Garden Raised Bounty, a Hotbed of Greener Activity

"Sustainability means holding a vision of a future
built on careful stewardship in the present,
honoring the earth and each individual person."
- Nita Rinehart, faculty member and former state senator

GRuB runs two basic programs, Cultivating Youth and the Kitchen Garden Project. Cultivating Youth works with at-risk teens to develop their leadership skills, and model positive and supportive relationships in their lives.

Joellan Wilhelm in the sunflowers at GRUB

"Teenagers have a lot of negative stereotypes to overcome," says farm manager Justin Umholtz ’98. "The youth at GRuB work hard to show the powerful contributions they can (and do!) make every day. They learn to farm the land, farm the community and farm themselves. They are learning to create a safe, supportive community where they can thrive and grow."

So what do the kids in the program do exactly? Plant seeds, weed, harvest, deliver flower bouquets, sell veggies at the market stand, and prepare CSA (community supported agriculture) shares for pick up. They work hard, practice their business and sales skills, but also know how to have fun. They taught a recent visitor the official cheer:

G! R! U! B! Go! GRuB! GROW!

Early on, GRuB forged partnerships with local schools and youth agencies to connect with kids from low-income families, foster or group homes, or those with learning or behavior challenges.

"I know most of the high school guidance counselors in Thurston County," says Jackson Sillars ’01, GRuB’s employment program coordinator. He visits schools to pitch the GRuB hands-on experience and meet with kids who may be interested. "If they qualify for the free lunch program, they can sign up for the Cultivating Youth Program. About 15 high school kids work on the crew every year. Many of them return year after year until they graduate."

Sometimes the crew takes a field trip to work on a local farm, weeding and harvesting. "We are so grateful for their help," says Genine Bradwin of Kirsop Farms. "We love the work they do for our community."

Crew member Jeremy Parrish (working on his GED) says, "GRuB taught me to live in harmony with my fellow beings. I hope one day to be as influential to my community, friends and family."

GRuB office & outreach coordinator Anna Robinson says, "Kim, Blue and the other staff have really made it a priority to build healthy relationships among the staff, the youth and families we work with, and the greater community."

Both Kim and Blue attribute GRuB’s success to Evergreen. "If Evergreen wasn’t here, GRuB wouldn’t be here," says Kim. "We also didn’t know it couldn’t be done. Ignorance is bliss, plus we seized opportunities as they arose."

"GRuB has been a total joy to be around," says Blue, smiling.

Kim and Blue

Kim Gaffi '97 and Blue Peetz '95 cofounded GRuB because “we didn't know it couldn't be done," says Kim.

Kids from the Cultivating Youth Program also help with GRuB’s Kitchen Garden Project. KGP builds raised-bed gardens for low-income families at their homes. Even the soil and seeds are provided, and you can sign up for a garden mentor if you need one. More than 1900 gardens have been built since 1993. Last year the gardens fed more than 300 people, including children, in Thurston and Mason counties.

"Evergreen really made it all possible," says Kim. "I’m still using lessons I learned – grassroots democratic process – always looking back to that." She says the Urban Ecology program sent her out to "do something."

Blue nods his head in agreement. "(Former Evergreen faculty member) Michael Beug and the Ecological Agriculture program made a profound impact on my life," says Blue. "Evergreen changed what I wanted to do." He laughs, "Now I basically teach Eco Ag to high school students."

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