By Laurelle Walsh
Classroom in Bloom — a program that teaches Methow Valley School District students about organic gardening, soil science, nutrition and more — is hosting an open house and party at the school garden on Thursday (Sept. 24) from 4:30 – 6 p.m.
The public is encouraged to meet the staff, sample appetizers prepared by students, and “tour the garden before frost, while it still looks great,” said Executive Director Kate Posey. Ingredients for the appetizers will be harvested from the Classroom in Bloom (CIB) garden and prepared by students in the program. The three-quarter-acre CIB garden is located behind Methow Valley Elementary and Liberty Bell Junior/Senior High School near the high school track.
Two more CIB events are on the schedule next week: a “mock” farmers market; and a 100-percent locally sourced lunch in the school cafeterias.
The student-run farmers market takes place at the garden during school hours on Wednesday, Sept. 30, and Thursday, Oct. 1. Parents and community members are invited to “buy” garden-grown produce from the farmer/students who have planted, tended and harvested the vegetables.
Mock farmers market sessions will run from 10:30-11:30 a.m., 12:15 – 1:15 p.m., and 2:30-3 p.m. both days, with an additional session run by home school students from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.
October also kicks off the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Farm to School month. CIB is partnering with the school kitchen on Oct. 1 to prepare a lunch made from all-local ingredients: from homemade hamburger buns and locally raised beef to potato salad, veggie wrap and fresh pluots. Ingredients are sourced from CIB and area farmers and ranchers including Gebbers Farms, Bluebird Grain Farms, Plow Horse Produce, Sunny Pine Farm and Willow Brook Farm.
Visitors are welcome to join the kids at lunch on Oct. 1, which runs from 11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. at the elementary school and from 11:50 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at the high school. Cost is $3.25. For planning purposes, head cook Laura Wottlin asks guests to RSVP in advance at the school office: 996-2186 (elementary); 996-2215 (high school).
“Our district is unique in that we have a scratch kitchen on site,” Posey said. “A lot of districts just bring in prepared food and reheat it.”
“I am very proud of the lunches we serve here,” said Wottlin. “Not too many people realize that we bake all our own bread. We have been told by delivery people that we are the only ones they have seen that use all the equipment in the kitchen because we are not just heating and eating,” Wottlin said.
“Our cooks work very hard with an extremely limited budget to create freshly prepared meals for our kids,” said Posey. They also incorporate into those meals nearly 2,000 pounds of CIB-grown produce annually, she added.
And the CIB “Sensory Kitchen” encourages students to prepare and taste foods they may never have tried, like sorrel, beet greens, kohlrabi, nasturtium flowers and watermelon radishes, Posey said. “Kids develop a personal relationship with food when they start eating the produce that they’ve grown and harvested.”
For more information on Classroom in Bloom, go to its Facebook page or website, www.classroominbloom.org.