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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Phase Two takes shape

After all the rain this week, I was not very hopeful we would have a dry Saturday to do all the work we had ambitiously planned. The garden needed some cleaning up. The bed along the fence had some more shrubs that needed to go. The big, empty, composted bed outside of room 5 and 6 was a blank canvas. Of course it was leaving little dirt marks on the library wall since every time a butterfinger ball fell in the compost, it got thrown up on the wall. Kind of like polka dots.

We were lucky with the weather, lucky with our dedicated crew of volunteers and a big group of Willamette fraternity boys. There were teams raking leaves, digging out shrubs, digging post holes, cutting boards, and more. We have the start on a grape arbor that will run just under the windows of the classrooms. There will be a short fence around the outside to keep out those errant recess balls. There will be a path through two rows of espaldier trees. We have a huge expanse of sunny dirt to plant in.

Thanks to everyone that came out today to help work. There were kids here today, but you would hardly know since they were being entertained in the gym while the adults did the messy work outside. Thank you Erica for spending the whole day with the kids. Thanks to Sigma Chi for donating their time and energy. Thanks to Erica, another Willamette student who even helped move poo around. Thanks to Cheryl for the coffee that got us going this morning. And thanks to everyone that keeps showing up and giving up their weekend time to make this project happen. We have a truly amazing school community.
Check out a few pictures from today.
More to come later in the week as we finish the support structure.
We will be planting grapes and trees in early December.
Stay tuned for more specifics.

Fence posts and arbor are up

This will be the entrance to the orchard. The winding path will have fruit trees on both sides. Cool, huh?

Have you been wondering what's happening in the garden this winter? We're putting it to sleep! There will be some hoop house for winter greens to grow and the straw is keeping the soil nice and warm for Spring. The black compost bins? Cooking up some compost for Spring!

Look at the size of that drill! Makes digging those holes a whole lot easier. Thanks to Home Depot for donating.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What a Difference!!

We had a great group of volunteers today for our Make a Difference-Garden Work Day. Thanks to everyone that came and dug up Oregon grape (Anne Marie you are a machine!), yanked out and replanted some big Rhodies (Fortey family, way to go), hauled a lot of compost ( thank you Sasha's dad for making it look neat and tidy), people that did a little bit of everything (Erica H. ), delicious snacks to keep us fueled, some donut eaters more fueled than others, and lots of hard labor!

We pulled out some laurel and juniper to make way for our orchard outside rooms 5 & 6, and the garden is getting ready for the winter. There will be cover crops, and sheet mulch in a few beds, and hoop houses. Under those hoop houses, yet to be constructed by McKinley students, we will have some winter greens that will make their way into the cafeteria eventually. One priority of the garden this year is to get some food we grow on site into the lunch line. How exciting!
Justin & diggers


We'll call this during...

Our "silly" workforce
A big big thanks to Christopher, Brenda and Kelly for taking the lead on what will be happening with the garden in the near future.  Justin and Thad, who never seem to tire of the building, digging, and so-called dirty work of garden construction. McRae for managing our projects so well. Kurt for his truck and endless energy, Erica's willlingness and skill at entertaining younger children, and Deanne's input and management at many levels. Kim for getting us some great seed and getting those beds ready for the next phase. Kristen for her much needed chokers that got those big plants out pretty easily. Geoff for the use of the truck we used to yank out those shrubs.

I don't want to leave anyone un-thanked--although I'm sure I did-- so a big big thanks to those families that continue to devote time and energy to making McKinley's Farm to School Program a success. Thank you thank you!!

Stay tuned for what comes next! We will be planting apple/pear trees and grapes soon (hopefully).

Also, mark your calendars: First Farm to School lunch is Friday, Nov. 18th, sponsered by Sodexo and Salem-Keizer Food and Nutrition. Support local producers and local products, McKinley's Farm to School program, and have lunch with your child!

Saturday, October 15, 2011


October is a BIG month!!
--National Farm to School Month
--National Make a Difference Day
--National Food Day (Oct. 24th)

Come to McKinley 
Saturday, October 22nd, from 9:00 -- 3:00 
and participate in Make a Difference Day, prepare the garden for winter, and get a start on phase two--an orchard outside of the first grade classrooms.
(Pending District Approval)

Some things you can help with:
*pull out shrubs to make room for an orchard 
   outside room 5 & 6 
*Stake out and dig holes for fruit trees 
*spread compost and mulch 
*clean out garden beds 
*plant cover crops 
*build hoop houses for winter greens 
*plant winter crops

Refreshments provided
Bring some, take some
(bring a dish to share)

Need more information? Contact Kira at

Tuesday, October 4, 2011



Bon Apetit, one of our community partners in Farm to School, is providing a Latin style dinner. All products will be sourced within 50 miles of Salem, making it seasonal, sustainable, healthy and delicious. Plates and utensils will be tossed in the compost, making it a "nearly" zero waste meal. We will have some more information about Farm to School, some exciting additions this school year with a garden coordinator and Food Corps volunteer, phase two of the garden/landscaping, Farm to School lunch pilot program and more!

