Food & Education In Times of Crisis Dialogue

Food and Education in Times of Crisis:
A Bridging Classroom & Community Dialogue

Presented by the Leadership in Edible Education Program
at Antioch University Seattle & EduCulture

Thursday, April 23, 2020, 4-5 p.m.

How do we wrestle with the paradox we are currently experiencing at the cross roads of food supply and kitchen literacy when “(O)ur food distribution networks are under siege. At the same time, food is proving stressful for people who are not used to cooking for themselves” (New York Times 3-18-20)?  How do we hold space for the constraints we are experiencing with our food system and supply while creatively addressing short and long term solutions for food and education? 

With millions of students at home, schools struggling to create an on-line learning system, and parents struggling to feed and educate their children during a time of crisis, there are significant opportunities emerging for edible education and kitchen literacy on the home front and solutions for making our local-regional food community more relevant in a time of crisis and more durable and resilient for the future. 

Join us for a virtual dialogue via Zoom hosted by Antioch University Seattle, facilitated by Leadership in Edible Education faculty & Director Jonathan Garfunkel and feature program alumni and instructors. The dialogue will address the current COVID-19 crisis and its impact on our food systems. Among other topics, we will discuss the constraints to our food system and supply while also imagining creative solutions for a more durable and resilient future. Guests will include local food practitioners, helping to initiate this on-line dialogue.

This virtual event will also be an opportunity to learn about our upcoming LEE 2020-21 program cycle scheduled to begin summer quarter 2020.

ONLINE VIA ZOOM – Link and information will be sent prior to meeting date

To Register for this Free Event, visit:

High School Students Engage with Living History

Bainbridge Island High School Students Learn about Japanese American Exclusion from Community Elders & BHS Alumni

May 2018

Kay Sakai Nakao, Hisa Matsudaira, and Lilly Kodama speak with 11th Grade Students

For the past three years, our Only What We Can Carry Program has been organizing a series of guest speakers for a panel discussion on Japanese American Exclusion the Bainbridge High School 11th grade American Studies classes.  These discussions are part of their unit of study of American Foreign Policy during WWII.

Bainbridge Island was ground zero for the beginning of the implementation of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which led to the detention of 120,000 Japanese Americans and immigrants living within 200 miles of the west coast of the United States.  In March 1942, close to 300 Bainbridge Islanders were forced from their homes, with only what they could carry, and sent under military escort to the Manzanar Relocation Center in Independence, CA, one of 10 concentration camps set up to intern Japanese Americans during the WWII.

Kay Sakai Nakao, age 98, sharing stories of life in Manzanar

Along with a variety of questions about life on Bainbridge Island before, during, and after WWII, and their family’s experience with exclusion, students commented to their guest speakers about how they were appreciative of to hear their voices and stories.  It is a special opportunity when students can experience living history in their own backyard, and when lived experiences can inform a more lived curriculum.  This was made even more relevant hearing from survivors and their relatives who grew up on their Island and attended their schools.

This year guest speakers included:
Donna Harui – Harui Family
Hisa Matsudaira – Hayashida Family
Lilly Kodama – Kitamoto Family
Vern Nataka -Nakata Family
Kay Sakai Nakao – Sakai & Nakao Families
Victor Takemoto – Takemoto Family

Lilly Kodama talks about being a child during WWII.

EduCulture, through our Only What We Can Carry Program, has been working with Bainbridge Island School District since 2009 to enrich and enhance school curriculum on the local Japanese American immigrant and exclusion experience.  This includes organizing delegations of Bainbridge Island Japanese American survivors of the exclusion during WWII and BISD teachers to the former Manzanar concentration camp.  In 2016, OWWCC brought three of these BHS American Studies teachers to Manzanar.  Educulture also the resident educators at Historic Suyematsu Farm and homestead on Bainbridge Island.  You can learn more about our OWWCC program work at:

Announcing Incubator Fellowships for Emerging School & Community Leaders

Three Types of Incubator Fellowships Offered for 2018-19
Deadline for Fellowship Applications is June 8

The Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program (L.E.E.) is proud to announce edible education fellowship opportunities for emerging school and community leaders, which include sponsorship in our upcoming L.E.E. program cycle starting in July 2018.   These Incubator Fellowships are special opportunities for emerging school and community leaders already on a path of practice with school or community based edible education to incubate a project of demonstrated need that will directly serve elementary or secondary students within the Puget Sound region. Fellows will be selected based on a specific edible education project or program they seek to implement for a particular school or community in need.   The L.E.E. Certificate Program will provide the container to do the deep work and structure to fully develop and shepherd the project to the point of incubation.

Leadership in Schools Fellowship:
For those formally working within K-12 schools, with a K-12 School Based Project that furthers the role of our PNW Food Shed in a school or school districts culture of curriculum, school community, school lunch, and/or extra-curricular arena.

Leadership in Education Outreach Fellowship (sponsored by EduCulture):
For those working, or seeking to work, in community based education that serves elementary and/or secondary age students, who have a K-12 Community Based Project aimed at addressing issues of food security, citizenship, independence, justice, durability and wellness, while developing awareness, knowledge and engagement in our regional community food system.

During the first half of the L.E.E. program, Fellows will examine the paths of others practicing in this region’s school and food communities.  Through the second half of LEE program, Fellows will examine and hone their own path of practice. They will use their culminating “incubated” project and field experience to bring their project to place where it can be piloted in 2019-20.  Upon successful completion of the L.E.E. Certificate program, EduCulture will provide Fellows with continued mentorship and our non-profit organizational support to launch a pilot project for the intended setting and audience of young people from the incubated project completed.

  • These two Fellowships come with a $500 per quarter scholarship from EduCulture towards your L.E.E. tuition. Fellow will be responsible for $650 balance of full tuition ($125 per quarter), along with the cost of course texts, class materials, and transportation to and from field classes.
  • EduCulture Fellows must will agree to fully participate in all L.E.E. classes and complete all required L.E.E. course work.  As well, the focus and topic of your incubated culminating project must be agreed upon and developed in consultation with the Local Food Trust.
  • These Fellowships are only open to those enrolling through EduCulture (not available to AUS Students).


