amounts of food from eastern Washington farms to people in need here in western Washington. Building coalitions dedicated to doing what needs done to feed people under the new normal, community based organizations are connecting and opening pathways for local food sovereignty to gain a foot hold in our region.
While no one knows what the future holds, the inspiration and need to have community based education and food cultivation part of it becomes more evident each day. The beautiful setting and many places for people of all ages and backgrounds to gather at Farmer Frog is one of many components of gardens that create a sense of community and well-being. As we move forward in this turning, I look to Farmer Frog and Zsofia Pasztor's inspired sense of gathering community, with food at the center, as a guiding light.
In support of Farmer Frog's participation in Give Big, WA join us online Tuesday, May 5th for a Blessing of the May celebrating the historical hawthorn trees at the Paradise Farm site. A short look at hawthorn flower & leaf harvest and the benefits hawthorn trees bring to our gardens, kitchens and homes follows.
Find out how Farmer Frog went from education to shipping 1.8 million pounds of onions across Washington state and how Hawthorn can support your journey of the heart in changing times...