Farm to School 
Fall Harvest 50 Mile Meal

Friday, October 7
5:30 pm--7:00 pm
McKinley Cafeteria

Salad and Fresh fruit
Rice and Beans
Tamale Pie (Meat & Vegetarian)

Aduilts                $5.00
Kids                   $4.00
Garden supporter  $10.00

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Farm to School

So, if you haven't noticed, getting good food into school cafeterias has become a popular idea lately. Especially since Michelle Obama has taken this on as an issue she feels passionately about. The Farm to School movement just keeps growing and growing. People want to eat real food, from sources close to home, that are healthier and tastier, and that support local producers and economies.

Salem Keizer has really taken a lead in this movement with the help of the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation and Oregon Department of Agriculture. We now have a full time garden coordinator--Brenda--and a Food Corps volunteer--Christopher--and one of the only K-12 farm to school programs in the US. Wow! Sounds impressive, huh?

Get educated and get involved!
Brenda and Christopher will be working with McKinley and starting a gardening club at our school.
Come to a Parent Teacher Club meeting and hear how you can get involved.
Check out the links posted on this blog, like Farm to School.

And mark your calendars!!
October 24th is National Food Day whose motto is
It's Time to Eat Real, America.

Check out the link under other garden links.

Happy gardening!

IT'S BACK TO SCHOOL TIME!! What's Been Happening in the Garden?

Good question!
Thanks to the diligent attention of a few McKinley families, and helpful bond construction workers, the garden was watered and tended all summer. One of the perks of water duty is that you get to eat what's out there. The lettuce, peas, radishes, green beans and chard were awesome. Thanks to James and Wandering Aengus for lending us the huge water tank we used, and then hauling it away when we finally got the water back on.

Here are some pictures of the garden. I encourage you to go see it! Wander through before or after school and ask your kids what they've been learning about the garden. You might be surprised at what they say.
Remember how lettuce likes nice
cool weather?
This is right after planting.
Little baby plants!

Then it got hot finally this summer. Do you know what
happens to lettuce when it gets hot? It bolts!
It grows like a tree trunk and tastes terrible!
These went straight into the compost for the worms.

Guess what happens when you cut off the
head of a cabbage? It grows little baby
cabbages like these.

Guess what this is? Flower or vegetable? Both!
This is an artichoke that never got picked when you could eat it, so it "flowered."

Yep, that's a pumpkin alright!

The kindergarden's sunflowers grew tall and strong. See those little black things near the bottom? They're sunflower seeds!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lettuce, peas and more...

Wow, even though the water to the school is practically shut off, our garden is growing! The construction workers have been so helpful with keeping our huge tank of water full, the garden wouldn't look so great without their assistance. And thank you thank you to the families that have been watering and tending the garden. 

Add caption
Right now there is a lot of lettuce and peas. If the weather gets hot--and stays hot--those will soon be done. So come and get some while you can!

Look at all this great green stuff growing!!
Room 10s peas & lettuce in March

Room 10's peas & lettuce in July

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Want to help tend the garden this summer?

There will be lots of activity at McKinley this summer with the bond construction that's happening. They are going to transform the inside of our old school. Rumor is there might even be drinkable water out of the drinking fountains to rival the cold one in the gym! 

So, we will have some access to the garden this summer, and there are some plants out there that will need our attention as the days get hotter and drier. We are working on a schedule for watering, with people signing up for a week at a time. Ideally, we are going to try and get a timer and drip system so that the "watering" of the garden would entail you coming and making sure it's all working and NOT hauling multiple watering cans from the faucet to the garden.

Are you interested in helping out this summer?
Just email me at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Have you seen the veggies?

This has been a cold, wet spring. But apparently peas, radishes, lettuce and chard all like that kind of weather. Maybe it's the fabulous starts we got from Justin or Minto Island Growers. Maybe it's the attentive care all those students have given to their little plants growing and growing. It's a magic combination! We had fresh lettuce on Monday in the salad bar and Judy roasted up some delicious rainbow chard for kids to try. 1st and 2nd graders have been trying tiny little radishes and lettuce--"did you know lettuce can be red sometimes?" How exciting to see young people watching food grow, eating it, and really giving some thought to how that all happens. Well, maybe not too much thought. But it's exciting to see kids getting excited about the garden! Here's a few photos of what's growing now.

Lettuce, peas and greens, oh my!