Leadership in Food Community Fellowship (Sponsored by Local Food Trust)

For those working or seeking to work in Puget Sound food community, with educational project that develops awareness, knowledge and engagement in our regional community food system, and addresses issues food security, citizenship, independence, justice durability and wellness.  As part of this Fellowship, you will also receive consultation and oversight support from the Local Food Trust team in developing and completing your L.E.E. culminating project.

  • These Fellowships come with a $2250 scholarship from Local Food Trust (divided among four quarters) towards your full L.E.E. tuition. Fellows would be responsible for $250 balance of tuition ($62.50 per quarter), along with the cost of course texts, class materials, and transportation to and from field classes.
  • If you receive and accept this L.E.E. Fellowship, you will agree to fully participate in all L.E.E. classes and complete all required L.E.E. course work. As well, the focus and topic of your culminating project must be agreed upon and developed in consultation with the Local Food Trust.
  • This Fellowship is only open to those enrolling through EduCulture (not available to AUS Students)


More information about our LEE Program can be found at:

Deadline for Fellowship Applications is June 8. For Fellowship questions and application, contact: Jonathan Garfunkel,, or call 206-780-5797


Upcoming  L.E.E. Open Houses & Public Events
A Discussion on the role of food in our paths of practice, especially the place of food in K-12 and Post Secondary Education

June 5, 6:30-8:30p, Antioch University Seattle
June 7, 6:30-8:30p, EduCulture, Bainbridge Island

Click Here to RSVP & Receive Directions

 Share food stories  Talk with Program Directors  Meet Program Graduates  Visit Field Class Sites  Learn more about this unique program  


Taking Applications for 2018-19 Leadership in Edible Education Program

EduCulture, in partnership with Antioch University Seattle, is proud to announce openings for the 2018-2019 cycle of our Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program (L.E.E.).  The LEE program, spread over four quarterly courses from Summer 2018-Spring 2019, is aimed at building the professional repertoire of those who seek to work in the field of edible education.  It’s open to formal and informal educators and other professionals who are interested in making a difference through edible education, in schools and the wider community. The program is now a formal concentration within Antioch University, making the first of its kind in a graduate program in education.

“I knew that I wanted to be a part of this food revolution, inspiring people to reclaim their birthright to eat healthy whole foods and understand how it was created. EduCulture guides us to create tangible food education programs adapting our ideas to the existing food network across the world. We observe pioneering education and we participate in practical field experiences. I love this program.” – Brian Gilbert, Cheesemonger & 2015-16 LEE Graduate

In the 21st century, edible education has become the vanguard and crossroads of many fields of education, from environmental to sustainability, social to global, experiential to vocational, outdoor to horticultural, health and nutrition to school lunch reform. Food is a topic of study that can be found across the curriculum and embedded, implicitly and explicitly, across standards and grade levels. Edible Education encompasses the entire way we think about food in schools, from wellness policies to the quality of school lunch, from the content of core curriculum to career and technical education, from school gardens to food waste recycling, and from the ecology of a school campus to our wider food community.

The first field course in the 2018-19 program, Education Towards Food & Community, begins Summer 2018.  Space is limited. Click here to learn more about the Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program.

Following the Egg at Heyday Farm

Bainbridge Island Students Follow The Egg, from Field to Fork, at Heyday Farm

In the Spring Season, Kindergarten students from Bainbridge Island School District study the life cycle of chickens as part of their Edible Education Pathway, developed and facilitated by EduCulture, in their role as Edible Education Liaison for the District.  A major field class for students is a two part learning experience that follows fresh eggs from farm to kitchen at Heyday Farm, a partner farm in the south end of Bainbridge Island.

Students start their learning experience by putting on their farmer’s hat, touring and learning about a local pastured-raised poultry operation with Farmer Brian MacWhorter and his staff.  They learn about how chickens are raised for eggs that feed a community, from where they live, what they eat, to how they behave.  We also discuss how chickens are contemporary relatives of dinosaurs and explore other science and environmental learning connections.  Our instructors help students select fresh eggs from nest boxes, which they then carry to a commercial egg washing machine at the farm’s processing facilities.

Students then bring their eggs to the Heyday Farm Kitchen where they put on their chef’s hat for a culinary experience with Chef Tad Mitsui and his staff.  At the Heyday Kitchen, students learn how to prepare their farm egg as a soufflé with fresh farm ingredients.  While their eggs creations are in the oven, student’s put on their scientist’s hat to engage in hand’s on series of compare and contrast observations between fresh, local farm eggs and store-bought eggs.  Students use all of their senses to examine color, shape, texture, and eventually taste, while exploring the connections between how and where a chicken is raised and the qualities, health and taste of their eggs.  When their soufflé’s are ready, students are guided through a tasting lesson to help them appreciate the flavor, texture and other characteristics of their creations.

These lived, field experiences inform more lived curricular connections for teachers and students.  The outdoor classrooms we have created model effective placed based teaching and learning that is supporting science, math and social studies education. Students see their community as curriculum.  Social & emotional learning is enhanced and enriched through these outdoor, field experience through interaction in natural and agricultural settings, engagement with the life cycle of live animals, and the observation of a sustainable food chain of our local community, and meeting local farmer and chefs.

Educulture has developed and facilitates a more mature version of this Follow the Egg Field Class for students in the Advanced Food Course at Bainbridge High School.

Thank you to Bainbridge Schools Foundation for funding that made it possible to develop the educational architecture to deliver these lessons for Bainbridge Island School District’s Edible Education Initiative.  Thanks to our partners at Heyday Farm, Brian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farms and Tad Mitsui of Heyday Farm Kitchen.



First Graduates of Leadership in Edible Education

Congratulations to the First Graduates
of our Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program!

Leadership in Edible Education Certificate Program Graduates, Spring 2016, with LEE Co-Directors. (L-R) Ed Mikel, Angela King, Amber Williams, Stevie Long, Andrew Ely, Jon Garfunkel

Leadership in Education Certificate Program Graduates, Summer 2016, (L-R) Brian Gilbert, Barbara Bolles, Patricia Hennessy.

EduCulture is proud to announce our first graduates of Leadership in Edible Education, who completed this program in Spring and Summer 2016.  Our inaugural 2015-16 cohort attracted a diverse group of Antioch MAEd students and those working in schools, on instructional farms, non-profit organizations, in the food business.  We honor the significant accomplishment of these edible educators, who were the first to complete this EduCulture Certificate Program and Antioch University Concentration, and we celebrate their leadership and work in the field throughout the Puget Sound Region.

