Spring Letter from the Director

June 16, 2014

Hello Friends of EduCulture,

This has been an energizing spring season for EduCulture.  It follows a restorative winter.

I spent some time this winter recharging my professional batteries by exploring the larger landscape of this growing field we call edible education. I had the chance to step into the world of national school lunch reform through an invitation to attend the National Gathering of SchoolFoodFocus, which brings together the largest players in American urban public school food service, the school districts, food companies, and governmental agencies.  In April, I was invited to bring the work of EduCulture to the National Farm to Cafeteria Conference.  More than 1100 professionals working across the field of food in schools and other institutions came together in Austin, TX. I was involved in three presentations, and had the privilege of collaborating with and meeting some amazing people in this field of education.  It was an engaging and affirming experience to place the work of EduCulture within the wider landscape of edible education across the country.

We are excited about the deep relationships we are growing with our partner schools.  When you ask a class of 3rd or 4th graders from Wilkes Elementary how many have been coming to neighboring Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farms since kindergarten, almost the entire class raises their hands.  It’s a powerful measure of slow education to see the enculturation that edible education can provide when neighboring farms become outdoor classrooms and schools become co-producers in the local food chain. You can read more about the accomplishments of our partner schools in the spring newsletter.

Relationships with our partner farmers are also taking deeper root. We are working in greater collaboration to develop plant and animal pathways for students that mirror our local food community. Following locally raised crops from master farm to instructional farm to school garden allows for greater educational parity between community and school food chains. For example, we follow heirloom potatoes with Laughing Crow Farm, study pumpkins and strawberries with Bainbridge Island Farms, and learn the pasture dance with Heyday Farm. I want to give a special shout out to Brian MacWhorter and Butler Green Farms. For the past four years, he has shared public land he leases on Bainbridge Island with EduCulture to serve our edible education programs. These instructional plots are developing into valuable learning centers for local students to, as Brian puts it, “grow healthy minds.”  We are grateful for the generosity and partnership of all our master farmers.

This was the season of the Strawberry for EduCulture. Our Island Heritage Strawberry patch was planted this spring with our partner schools. The June bearing varieties, including Marshalls, Shuksan, Rainiers and Albions fit ideally into the cycle of the school year. During the strawberry days of the 1930’s-50’s, Bainbridge Island Schools released students from classes in May and June to assist Island farmers with the enormous berry harvest (3.5 million pounds from over 700 acres in 1941). Today, we incorporate this edible & heritage education into the school curricula and use these farms as landscapes of learning. During the 1940’s, this Island community was struggling for their American citizenship. Seven decades later, our community is struggling for its sense of food citizenship.

The passing of Frank Kitamoto in March was a tremendous loss for our community. But his legacy looms large in so much good work he inspired, such as our Only What We Can Carry Project. There is a tribute to Frank in the newsletter and on our website.

Some contemplative and professional time this winter helped to confirm a deeper meaning and purpose for why EduCulture has been so dedicated to pushing the boundaries of edible education. I have come to believe it is what we most need to learn at this moment in time. Given the state of our food communities, locally and globally, we need to grow, teach and eat what we most need to learn.  Education needs to stand for something. In the spirit of Mohandas Gandhi, and local heroes like Frank Kitamoto, edible and heritage education should be for the diverse and resilient schools and communities we want to see.

Please take a moment to read our Spring 2014 Newsletter.  (You can find a link on our homepage.)

Here’s to nurturing the scholarship, stewardship, citizenship and sustainability to reclaim our past and seed our future.

Have a Happy and Healthy Summer!

Jon Garfunkel,
Founder and Managing Director

Remembering Frank Kitamoto – A Pillar and Mentor for OWWCC

Frank Kitamoto points to himself as a young boy walking with his family and the rest of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community onto the ferry at Eagledale Dock on Bainbridge, March 30, 1942, as they were forced from their homes and shipped to concentration camps during WWII.

