Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

Walker Jones Farm Zucchini Cake

In Uncategorized on September 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm

The. Best. Cake. Ever. Not a crumb left over after Back to School Night and one of the most popular of all garden generated snacks. Also available here on Sidra’s blog.

Walker Jones Farm Zucchini Cake
4 eggs

2 cups sugar (we used a vegan cane sugar which is somewhat less processed than most granulated sugars and is also certified fair trade)

1 1/3 cups olive oil (you can taste this so use a good quality oil)

1 c whole wheat flour (we used a stone ground flour from a small mill that adds great taste and texture)

1 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground clove

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg

2 heaping cups shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all the ingredients in a mixer and mix until just fully incorporated. Line a half sheet pan with parchment paper and spray with olive oil spray. Spread batter evenly on sheet pan and cook until cake is slightly springy to the touch, about 20 minutes.


Good Times

In Uncategorized on September 25, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Yesterday saw the happy harvest of multiple pumpkins, the conclusion of an amazing week for us on the farm and in the school.

The work for Back to School night began in earnest last weekend at John and Sidra’s house as hundreds of pounds of beets and zucchini and greens began their transformation into a meal that was to feed over 300 very welcome guests on Tuesday night at school.

All hands on deck as Principal Melissa Martin also joined in the fun peeling beets for hours (and her hands were a telltale reddish purple for days). All seemed worth it as we were able to deliver a delicious, nutritious meal to our families for Back to School Night. The packed house appreciated all (especially the zucchini cake) and the teachers appreciated the large number of happy, well-fed parents that arrived in their classrooms after dinner.

One would think that there would be no food left from the farm after feeding that many, but we were still able to send more than 50 pounds of beets over to DC Central Kitchen, courtesy of our kindergarten beet pickers. The best part of that story? Each of our classes at Walker Jones chooses an identity for themselves, a nickname. Our pickers this day are known as the Superhero Farmers. So who did DCCK make out the donation receipt to on Wednesday? That’s right. Donor: Superhero Farmers. The kids are framing the receipt for their classroom.

And then on Friday, to finish off a great week, we had a very successful Community Breakfast in the school library where we hosted parents, staff and community leaders for a meet and greet with administrators. John and Sidra once again helped prepare food for the guests featuring produce from the garden. They were also able to address the gathering, and update them on the progress of the farm. Tommy Wells, who has been a wonderful supporter of the school and its farm, hinted in a conversation afterward that we might be able to take on chickens too!

How can a week be any better? Well, just look back up to the top of this post. Pumpkins. Beautiful and big and orange. And little smiles galore. That’s what it is all about. A delighted scream of “Look what we grew!” down the school hallway.

One Bed of Collard Greens & Four or More Harvests

In Uncategorized on September 19, 2010 at 1:17 am

In the past we have grown food in very small spaces. The Farm at Walker Jones is large, at ¾ of an acre, in comparison. We have applied some of our small space techniques to this larger piece of land with encouraging results.

One example of this is the Collard Green Bed. Nearly two months ago we very thickly planted Collard Green seeds in a 1600 sq foot bed. The greens germinated quickly and before long we had rows jam-packed with baby collard greens. We knew that there was not enough room for the greens to mature so we dramatically thinned the baby greens on August 22. At that nascent stage they were tender and could be eaten raw or very lightly cooked. We gave away 15 pounds to the Senior Home across the street from the farm and in the process forged many new friendships! On September 4th we again thinned the now medium sized plants which yielded somewhere between 250 and 300 pounds of collard greens. Some were given to neighbors and volunteers and the majority to DC Central Kitchen to be utilized in the 4500 meals they provide daily. The amazing thing was that after this huge harvest the bed was still full and vibrant looking! On September 17th we harvested the large outside leaves of the plants (nearly 200#) and they will be cooked and served as part of the Back to School Night Dinner.

The plants are still healthy and producing. Collard greens like most members of the brassica family actually thrive in the cooler weather so we know that they will provide more food even as the weather gets cooler. In fact they will actually get a bit sweeter after the first frost or two.

Lesson learned is that with this intensive planting method we are able to grow large amounts of food (over a thousand pounds in less than 2 months)! Today we planted turnip greens and salad mache very thickly hoping for similar results.

5% Day at Whole Foods on Wednesday

In Uncategorized on September 12, 2010 at 2:07 am

Whole Foods has been the best possible friend to our farm. They have been unwavering in their support of our efforts to do a little better for the great kids of Walker Jones. This coming Wednesday, September 15, they are extending another helping hand by making The Farm at Walker Jones the beneficiary of a 5% Day at all three WF stores in the district – Tenley, Georgetown, and P Street. 5% of all sales for the entire day will go toward the greatest piece of the school’s wellness initiatives for the students – our emerging urban farm.

So please help spread the word, and be sure and save your own shopping list for Wednesday. There are over 400 good reasons to help, all in classrooms at Walker Jones Education Campus.

A Day with CNN

In Uncategorized on September 8, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Every day on the farm is a good one, but today was extra special as we spent time with Jeremy and John from CNN who took footage of our great gardening project. First, microphones were required. See John Cochran, Farm Operations Director, and his wife Sidra being outfitted above.