Here are the 2015-16 LEE Graduates and their Edible Education Vision Statements:

Barbara Bolles
School Garden Educator; EduCulture Instructor
Cultivating a deep understanding of the interconnecting cycles and systems of life through intimate involvement, students and teachers guide each other to discover the most humane treatment of all living organisms.  Growth is naturally nurtured in all academic disciplines, as well as in cooperation and compassion.  The border between them becomes penetrable as teaching and learning dissolve into each other.

Andrew Ely
Educator & Farmer, 21 Acres
I see a society in which all people, are healthy, are peaceful, are happy.

Edible education provides a foundation of knowledge and skills from which individuals are empowered to act on current ecological, economic and social inequities.

In 25 years I see…
– Public breakfast and lunch programs utilizing onsite and locally produced foods.
– Educational institutions utilizing garden and farm education for all subjects.
– Our communities having easy affordable access to culturally relevant wholesome foods.

Brian Gilbert
Cheesemonger, Beecher’s Cheese
Nature inspires action and a deep connection with our land enabling us to establish relationships in the community through a fundamental sharing of knowledge by engaging in co-education and cross-cultural ideas. As leaders, we collectively inspire children to eat whole foods upon planting and harvesting their own fruits and vegetables and understanding the food process by listening to the rhythm of the seasons and respecting the animals that share their lives to sustain ours.

Reconnecting to the natural traditions of food producers and honoring its antiquity allows us to enjoy gratifying nourishment while appreciating our native culture that the seed created.

We have the opportunity of daily gratitude to be educational caretakers of the earth by sharing locally produced foods. We provide knowledge of where our food is grown, nurtured, picked, packed, and distributed. We believe in sending ‘good vibes’ & enthusiasm through the tonality and presentation of food, leading to local congregation and global unity, balancing our modern life’s pace with humble simplicity, renewable with every sunrise.

When we collectively observe universal truths, explore our individual beliefs of personal identity then together we discover our communities expanding consciousness, evolve within co-creation and begin to taste the essence of our Edible Culture, participating in the celebration of life.

Patricia Hennessy
Founder & Director, Local Food Trust
Food is associated with both palate and appetite.  Palate being the appreciation of taste and flavor and appetite being a natural desire to satisfy a bodily need.  Of course, food intersects both. While a palate can be broad, an appetite can be deep or insatiable.

Edible education offers limitless possibilities to develop a broad palate around math and science, our health and human services, global citizenship, environmental sustainability, culture, arts and geography among other understandings of who we are and our role in a greater good.  Edible education can also satisfy our appetite through allowing us to dive deeper into a particular discipline or subject.  While knowledge of a subject matter in and of itself can simply be a tool for creation or destruction, edible education provides a unique opportunity to engage the learner/educator in a broader sense of self and demands a certain level of responsibility in exchange for its full and comprehensive understanding.

Therefore, the ultimate purpose of edible education is to inform, inspire and engage all ages and is to be inclusive of learners in pursuit of an education and educators pursuing further learning.  Edible education purposely offers a multi-faceted and interdisciplinary approach to an array of issues versus a singular and linear didactic delivery. It intentionally and deliberately instills a sense of accountability to community; local, regional and global all while using food (all facets) as a medium to create and stimulate dialogue, content and understanding of issues that commonly impact all of us as human beings.

In a formal setting (pK-12) edible education is reflected through a hands-on tactile problem solving approach. By doing, tasting, sensing and seeing children develop core academic knowledge that demonstrates mastery of one subject and at the same time build bridges between our commonalities and community.

Edible education can also be presented in an informal setting (community) as well.  In these presentation gardens, kitchens, u-pick farms, CSA’s and other natural settings all offer opportunities for teachable moments.

Angela King
Edible Educator; Instructor, Pure Foods Kids Foundation
Edible education is a truly revolutionary act.

Edible education aims to shift the dominant food culture that has severely impacted the health of ourselves, our communities, and the Earth into one that honors all individuals birthrights to be well; to not only survive but thrive.

Edible education seeks to honor the land by teaching sustainable food practices, communities by acknowledging and giving reverence to cultural heritage and native traditions, and ourselves by developing a deep and intuitive connection to the unchangeable truth that food is our medicine.
Edible education is the key to healing ourselves, our communities, and mother Earth.

Stevie Long
MAEd Candidate, Antioch University Seattle
A growing awareness of Edible Education around the world is crucial to a deeper understanding of personal, physical, mental, and global well-being. We have for too long denied the importance of understanding that food, what we consider food, and how we source, distribute, price, purchase, and consume that food plays in the role of improving or deteriorating our health and planet. Without greater need for the implementation of edible education, and the understanding of the role food plays in our environment, in our cultural, health, and social justice issues we quite honestly will not have the place to discuss and improve upon it. Food is not only a want but a need for all living things. Now is the time to realize that our old understanding of food and its purpose needs to be uprooted and replanted in a new fertile learning environment.

Amber Williams
MAEd Candidate, Antioch University Seattle
The purpose of Edible Education is to educate and reconnect children and adults alike with the source of their food, with hands on experience through the context of science and nature and the world we live in. Through the process of bringing the garden to the kitchen table and then back to the garden, allows for the integration of practical knowledge and growth of the spirit, which taps into the universal idea that good food brings us all together.

Town & Country Market Becomes a Classroom for High School Studies

EduCulture Leverages Local Community as Curriculum for Students

EduCulture has collaborated with Town & Country Market on Bainbridge Island to develop field classes to enrich and enhance food studies for local Bainbridge High School students.  Lessons were developed for the Global Citizenship course, a required senior elective with a third of the curriculum focusing on farming and food, and Advanced Foods, a Career and Technical Education course.

One lesson helps students understand the anatomy of a grocery store through the variety of forms that one food group can take, i.e. fresh (conventional, organic), packaged, prepared, frozen, dried, grab & go. In small groups, students are assigned one of three types of food to survey and study: Kale, Coffee and Pizza.  They record a set of data for each form of food, from price, origin, packaging, and ingredients. After compiling their date, students compare and contrast these various forms to arrive at conclusions regarding best value for money, healthiest choice, best quality, and most ecologically sustainable.