I'd buy their lettuce

Room 10's lettuce & peas

Room 6's greens, veggies & soon-to-be flowers.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

McKinley Elementary School PTC and McKinley Gardens
Invite you to a

Come join us for an evening of local food, music, and
activities. It’ll be a great opportunity for all of us to
come together as a community to celebrate the effort, energy
and passion people have put into making a school garden
at McKinley a reality.

° Farm to School Dinner catered by Bon Appetit 
   served from 5:30-7:30 PM
° Harvest Bar provided by Sodexo
° Zero Waste Station from Allied Waste Services
° Live Music performed by Audiolenz
° Garden Activities & Crafts
   hosted by McKinley’s Roots & Shoots Club


Dinner: Kids--$3.00     Adults--$5.00
 Dinner & Garden Supporter--$10.00

Party in the Garden

Friday, June 3
5:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Monday, May 16, 2011


Take a look at what's growing in the garden!
Thank you to Mrs. S's students 
that stayed to help make trellises last Friday.

Farm to School Lunch
Friday, May 20th
More information to come...


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mr. J's Third graders in the garden

Last week Elizabeth from Minto Brown Island Growers came to McKinley with some starts from her greenhouse and Mr. J's class headed into the garden to do some planting. There were three kinds of peas and three kinds of lettuce. We learned a little bit about a local farmer, what kinds of plants like the cool Spring weather (lettuce and peas!), and got to get our hands dirty planting something we can tend, grow and eventually eat.

Elizabeth explaining
how to plant the little starts

He looks like he's done this before

Lots of digging! And directing!

Must be good dirt, the worms like it

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thanks to our supporters

I just wanted to give a big THANK YOU to everyone that came to lunch Friday and everyone that has given time, energy, donations, and more to support McKinley's Farm to School program and our garden, Cultivating Curiosity. 

Salem-Keizer Food and Nutrition, 
especially Dave, Nancy & Anthony for an outstanding lunch!

Jeff and Carri from Pitchfork and Crow 
for an information-packed presentation and powerpoint about local farming and food.

Terra Gardens
 for watering cans and hand tools to use in the garden.

Salem-Keizer facilities 
for hog fuel for the garden so the paths aren't so muddy. (Will the rain ever stop??)

 for Territorial Seeds lettuce, carrots, peas and sunflowers, now planted in the beds.

Elizabeth from Minto Brown Growers
for coming to help Mr. J's class plant lettuce and peas in their raised bed, 
and all the starts she brought with her.

If you didn't make it Friday, you have another chance to come enjoy a local lunch on May 20th, same day as McKinley school carnival!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Please come join us for our first
Farm to School lunch!
Friday, April 22, McKinley Cafeteria
10:55, 11:25 and 11:55 am
What is Farm to School?  Farm to School programs connect schools and local farms with the goals of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.  We want to help students think about what they eat and where it comes from.
Salem-Keizer Food and Nutrition Services and Sodexo have prepared a special menu to highlight some of Oregon’s farmers and producers, many featured regularly in our school cafeterias.  Truitt Brothers is a company that is Food Alliance Certified, offering sustainable, responsibly-produced food.  Draper Valley Chicken and Painted Hills Beef provide meat that is always vegetarian-fed, humanely raised and sustainably farmed.  Don Pancho and EZ Orchards are two local companies that source from local farms, and provide local jobs.
What better way to celebrate Earth day than supporting our local farmers and producers who work hard every day to sustain the rich natural environment we have here in the Willamette Valley. We also have two local farmers from Pitchfork and Crow coming to speak at an assembly at 10:00 in the gym. They will show all the things done on a farm from A to Z. And what better way to emphasize the power of buying and eating locally. Come show your support and have lunch with your child!
Menu and Pricing:
*Draper Valley Baked Chicken Wings w/Honey Mustard served with a black bean corn salad
*Painted Hills Meatballs with whole wheat Spaghetti served with lemon pepper green beans.
*Truitt Brothers Vegetarian Black Bean Tacos served on Don Poncho flour tortillas, with lettuce, tomatoes, and Tillamook cheddar cheese. Served with Spanish rice.
Also available: Truitt Brothers beans, and pears, EZ Orchards apples, and Oregon Mushrooms
Students:         $1.75 (regular price; free and reduced prices apply)
Adults:             $3.00

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Important Dates! Mark your Calendars!

Do you want to learn more about McKinley's Farm to School program and school garden, Cultivating Curiosity? 
Well, mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

Farm to School Lunch
April 22nd, 11:00-12:30
McKinley Cafeteria
Salem-Keizer food service will be serving a locally sourced lunch to celebrate Earth Day and celebrate local producers and sustainable practices. Look for a menu and pricing in the next McKinley messages.

May (date to be determined)
Farm to School Lunch #2
This lunch will involve a partnership between a local chef and the Salem-Keizer food service.
Take this opportunity to come have lunch with your child, and support the Farm to School program and local producers.