Then it was time to go pick up the kindergarten class from the playground for their visit to the farm. “Am I going to be on TV?” heard several dozen times by Jeremy with the camera from some very interested five year olds.

Hmmm. Maybe after you line up, and show our visitors how we do things at Walker Jones.

After the customary run around the garden to the shaded area…

… and a weed stomp to get rid of our invasive enemies and show our visitors that we know to walk on the paths when in the garden, it was time for the real fun. Picking!

Principal Martin had a chance to share her hopes and dreams for our urban farm project.

Jeff Mills, the director for food service for DCPS, stopped by to show his support of the farm, and hint at what is to come for the DCPS Garden Pilot Program.

Brian MacNair, chief development officer for DC Central Kitchen, a regular on the farm, was on hand to help our young veggie eaters.

And then finally John and Sidra took a moment to sit down and tell the story of their relationship to the farm.

But not for long because first grade was on their way!

Our first graders found the camera interesting …

… but the zucchini muffins and zucchini to take home even better.

A long but satisfying day! Thanks so much to our new photographer friends from CNN who were so wonderful to work with. It was a joy to share a piece of our great community with them.

In Search of the Great Pumpkin

In Uncategorized on September 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm

Why all the intent eyes focused in the plants? They are looking for a great pumpkin of course. It may be the promise of a little Halloween fun that draws them in or maybe it is the fun of seeing oversized vegetables up close and personal. Maybe it is because John has shown them all the magic that the bees work that transforms the pretty yellow flowers into pumpkins. What do they see when they peek in the plants?

Even Principal Martin was eager to learn the secrets of the pumpkin patch.

Keep your fingers crossed for the kids as they hope for the best pumpkin patch ever!

300 Pounds of Collard Greens Donated to DC Central Kitchen

In Uncategorized on September 5, 2010 at 6:22 pm

We were thrilled to be able to harvest and donate over 300 pounds of collard greens to DC Central Kitchen yesterday. DCCK is an excellent neighbor, and their staff has been extremely supportive of our school farm efforts. More than that, their hugely successful efforts to “use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities” syncs perfectly with the goals of not just the farm but our entire school community.

Walker Jones Education Campus is a Responsive Classroom learning environment. RC is an approach to education that seeks to meet the social, emotional, and academic needs of the child in order to achieve the optimum education for all we serve. These are the guiding principles of the Responsive Classroom approach:

– The social curriculum is as important as the academic curriculum.

– How children learn is as important as what they learn: Process and content go hand in hand.

– The greatest cognitive growth occurs through social interaction.

– To be successful academically and socially, children need a set of social skills: cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control.

– Knowing the children we teach-individually, culturally, and developmentally-is as important as knowing the content we teach.

– Knowing the families of the children we teach and working with them as partners is essential to children’s education.

– How the adults at school work together is as important as their individual competence: Lasting change begins with the adult community.

So growing and donating food to the community in which we live is not only an exercise of social responsibility but a key component to a richer education for the great kids of Walker Jones. When we teach children to care, we are teaching them not only how to be good citizens but also the self-management skills necessary to become successful in whatever place in life their hopes and dreams might take them.

WJ Farm Compost Guidelines

In Uncategorized on September 4, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Some of our volunteers show an interest in our compost and wondered how and if we were able to actually compost with only coffee grounds, paper and dried weeds that we have pulled from the beds.

Well after turning over all three bins leaving one empty to turn, I am happy to report that our core temperature is 150 degrees–exactly where we want to be. Like most things there are no hard and fast rules only loose guidelines. Often the trick is to decide which direction to go and avoid vacillation.

It looks like we need to turn our compost every week and build a new bin to accommodate incoming paper from our students. We will use every drop of the compost for spring planting.

Here are the guidelines we have decided to follow… remembering that we are a 3/4 acre farm in the middle of a community that would not appreciate us attracting pests….
-Hot compost- core temperature 140-170
-Turn often and thoroughly about once a week- the goal is to incorporate what is on the outside edges to the center (this will not slow down heat and in fact will encourage it)
-Do not add anything new to bins in progress
-60-70% decomposition should occur
-Moist is good but sopping wet is not good (usually with an open bin system like ours rainfall is sufficient but in dry spells add some water)
-Ratio is somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1 brown or carbon to green or nitrogen (in our system coffee and fresh weeds and grass are large contributors of green and straw, paper and dried weeds and grass are sources of brown)
-The smaller pieces added the better and quicker the compost progresses
-Make sure compost is finished cooking before adding to beds or plant growth will be hampered

What It Is All About

In Uncategorized on September 1, 2010 at 9:32 pm

We had a great composting piece scheduled for right about now but have decided to preempt for something much more important. The words of some Walker Jones preschool students, as translated by their teacher, in thanks for a great visit to the garden today. Farm fever is beginning to take hold on campus, and Farm Operations Director, John Cochran, is more than willing to welcome all with an interest. The official farm handbook has been distributed to all teachers who are reviewing it’s content with students as they patiently wait their turn. The student enthusiasm is everything we hoped for.