In another lesson, students learn about meal sourcing at the grocery store.  In small groups, students are given an imaginary budget to source two versions of an imaginary group meal (appetizer, main course, dessert) they might eat as college students.  One version is sourced to be prepared from scratch with whole food ingredients.  The second meal is a version sourced from pre-packaged, ready-made items.  Student record their menus for the meals, then analyze their selections based on healthiest choices, best value for money, most enjoyable to prepare and most ecologically sustainable.

We also created a field class for the Global Citizenship curriculum at Middlefield Farm, owned by Town & Country Market and managed by local farmer Brian MacWhorter, where students examine a unique program in local food production for a local grocery store.

The BISD edible education initiative has helped to bridge classroom and community towards a more lived curriculum for local high school students. One that that localizes their global studies in farming and food, and helps prepare these young adults to navigate their food communities as college students.

Thank you to our community partner Town & Country Market for hosting Bainbridge High School classes, and making their store a classroom for local students, especially to Guest Instructor, Vern Nakata, and store manager Rick Pedersen.  Our gratitude to Bainbridge Schools Foundation for funding that made it possible to develop the educational architecture to deliver these lessons for Bainbridge Island School District’s Edible Education Initiative.



OWWCC Makes Spring ’16 Delegation to Manzanar

IMG_1935This Spring, Only What We Can Carry Project took a group of current and former Bainbridge Islanders to the former Manzanar Relocation Center, a WWII concentration camp in the High Sierras of California where the Bainbridge Island Japanese American community were sent in March 1942.

This is OWWCC’s fifth Delegation to Manzanar, a community service project which pairs local educators, responsible for teaching and learning about the Japanese American experience of Exclusion, with Bainbridge Islanders who lived through that period, many whom were the age of the students whose teachers accompany them.  Our aim is help enhance and enrich the culture of a curriculum, school and community whose history is completely interwoven with this story.


What will be the living messages (the stories, the lessons learned, the practices, the hopes) that current and future generations will carry about the Japanese American Exclusion after this generation who lived through that WWII experience have passed?  OWWCC Delegations to Manzanar have been an opportunity for Bainbridge Islanders, those that lived through it and those now responsibility for teaching and learning about this subject, to wrestle with this question. These journeys of discovery have charted new educational territory for those who have participated.

This year, OWWCC brought three 11th American Studies educators from Bainbridge High School, Larry Holland, James Seemuller, and Kirrin Coleman.  This journey of bearing witness was timed to take place the week before they would be studying US Foreign Policy during WWII and Japanese American Exclusion with their students.

We were also honored to have Bainbridge Island School Distirct Superintendent, Faith Chapel, join us on this delegation.  A Japanese American, Faith’s parents were both interned and met in the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona.


The Bainbridge Island educators accompanied Matsue Nishimori Watanabe, along with her daughter Naomi, Frances Kitamoto Ikegami, and Victor Takemoto, whose families were forced to leave their homes on Bainbridge Island during WWII (pictured L-R in photo above). Mrs. Watanabe and Mr. Takemoto were in the freshman class of Bainbridge High School, and Mrs. Ikegami was five years old, in March 1942.  We are grateful to this community elders for their time and stories, so that we might better understand what it was like to walk in their shoes.  We deeply appreciate how they have chosen to share the challenges and woundedness of their youth, so that upcoming generations might learn from their tragedies and triumphs.

OWWCC Project Co-Directors, Katy Curtis and Jon Garfunkel guided the delegation.  Our group is grateful to the National Park Service staff at the Manzanar Historic Site, especially Chief of Interpretation, Alisa Lynch, who made our journey of discover so welcoming, engaging, lived and meaningful.

Click here to learn more about OWWCC’s Delegations to Manzanar.


OWWCC Provides Resources for Seattle Opera Production


An American Dream; music by Jack Perla, Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo. Photo courtesy Seattle Opera; copyright Dorthea Lange. War Relocation Authority 1942-1945

An American Dream; Music by Jack Perla, Libretto by Jessica Murphy Moo. Photo courtesy Seattle Opera; copyright Dorthea Lange. War Relocation Authority 1942-1945

Katy Curtis, Co-Director of the Only What We Can Carry Project and Outreach Director for Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, and Jon Garfunkel, OWWCC founder and director, worked with representatives of the Seattle Opera over the summer to assist them in preparing for their world premiere production of An American Dream. A dress rehearsal was performed at Bainbridge Performing Arts, followed by the official production at McCaw Hall in Seattle, August 21 and 23, 2015.

The opera is set in the years 1942 through 1945 on a Puget Sound island. The fictional story revolves around the World War II experiences of two women – one, a  German Jew married to an American veteran, and the other, a Japanese American woman whose family is impacted by the resulting Internment.

Morgan Smith, Hae Ji Chang, and D'Ana Lombard in Seattle Opera's world premiere of An American Dream production. Photo copyright Elise Bakketun.

Morgan Smith, Hae Ji Chang, and D’Ana Lombard in Seattle Opera’s world premiere of An American Dream production. Photo copyright Elise Bakketun.

EduCulture was involved in pre-production research conducted by Seattle Opera staff, directing tours of Suyematsu Farm, providing historic information and important community-based context, as well as helping coordinate local elders to serve on a panel on stage just prior to the production. EduCulture also helped the group curate an extensive pre-performance exhibit to better tell the history and to enhance the experience of the opera.

Nick Malinowski, Community Programs Manager for Seattle Opera, had this to say about EduCulture’s role in their preparation for the production:

“EduCulture was an invaluable resource as we prepared our production of An American Dream. Jon Garfunkel has a wealth of information and historical knowledge, and he answered every question we had about the Japanese American exclusion and farm life in the 1940s – everything from the use of farm implements to the storage of dynamite. EduCulture also allowed the director of An American Dream, Peter Kazaras, the opportunity to experience firsthand what a working berry farm would have looked and felt like in the 1940s.”

Lilly Kodama, Felix Narte, Jr. and Kay Sakai Nakao on stage at Seattle Opera, McCall Hall.

Lilly Kodama, Felix Narte, Jr. and Kay Sakai Nakao give pre-performance testimonials. Photo copyright Elise Bakketun.

Bainbridge Islanders Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Kay Sakai Nakao, and Felix Narte, Jr. served as speakers on a panel on stage just prior to the performance. Felix, who had not yet been born in 1942 but grew up on the Island, spoke about his family’s experience during the war. Kay, who was 22 in 1942, spoke about life before the war. And Lilly shared her perspective of the time after the war.