Frank Kitamoto points to himself as a young boy walking with his family and the rest of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community onto the ferry at Eagledale Dock on Bainbridge, March 30, 1942, as they were forced from their homes and shipped to concentration camps during WWII.

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the loss of Frank Kitamoto, a pillar of the Bainbridge Island community, a human rights champion of champions, and tireless community leader. Dr. Kitamoto passed away March 15, 2014.

Frank Kitamoto was a prominent, principled and dedicated voice on the Japanese American experience of exclusion and its significance to our modern age. He helped us as a community to collectively bear witness to a period of tragedy, locally and globally.

Without his leadership, determination, and fierce sense of humanity, most of what we know and now stands to carry forward the legacy of exclusion on Bainbridge Island might not have come to be. It would be fair to say that every oral history project, major book, documentary, feature film, exhibit, educational program, and memorial regarding the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Experience, had behind it his leadership, consultation or guidance.

Our Only What We Can Carry project would not have gotten started nor endured this long if not for Frank’s support and mentorship. He was our first lead advisor, and was the major source of inspiration in creating our Bainbridge Island Delegation to Manzanar concentration camp, where he and the Bainbridge Island Japanese community were first incarcerated. Frank helped to lead our first three delegations, 2009 – 11, and helped us build bridges to the local Japanese American community and a cadre of “elders” and wisdom keepers who have accompanied local educators and community leaders on these journeys of bearing witness and discovery.

(R-L) Frank Kitamoto, sister Lily Kodama and cousin Hisa Matsudaira on our 2010 Delegation to Manzanar.

(R-L) Frank Kitamoto, sister Lily Kodama and cousin Hisa Matsudaira on our 2010 Delegation to Manzanar.

His greatest contribution may be his work to help us embrace the Japanese American experience as a Bainbridge Island story, an American story, and story for all of humanity. Frank was a compassionate rebel, energized by anger and motivated by love, who faced down tremendous adversity to keep history alive, so that it may never happen again. He gave us the tools to take a stand against intolerance, hate, exclusion and injustice.

His life’s work, his calling, and his passion, was about calling out injustice, overcoming differences, and healing people and communities. Dr. Kitamoto was the Martin Luther King, Jr., Caesar Chavez, and Ernesto Cortes of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Community. He took a stand to make a part of history that had not been addressed publicly or privately for four decades, and led the way to normalize and make integral a subject that is now an enduring part of the culture of our community and schools, and our Island’s identity. We are a better community and people because of his righteous determination.

It has been one of the greatest honors of my life to know and work with Frank. As a visionary and connector, he left many indelible marks on his community as well as those, like me, whom he inspired. Frank is a local hero for our time. He was tireless in the way he served his community. Now it’s time for us to step up and fill the love-filled, resilient shoes that Frank Kitamoto left for us to walk in.

With love and deep gratitude,

Jon Garfunkel


A tribute left in honor of Frank Kitamoto at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, Bainbridge Island.

A tribute left in honor of Frank Kitamoto at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, Bainbridge Island.

EduCulture Presents at 7th NFCC

In April 2014, managing director Jon Garfunkel traveled to Austin, Texas to represent EduCulture at the 7th Annual National Farm to Cafeteria Conference. He was a presenter and facilitator for three conference sessions as a representative of EduCulture and our edible education partnership with Antioch University Seattle.

Jon gave a lightning talk called: Why are we doing this anyway? Grounding a Rationale for Edible Education in K-12 Schools. The presentation examined some of the major considerations informing edible education in K-12 schooling and explored the major “why’s” that help us, as educators, ground a solid, vibrant rationale for the many ways in which food plays a role in our schools: from the classroom, to the curriculum, to the lunch room.

NFCC photos6Co-Presenters Megan Phinney, Jon Garfunkel, Melvin Giles and his peace bubbles.