June 3rd
Garden Celebration
Come and join us for an evening of local food (maybe even from the school garden!), music, and activities. A great opportunity for all of us to come together as a community to celebrate the effort, energy and passion people have put into making a school garden at McKinley a reality.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Raised Beds Are In!

The Garden Build day on Saturday was a HUGE success!
 I showed up at noon with pizza thinking there would be lots of work left to do. Not so much. Nearly all the beds were installed, most were filled with dirt, and there was half a fence up. There was a conveyer belt of wheelbarrows full of dirt, shovelers, post-hole diggers, drill operators, bed levelers...amazing. Thad and Justin led the team of parents and students, Brenda the school garden coordinator for the district, and Mrs. Morton to the (near) completion of our first phase. Thank you thank you to everyone that came out to help get this project in the ground.

And thank you to all our community partners that have donated time and materials: Parr lumber for materials for the beds, Salem-Keizer School District for loads of tools and wheelbarrows, Marion-Polk Food Share for more tools, and Highway Fuel for a great discount on some great dirt!

If you get a chance, come see the work that's been done.
Look at all those kids ready to move some dirt!
 Here's our project manager Thad in action, lining up those fence posts. 
If you want to be involved in planting the beds and volunteering to help take kids into the garden after Spring Break, contact Kira. (

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


March 12th, Saturday
9:00 am to 3:00 pm
McKinley Garden Build Day

We have approval from the district to go ahead with Phase one!
Dirt will be delivered Friday afternoon, and Thad will be cutting up boards. Do you have a power drill and want to help? Contact Thad for more info on that.

Saturday morning will begin the first steps in creating a school garden at McKinley! After lots and lots of conversations, meetings, and more conversations, we are ploughing ahead. A big thank you to everyone involved. We have been able to move from just talking about a garden to really building one thanks to all your energy, time and support. The raised beds will be built, installed and filled with the parents, students and volunteers that show up on Saturday. We will also be installing a short fence to designate the garden area from the playground area.

There will be coffee, hot chocolate and donuts for our early morning workers. Pizza will come for the afternoon shift, with snacks and water in between to sustain the energy of our volunteers. There will be activities for school age kids when they get tired of shoveling and pushing wheel barrows. 

Come celebrate the McKinley School Community and what are energy and ideas can accomplish!

If you are planning on coming, and you have garden tools you could bring, these are some things we need:
wheel barrows                   shovels                        post hole diggers
brooms                             work gloves

Friday, March 4, 2011

Want to learn more about McKinley School Garden?

Silent Auction and Movie Night
Friday, March 4  6:00-8:00

The Garden committee will have an information table at the Silent Auction in the gym Friday night.  Come and see the conceptual design de Santis created and what the 1st phase will look like.

Pick up a "Cultivating Curiosity" sticker, a free packet of seeds, and sign up to help volunteer on the Garden Build Day, March 12th. There will be food for our dirt shovelers and wheel barrow-pushers, and activities for kids when they get tired of pulling ivy and hauling compost.

Come be a part of this exciting project!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Garden Build Day! Mark Your Calendars (Pending School District approval)

Garden Build Day--Phase 1
Saturday, March 12th
9:00 a.m.--3:00 p.m.-ish
(near the bike rack)

Are you handy with a power drill? 
Want to build up those biceps shoveling dirt? 
Feel like yanking up some invasive ivy?
We have a job for you!

            Come join us in the first phase of the McKinley School Garden! We will be building raised beds that will be installed and filled outside room four, near the bike rack, pending final district approval. We will also be removing ivy from several areas of the school grounds, in preparation for planting later in the year. 
         We will need help in preparing the site, hauling wheelbarrows of compost and topsoil, and construction of the raised beds. There will be an information table about Farm to School programs and the work the garden committee has done so far. There will be activities for kids, when they get tired of pushing wheelbarrows, shoveling dirt and pulling ivy. 
         If you have any of the following garden tools to loan, please let us know and bring them along:
electric drills
gardening gloves

March 12th! 
Come help Cultivate Curiosity!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thank you Parr Lumber!

Parr Lumber has donated 2000 linear feet of material for McKinley to use in the School Garden.
Thank you Darryl for all your support and work for the garden project!

Now comes the fun part! Phase one of our school garden will include some raised beds outside of room 4. We are in the process of crossing our t's and dotting our i's and submitting all the paperwork necessary to move forward this Spring.

Stay tuned for updates and how to get involved!

ALSO--check out the new link to Oregon Department of Education's Farm to School site. Lots of information to get you thinking about school gardens and good food in the cafeteria.

ALSO--Several of us attended a meeting in at CREST, an environmental-science education program, in Wilsonville Jan. 12th. The talk was focused around resources to support school gardens, and how you connect the garden to classroom curriculum. There is a very large educational garden on-site, and they are doing some really interesting things with the grounds. Pictures to come!