About the experience, Lilly says:

“The education department of Seattle Opera worked very hard to present not only a new opera about our incarceration, but also the lobbies were filled with exhibits and films, and a mock-up of a Puyallup Fairgrounds horse stall, converted into “living space” for Seattle and Alaska Nikkei. Once we were on stage and each had a short time to speak, I talked about the discrimination I experienced after the war ended. Everyone involved with the production made us feel comfortable. I believe this story reached a different audience and will help in preventing this from recurring. The opera was my first, and the music was wonderful.”

“It was truly a very memorable experience,” says Kay Nakao. “I thought the exhibits were very educational and powerful. I never dreamt that going on 96, I would be part of such an important event. On the panel, I spoke mostly about my Dad, who went into Seattle after the war broke out and sold his life insurance for War Bonds. This, even though he had six kids! He was really grateful to be an American – he was American, heart and soul.”

Left to right: Seattle Opera staff:

Left to right: Seattle Opera staff: Barbara Lynne Jamison, Director of Education & Community Engagement; Aidan Lang, General Director; Nick Malinowski, Community Programs Manager. Also pictured: Kay Sakai Nakao, Felix Narte, Jr., and Lilly Kitamoto Kodama.

“Bainbridge Island elders and the island’s experience was a strong influence on the Seattle Opera production,” says Jon Garfunkel. “We were happy to serve as one of their community partners in this project.”

An American Dream project was part of the Seattle Opera’s community engagement project called Belonging(s). Seattle Opera asked the public to respond to the questions: “If you had to leave your home today and couldn’t return, what would you want to take with you? Why is that object, memory, or connection to your past so important?”

Masa Yoshida, grandmother of Nina Yoshida Nelson (Mama, Hiroko Kobayashi in American Dream), Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Secretary Norman Mineta, Kay Sakai Nakao, and Felix Narte, Jr. Photo courtesy Jonathan Vanderweit.

Masa Yoshida, grandmother of Nina Yoshida Nelson (Mama, Hiroko Kobayashi in American Dream), Lilly Kitamoto Kodama, Secretary Norman Mineta, Kay Sakai Nakao, and Felix Narte, Jr. Photo courtesy Jonathan Vanderweit.

An Interview with Farmer Betsey Wittick

Betsey Wittick has a conversation about farming practices with Wilkes students.

Betsey Wittick has a conversation about farming practices with Wilkes students, describing the Makah Ozette potato, one of the varieties which she raises.

Betsey Wittick has been a leader in the modern Bainbridge Island Island farm and food community for over two decades.  Born and raised in Newark, New Jersey, she has called Bainbridge Island home for 28 years. Betsey has been learning how to grow food to feed people since she was a kid, and how holds rank as one of our region’s master farmers and vintners, operating Laughing Crow Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards. Her history and role in regional farming is one of helping to build the foundation for our local food community, and for future farmers.

An educator at heart, Betsey has been teaching about farming to future generations for more than a decade. She runs a farm internship program that attracts young adults from around the U.S. Laughing Crow Farm was EduCulture’s first farmer partner, and hundreds of school children have field classes on her farms each year.

Betsey Wittick’s work as as a farmer goes far beyond the dozens of varieties of organic and heirloom vegetables and fruits she raises. Her stewardship of the land and love of animals led to using real draft horsepower to till and fertilize her farmland. Her care and compassion for her fellow farmers has made her a traditional bearer of the sustainable, small scale farming practices that defined our original food community. Her vision for the future of food and farming has led her to be a major investor and mentor in our future farmers and food citizens. It has been an honor to have Betsey as such a generous partner in our Edible Education and Heritage Education programs.

In a conversation with EduCulture founder and director Jon Garfunkel, Betsey describes her interest in growing plants, going back to her time as a teenager in New Jersey. She reflects on her current work and her vision of the future of farming, as well as the importance of Edible Education.

JG: How long have you been farming and where have you farmed over your career?

BW: If you talk about growing plants, I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. Farming – if you want to define that as producing a crop to sell commercially, then it’s been, if you include the winery, about 28 years.

JG: And where have you farmed?

BW: All of it on Bainbridge.

JG: Why did you become a farmer and what keeps you farming?

BW: I got involved in farming specifically because of working for Bainbridge Island Vineyards and Winery, helping grow wine grapes and make wine. And while doing that I got involved in farming, farm-based issues – mainly land resources, land preservation – and helping to get folks to understand the value of local farming. At that time there were very few people farming commercially, besides some in the Filipino community, and Akio (Suyematsu), as well as Brian MacWhorter, and the Bentryn’s at the winery. So I got involved in trying to educate people about ways we could save farmland, through transfer of development rights, through trying to get the folks who were growing crops to be more successful at it, and hopefully to encourage new people to get involved in it. While doing that I also joined groups like Rural Bainbridge Island and Bainbridge Island Grange, and we were hoping to use those forums to educate people and to be a support group for farming. As I did that, I also got involved in Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market – it was called Winslow Farmer’s Market at the time – and several transplants from California and myself helped to reorganize that into the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market. We realized we didn’t have enough vendors to make it a really great farmer’s market, so a few of us pooled our resources together and we had a cooperative booth under the Bainbridge Island Grange, and that was the beginning of Laughing Crow Farm. From there, it grew a little bit more each year. I’m an experimenter by nature, so I was always playing around with “oh, let’s see, I could grow 10 kinds of lettuce, and 7 kinds of carrots, then do a taste test to see which one performed the best and tastes the best,” and from there I kept expanding and trying to find a way to sell it, because I’d have everything coming on at one time. I ended up focusing more on potatoes and garlic, storage crop based stuff, because my schedule at the vineyard took up a lot of time, so I didn’t have time to pick or sell vegetables mid week. I had to really let my vineyard schedule dictate it. Over time, that little cooperative booth became bigger and bigger until eventually I had my own farm stand at the market.

JG: And what keeps you farming today?

Betsey tilling EduCulture potato rows with her horse Samantha, 2011.

Betsey tilling EduCulture potato rows with her horse Samantha, 2011.

BW: Well, I like it. I like being outside. I’m not a desk-based person. There is an amazing opportunity just to connect with the seasons. I love working with farm interns. It’s fun to grow food. It’s challenging from an economic standpoint to survive with it, and I do other things to supplement my income. And that’s why I do it – it’s sort of in your blood.