EduCulture joined forces with a dynamic duo from the St. Paul, Minnesota area to facilitate a workshop called Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive Cafeteria Table: How We Talk About Diverse Food Choices, Values, and Systems and the Deep Issues Underlying Them.  Community activist Melvin Giles and Master Gardener Megan Phinney created the Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Garden, which serves as a model for peace education through food in the St. Paul community.  More than 70 conference attendees from across the U.S. spent an afternoon examining individual and institutional assumptions about food, explored diverse worldviews, and addressed issues of food sovereignty and edible democracy.

NFCC photos4

NFCC participants sharing their worldviews about food.

For the third session, Jon sat in for colleague Ed Mikel on a panel of edible education leaders from around the country for a workshop on Building a Field of Certified Edible Education Teachers. More than 60 participants discussed how to create a meaningful, formal accreditation system for edible education professional development in public schools, and addressed pathways to help legitimize edible education within the current cannon and culture of American public education.

NFCC photos2Edible educators address ways to grow their professional field.

EduCulture’s Plant Pathways Lead to Seeding School Garden Programs

Pearsall at Wilkes3

Students from Richard Pearsall’s 3rd grade class plant potatoes at Wilkes.

This year, EduCulture has been working with our partner elementary schools in the Bainbridge Island School District to help develop and extend our landscapes of learning from our partner farms to our instructional farm plots and back to school gardens.

This work is currently in its most advanced form at Wilkes Elementary, where our staff supported teachers and students with planning and seeding the new garden beds. The redesign of Wilkes Elementary and its surrounding land afforded an opportunity for the school district to incorporate raised beds and other areas around the school grounds where teachers and students can plant, study, nurture, and harvest vegetables.

Watch a video of Wilkes 3rd grade students, teachers, parents, & EduCulture staff planting Makah Ozette potatoes in their school garden (courtesy of teacher Elizabeth Vroom)

We have been working behind the scenes with Blakely and Ordway Schools on plans for launching their school garden programs in 2014-15.  EduCulture is also working with district leadership to build the larger support network to design these edible education programs and maintain the campus infrastructure needed to sustain them.

This educational architecture goes hand in hand with our efforts this school year to develop curricular plant pathways across grade levels at our partner schools.  After years of experimenting with growing a variety of vegetables and fruits with students, we have arrived at a series of plant pathways that can be both integrated into the core curricula and integrated within our local food community. These pathways connect students to food raised on our partner farms working with local master farmers, to food that is student raised on our instructional farms, to food and plants they raise in their classrooms and school gardens. These pathways allow students to study these foods along the school and community food chains, from production to processing, distribution, consumption and recycling.

Our current plant pathways follow greens, pumpkins/squash, potatoes, and strawberries.  For example, at Wilkes Elementary, first graders study greens which connects to their plant life cycle units throughout the year, including this spring when they seeded kale on our instructional plot at Butler Green Farms and in their school garden.  Second graders follow the pumpkin from the famous Suyematsu Pumpkin Patch with Farmer Karen Selvar to raising their own on our instructional plot at Butler Green Farms.  The Third Grade studies the Makah Ozette potatoes, one of our historic Northwest food traditions.  Learning from Farmer Betsey Wittick and getting heirloom seeds from Laughing Crow Farm, students raise potatoes on our instructional plot at Butler Green Farms and in their school garden.  Given their deep study of Bainbridge Island history, the Wilkes Fourth Grade study and tend to patches of Island heritage strawberries on historic Suyematsu Farm, from the famous Marshall to Rainers, Shuksans, and Albions.

Pearsall potatoes at Wilkes1 Pearsall potatoes at Wilkes2

Third graders from Richard Pearsall’s class carefully plan out how they will organize and plant their bed of Makah Ozette potatoes.

It has been truly gratifying to see the energy and support for our plant pathways and these evolving school garden programs.

Special thanks go out to Bay Hay & Feed for their donation of hundreds of seed packets, which get distributed through our edible education programs with all our partner schools!