JG: What are some of the things you’ve learned from those who have mentored you as a farmer such as Akio Suyematsu and Joanne and Gerard Bentryn?

BW: Well, since I started with Gerard and Joanne, I’ll talk about them – and I certainly learned a lot about growing grapes and making wine and running a business, from everything they had done. I also realized how much work it is now that I’ve taken it on myself, and I appreciate it even more, particularly the paperwork, which is no fun. Gerard was also passionate about local community issues, and I appreciated the fact that he stuck his neck out – very few business people would do that. Whether it was for a political candidate, an environmental issue…he allowed me to take time off from work – and it was salaried, so this was time he was losing – for me to pursue those issues, for the greater good. And I think that’s an important thing to do. I think it’s important to participate in community. From Akio, I think I learned that whole steadfastness – you know, sticking with a job until it’s done – determination to go through all kinds of adversity – certainly with what he experienced in the Internment, although I never really spoke to him directly about a lot of it. Just how to take care of things – he was always working – he’d work until dark, so we felt that’s what you do in farming – you work until the job is done. And of course the most valuable lesson is, “did you grease it?” (laughs) And he’s right, because maintenance is key to survival, in that if you don’t take care of your equipment, you’re certainly not going to be able to afford farming because it will cost you so much in repairs – way more than you can generate in income.

JG: Can you briefly describe what kind of food Laughing Crow Farm raises and where your food ends up?

BW: As I mentioned before, because I work with the Vineyard, a lot of my crops are somewhat dictated by what works with that kind of a schedule, so things that don’t need refrigeration, that can be harvested ahead of time and held for the time of sales because I don’t always have time right before the market to pick everything. So that’s part of the reason I do potatoes, onions, garlic – the root crops, storage crops. But also cabbage, and peppers – they’re just not as fragile as some other crops. I have no refrigeration, so it allows me to produce and sell those crops with the facility that I have and the time that I have. As far as where I sell them – I bet I sell most of it at the Bainbridge Island Farmer’s Market. I also sell at the farm stand we have here (at Suyematsu), and through Bay Hay and Feed – they have a nice cooperative farm stand, they support a lot of farmers by selling their food – and through some restaurants.

JG: Comfortable naming any?

BW: Probably the one that’s been most supportive over the years has been Molly Ward Gardens in Poulsbo. He buys hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pounds from me. Judith Winestock buys a bunch, Hitchcock buys some, Harbor House Pub – those are probably the main ones that I sell to.

JG: Why do you grow so many varieties of your dominant plants?

BW: I’m not growing the diversity of different vegetables, and one of the ways that I can have diversity from a standpoint of some crops succeed and some fail, is to not put all my eggs in one basket. And I do that through having different varieties, because they all have different traits. I’ve had some years where I’ll have a failure in one particular variety but something else will be good. Also it provides that diversity and I can fill a niche by exploring that one niche and doing a more evolved approach to it, and that’s how I get people to notice me. Because I have all these different kinds of garlic. I have all these different kinds of potatoes, and they’re all geared toward specific uses. I have some that are great for mashing, because they’re light and fluffy, for gnocchi and things like that. Another one would be firmer, like a masher would be Caribe – super light and fluffy, I sell lots of them at Thanksgiving; I have a firm one like Ruby Crescent fingerling, or Charlottes, which are very firm textured, in a situation where you want to it to hold its shaped after you’ve cooked it. Or, the ones that have colored flesh.

Bainbridge Vineyards

Bainbridge Vineyards

JG: As the new owner/operator of Bainbridge Vineyards, what kind of wine grapes do you raise and where does your wine end up?

BW: We grow grapes that originally were developed or selected in Europe, mostly in Germany and in the northern grape growing regions of France. We are working now with some grapes from Austria and Hungary as well. They are grapes developed for northern areas. They’re mostly white – we do have some reds – but the majority are white wine grapes because as in Europe, that’s what you’ll find, more whites growing in the northern parts of Europe.

JG: Can you talk a little about how these are cold climate vs. warm climate and our climate is similar to the climates that these grapes grow in elsewhere.

BW: We would be called a cool climate and everybody seems to say they’re a cool climate, but as far as our parallels, in Europe, we would be very similar to the Loire region of France. Also, Alsace between France and Germany, and different regions of Germany and in Switzerland or Northern Italy. So those would be similar parallels as far as temperatures year round, similar rainfall, except that our rainfall falls mostly in the winter, and most of those in Europe have more evenly scattered rain throughout the year. So in some ways it’s easier to grow grapes here, because it’s dryer through the growing season, so we don’t have as many disease problems. This year’s a little bit of any exception, because we’re super dry compared to our normal dry summers.

JG: Where does your wine get distributed and where does it end up?

BW: Most of it, I’d say we sell at the tasting room right here on the farm. We also sell at a couple of farmer’s markets which is something that I’d like to expand upon if we had the staffing – and some local stores, like Central Market, Town & Country, and Bay Hay are probably our three biggest retailers. We have other retailers too, but those are probably the ones with the greatest number of sales. But by in large I’d say that most of it is at the farm.

JG: What went into your decision to structure the winery business as a collaborative partnership?

BW: Well, I certainly didn’t want to do it on my own. I prefer to work in groups and a team. I knew just how much work it was from watching Gerard and Joanne over the years and I felt a better situation would be a more cooperative venture, where we all had some additional income besides the winery. The wine business is extremely competitive and I knew we all needed to survive, and by having that be part of our income and not 100% of our income, or folks who had partners with another income, it would help a lot to give us some flexibility and to allow us to get through that early start-up phase. I have also been inspired by the cooperative movement. I think that when people have skin in the game they put more towards something. If their opinions are valued they get to call the shots as well, it’s the good and the bad. A lot of times in business the business owner is working really hard and a lot of times the employees don’t really have a sense of what it takes to run a business. They see money coming in but they don’t see all the expenses. So I think there’s a greater understanding and a stronger business model when people are all involved. They’re valued and they all have an opportunity to offer suggestions. One of the things that really inspired me is the movie “Shift Change”, about the cooperative movement. Mostly it focuses on Mondragon in Spain but it also focuses on cooperatives in the U.S., and it is very inspiring. I would like to see more models like that. We are not a legal cooperative structure but we often use a lot of things borrowed from the cooperative type of business structure. I also formed an LLC so that I could help raise some money and get some local people who were willing to become part of the business by contributing money, and that made a huge difference to us being able to get started, as well as the Bentryns, who helped out quite a bit.

JG: How would you describe your method and approach to farming?

Betsey teaches students the real meaning of "horsepower."

Betsey teaches students the real meaning of “horsepower.”

BW: Constantly evolving. I feel like every year I learn something. Even though I may have done something 20 years ago, I think that if you pay attention and you’re connected, you’re constantly learning and maybe changing. So I see that we’re maybe doing things differently than when I first started working for the Bentryns. We became certified organic; we were using organic practices for the past 12 years, just because I didn’t like using chemicals out in the field and then ultimately we codified that with our organic certification. My Laughing Crow Farm is not certified organic but I follow all the organic practices in it. I like the sense of connecting that I get. So I would say organic follows those principles, but beyond organic, in living here on the land that I farm and seeing it all the time, it makes me much more sensitive to what’s going on. I’m interested in expanding on that and one of those areas is biodynamic farming, which is more of a homeopathic/holistic approach in many ways, and I’d like to incorporate more of those methods. One of my interests in using draft horses is in being less dependent on fossil fuels, but also it’s a different pacing than using a tractor. It requires a different skill set to connect with an animal to get the job done, versus turning a key on. I think that we’re evolving because I’m constantly looking and saying, “can we do this better? Is there some way that we can be better stewards of the earth?” I do plenty of rototilling with the tractor, but I think it’s really destructive, and I don’t think our soils can maintain that. Our soils are being beaten by things like that. I think there are other ways we could be farming and I’m interested in learning more about them.

JG: Can you describe the value of “terroir”, and what you feel is the relationship between place and taste?

BW: I think we’re so disconnected food-wise. If you think about the fact that your body is made up of chemicals from a place, that people are made up of the compounds, the foods that turn into their body tissue. Because most people eat from the supermarket and most food is transported from a far distance, they’re really not of the place they live in. They are biologically of someplace else. Now, maybe the water, if they drink water from their tap – but most people are drinking bottled water shipped in from somewhere else! So not even that basic component of life – water – is really from here anymore. So, to me, that whole concept of eating local, terroir, is to become more “of” a place; to experience it through tasting the foods, drinking the wine, having those things be part of your body; ultimately, through eating locally.

JG: What is it like for you to be a farmer in 2015 in the United States?

BW: It’s interesting, because now it’s becoming trendier, in some ways. I think when I started, it was a pretty novel idea, small scale farming. Most of the farms were big corporate farms, I felt like we were in the beginning of a movement, a food revolution. When I started 28 years ago, getting involved in local food systems – I think at the time, the farmer’s markets were still pretty new, and since then its expanded. When I would say I was farming, people would say, “wow, that’s weird.” But I think what’s happening now, particularly among young people, there are more people farming. I think folks like Brian MacWhorter and I are of that transition generation. Very few of our peers, farm. They all have corporate jobs – they make much more money (laughs). So, we’re sort of the odd group, but I think we were important in helping to connect the new generation, and providing things to help the new generation get started farming.

JG: What do you see for the future of farming? What are the challenges, and what are the opportunities?

BW: Challenges – let’s start with that. I think the climate change is big. I think we’re seeing examples of that this year. So, being adaptive is going to be super important. We don’t know what to expect yet, so resiliency is going to be key. That also leads me to say that small-scale farming is part of the solution, because it’s much more adaptable than large farming that has really invested a lot in infrastructure, in a style of farming, in equipment that takes 20 years to pay for itself. I think that stuff is not going to do well in the future. So, small-scale farming, new, innovative ideas – maybe including old ideas as part of it; I’m not a proponent of things like GMO. I think there are too many unanswered questions, but I do feel having more of our food produced locally will give us a lot more security and also connect people to the earth, which I think they’re going to need to do to make the changes that are going to be required of our civilization to survive.

Students visiting Laughing Crow Farm try out a game of tug of war.

Students visiting Laughing Crow Farm try out a game of tug of war.

JG: Where does water play into the future of farming?

BW: Certainly, water could become a major limiting factor, and our use of water – particularly if we do get dryer during the growing season – it’s going to be super important to be good stewards of that and use it wisely, so a lot of unknowns.

Other challenges have to do with access to land. Where the people, the population is, where potential folks to eat the food are, is getting more and more expensive. I think we need to look at innovative ways to help folks who are entering farming to have access to land. Partnering with people who own the land, community ownership of land, a whole series of things might work to help solve that. These young people haven’t gone off to do the corporate jobs, so they don’t have access to buy it because it’s way too expensive.

JG: Why is it important to have locally grown food in our communities, and what kind of local farm and food community do you hope to see for our region?

BW: First of all, I think it’s important for food security, even though I don’t often think of that. Having a lot of the problems associated with food – processing of food, contamination of food – is often because there’s not accountability in the food system. So, the more food that’s produced locally, I think it’s safer, healthier for people, and less vulnerable to issues like transportation breakdowns, high transportation costs, etc. Having that here, I’ve never grown up in a time when food was scarce, but people who grew up during major wars – like in Europe, really honor the fact that they have local food there, because you couldn’t get it, because we didn’t have a way of moving food in. I think we’re living in a very complacent society, where we have access to everything all the time, and I don’t necessarily think that’s going to last forever. So, having food, the ability to grow food, knowledge around growing food, and land to grow food, and people who can do it, I think is super important to the future. Also – it’s nice to have it, from a visual standpoint. There’s a connection that happens, there’s a spirituality that happens when you see that whole continuum, of here it is, and then you transform it, you know that person who made it. Food is pretty anonymous – it comes in packaged containers. Marketing people have known that people crave that connection, so if you look at packaging of processed foods, it has all kinds of stories on there, even though maybe it’s a corporation that owns it, they spin it, so it seems like – ‘oh, it’s a little farmer growing it’ – because people read those things. And they want it, even if they’re not aware they want that connection, they still look for it. So, let’s have real connections, versus artificially marketing created stories.

JG: Through your internship program, what are you learning about young farmers who come work for you?