Photo Album of Ordway 1st Grade Farm Field Class

EduCulture volunteer and Ordway parent Amy Lenahan with daughter Tierney on their way to Historic Suyematsu Farm.

EduCulture volunteer and Ordway parent Amy Lenahan with daughter Tierney on their way to Historic Suyematsu Farm.

Many thanks to Ordway Elementary School parent, Yolanda Kwek, for a great photo album chronicling the spring field trip of Mary Lou Upton’s 1st grade class to Suyematsu & Bentryn Family Farms.  In May, the Ordway First Graders were led on a scavenger hunt to learn about the working farm in the spring season, then planted Rainier strawberry starts at our Island Heritage Strawberry plot.

Click here to see the photo album on Yolanda Kwek’s Facebook Page.


Stories from the Farm – A Day in the Life of an EduCulture Instructor

Madi helping Blakely students at Heyday Farm to seed greens that will be starters raised in the greenhouse.

Madi helping Blakely students at Heyday Farm to seed greens that will be starters raised in the greenhouse.

by Madison Taylor, EduCulture Instructor

As an educator, I can say there is nothing better than witnessing an “ah ha” moment. On the farm, that moment can come in any shape or form, but is always a beautiful thing. Here are a few that I have recently experienced.

Wilkes Elementary School 4th graders get to pick and eat fresh strawberries right from the field. A few things you might hear if you happen to be standing nearby:

“This tastes better than candy!”

“Next time I go to the grocery store, I am going to tell them that if their strawberries are white in the middle, they are NOT ripe!”

And my personal favorite…”These are so good I could cry. Seriously, I think I might cry.”

During these activities, we like to narrate the tasting experience. What the students are eating is a piece of Bainbridge, a piece of their homeland, and no other berry will be just like that one. Place and taste.

Another moment I recall was after a long hot, sunny day spent planting potatoes. It was time to hike back up the hill from Morales Farm to Suyematsu, and you could hear murmurs throughout the line, with kids saying, “Geez – farming is hard.” Ah ha; an appreciation for small, sustainable farming.

One instance I remember occurred as I was giving a lesson on the importance of bees and pollination to our food system. As I pointed to a “bee” that was “pollinating” as we watched, a little voice chimed in from the back.

“That’s actually a yellow jacket and yellow jackets don’t pollinate.”

That was an “ah ha” moment for me; know your audience.

Bainbridge Islanders are very fortunate to live in a community that shares space so closely with small farms. This is sometimes very apparent in the classes we teach and I continuously learn new things from every class.

Beyond lectures and curriculum and attempts to enable more transparency within our food system, there is simply kids outside, learning in a way that can’t be done in the classroom or from a computer or iPad. They are trudging through tall grass, getting their hands dirty, and yelling “POOP!” as loudly as they can (in our defense, we were teaching them about the circulatory system at Heyday Farm and the importance of manure in a working farm).

The most important part is the experience. These kids will grow up with memories of field trips to the farm and of a strawberry that was so good, it almost brought them to tears. Farms are where food comes from. Not grocery stores, not factories, but from the hard work of local farmers. To many people, that fact might be an “ah ha” moment. At EduCulture, we simply want that relationship and connection to exist. Our students will always know where their food really comes from.


Madison Taylor previously worked as an Intern with EduCulture and in the spring 2014 season began leading classes at all levels. She brings a variety of international teaching and volunteer experiences to her work. Madison has served as a volunteer for International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ) in Costa Rica and as a Sustainability and Community Building Ambassador for Peace Trees, Vietnam. She graduated from the University of Washington with a B.A. in Anthropology, a B.A. in Comparitive History of Ideas, and a Human Rights Minor. During that time she studied abroad in both Italy and Vietnam, with a focus on sustainable food systems, food politics, and international development. Madison has also participated in the Slow Food Movement’s Terra Madre Convention in Turin, Italy.