BW: Learning about young people, in general – not all of them are destined to be farmers, but they think it is important enough to spend a season learning about farming, and I really admire that. I think it’s partly because the educational system has brought up issues about what’s going to happen, that they feel it’s important to learn something about food. As one said to me, “the most radical act you could do is grow your own food.” And I kind of believe that. What’s so cool about these young people is that they are willing to step into that. It’s a very risky business, it’s a lot of hard work, it doesn’t have the kinds of financial rewards of some other kinds of professions they might choose, but they still do it anyway. And it’s encouraging to see how many who have been through intern programs like the one I help to run, as well as other farms, how successful they are in starting to run their own farm. I hope that they can continue to be successful in the future, particularly if they choose to raise a family, which is super expensive and much more challenging to be able to come up with the financial resources to give them all the things that the kids want, all the things that their friends have, with a farming income. But that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a solution to that.

Betsey (left, in hat) at the EduCulture Summer 2015 Farm to Table Dinner at Suyematsu Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards.

Betsey (left, in hat) at the EduCulture Summer 2015 Farm to Table Dinner at Suyematsu Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards.

JG: How many young people have come to work with you over the years?

BW: It has to be at least 8-10 years now, and there have been over 30 individuals. Not everybody’s farming, but a good percentage, almost 50% – are doing some kind of farming on their own. It changes them. I use the time besides talking about farming skills to talk about other kinds of values – environmental values – teaching them more than just vegetables. We also look at trees, we learn about birds, other things, that when you’re out on a farm, make it more interesting. You can tell a lot about what’s going on, by things like what birds are coming through, what the season is like. And hopefully inspire them to get more connected, no matter what they do. If they choose to farm, they certainly will have a different appreciation for food. They always tell me, we’re food snobs now – not, “oh we had potatoes for dinner,” but “what kind of potato?” and “what kind of tomato?” They get to taste real food and it changes them forever.

JG: You were our first farm partner when we started out many years ago, so where does your interest in serving K-12 education and working with young people come from?

BW: It came from my teacher friend Tamara Stone. She would always try to do innovative field trips for the kids, and part of her school program in North Kitsap, which she was always doing on a shoestring budget – was to take them to a pioneer village – and she would say, “why are we spending all this money to go down there, and this long trip, when we could be doing something here?” So she asked me if she could bring her students over here for a day on the farm and we came up with activities for them to do and I later had another teacher come by, and ask if they could do that too. Pretty soon we’re doing all these educational based programs and as much as I liked it and having the kids around, I just didn’t have the time with my farming schedule to do that. So luckily that’s when you came along with EduCulture, and were willing to take that on. I thought it was an important thing to offer, I just didn’t have the resources to do it.

Betsey discusses farming techniques with Bill Covert's 4th graders from Wilkes Elementary School.

Betsey discusses farming techniques with Bill Covert’s 4th graders from Wilkes Elementary School.

JG: What does edible education mean to you as a farmer? What is important for young people to be learning about farming and food? Why is it important for them to have that as part of their school experience?

BW: Some kids are getting it at home, because it’s an important enough issue in places like Bainbridge, where people do have a garden. A lot of folks are fairly well educated about environmental issues and I think they do understand it. But there are a lot of kids who don’t, and I think schools are a great way to provide an opportunity about what’s possible, and getting kids who may never have seen what it’s like to harvest a potato, where they come from; or taste a garlic scape, or pick cherry tomatoes…how much fun it is, and how tasty it is. Also, to learn how to cook food. We eat so much processed food, we eat out, we eat packaged foods, we don’t spend the time cooking and sharing meals anymore, because everyone’s in such a rat race.

JG: So from your perspective as a farmer, what do you see as the most essential basic skills and knowledge that all children should have about farming and food?

BW: People should have an experience of actually growing it, only because if there came a time when they had to, they could know it’s possible. Rather than, “where do I start?” it’s “well, I did it before, so I can do it again.” Just having some kind of horticultural experience, to know its possible. And with that knowledge, comes the question, if I didn’t have food, how could I access food? I can just grow it – it’s that simple. I don’t have to go to the grocery store. But we’re hooked on that – we’ve forgotten a lot of skills that everyone used to take for granted.

JG: Why is it important for you to have edible education programs and farm-school partnerships on Laughing Crow Farm and Bainbridge Vineyards?

BW: It’s fun to see the kids – it adds another dimension. It exposes them to other things that are happening on the island. A lot of kids don’t see it, that there is actually farming here. A lot of our food is still imported, as they say, but it exists here. I know kids who grew up on Bainbridge who never knew this place existed. So that’s one thing. Just to say, there is something here in the community that’s pretty unique and special. And people find out about it. Whether their parents find out about it, and then maybe their parents help support the local farms, they heard about it from their kids. And maybe the kids get inspired to grow something; it’s another option for them. Everything doesn’t have to be sitting in the corporate boardroom, being bored, they can be out on the farm, learning how to grow stuff and observing nature. I think it’s a good win-win.

JG: Given all of your life experiences, did you have any idea that this is where you would be in your life in 2015, farming on Bainbridge Island, being a master farmer, leading a food community?

BW: I never knew of Bainbridge Island when I grew up, I thought I’d be on the East Coast somewhere. As a young kid, I always loved science, so I figured I’d be in some aspect of science. I was very interested in marine biology, always grew plants. I grew vegetables before I even knew how to eat them. Because when I grew up, vegetables came in Bird’s Eye frozen packages; you threw it in boiling water, and that’s how you ate that. We ate broccoli, peas; green beans were in a can; corn came on the cob once in a while, we could get that certain times of the year. Garlic was either garlic salt or garlic powder, and bulbs of garlic came in little cardboard packages with a little cellophane wrapper and two little heads of garlic. So that was food. I started growing stuff but I didn’t know how to cook it, so I gave it away. We had horticultural encyclopedias, so I’d take them out and start reading them, and just start digging in the lawn. Every year I’d take another foot out of the lawn, because it was fun to grow stuff – I was in high school, or younger. I just liked growing plants. I liked trees – I would look at tree branches, pick up sticks. I’d sign up for Jackson & Perkins roses – you could do a test thing – so I’d do a report on roses. In Newark, where I grew up, some older people had vegetable gardens, or grapes they made wine out of, or a fig tree, maybe tomatoes. The milkman would deliver eggs and other things in season but I wasn’t near the farming part of New Jersey, where there was still a lot of farming happening, the truck farms, historically. That’s why it’s called The Garden State.

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