Contributed photo — Student Peyton Cypress harvests radishes from the early spring. Cypress plans to take what he learned at Organic Farm School to the Midwest, where he grew up.

Organic Farm School excels in new digs

The Organic Farm School survived its first year at its new Maxwelton Valley campus, meeting both its financial and program goals, according to institution leaders.

Moving to a new location is always concerning, but the success bodes well for the future, said Judy Feldman, executive director of the Organic Farm School.

“Whenever you move farms, there are always challenges since you don’t know the microclimate, the soil, things like that,” Feldman said. “That being said, we met our production goals, we did well at the Redmond Farmer’s Market and our CSAs (community supported agriculture) were successful. I don’t think we could’ve predicted such a good first year.”

Students from the class of 2017 will discuss their experiences during their eight months on the island next week. A community discussion is slated for 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6 at Langley United Methodist Church. Students will talk about their future plans and what they see in the future of food production, in addition to their personal experiences getting dirt under their fingernails in Maxwelton Valley.

The public is also invited to the school’s graduation ceremony at Bayview Hall on Thursday, Nov. 9. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 7 p.m. Email judy@organicfarmschool.org to RSVP.

When the Organic Farm School moved last summer, there were certain financial requirements that had to be met, all of which were met, Feldman said. The landowners who lease the farmland to the school asked the institution to raise $100,000 during the school year to prove its financial stability, which the students and staff accomplished through their farm-to-doorstep CSA program and attendance at the Redmond Farmer’s Market.

The landowners also stipulated that the school should build up a $50,000 reserve by the end of the year, something the school was never able to do while located at Greenbank Farm. The school successfully raised the required funds, but Feldman adds it continues to look for donors.

“This is why we feel at home, the community is willing to invest in the future of the program,” Feldman said.

According to 21-year-old student Peyton Cypress, originally from the Milwaukee, Wis. area, the South Whidbey community played a large role in the program’s success. It’s something he plans to touch upon during the community discussion on Monday, in addition to what he’s taken away from his year on the farm.

South Whidbey served as an ideal place to learn small-scale sustainable farming techniques; it was somewhat foreign to him in Wisconsin, and he’s aiming to bring those skills home. He’s hoping to change the Midwest with what he’s learned.

“There needs to be a shift in the Midwest, and I’d rather go there myself to help make that shift,” Cypress said. “I want to increase the biodiversity of farms in the Midwest, step away from chemicals and not destroy the soil like the current food system does. The Organic Farm School gave me a broad base to to do that.”

Contributed photo — Student Nick Conard works in the farm school’s kale garden.

Contributed photo Student Nick Conard works in the farm school’s kale garden.

Contributed photo Student Nick Conard works in the farm school’s kale garden.

Contributed photo Student Peyton Cypress harvests radishes from the early spring. Cypress plans to take what he learned at Organic Farm School to the Midwest, where he grew up.

Contributed photo Student Peyton Cypress harvests radishes from the early spring. Cypress plans to take what he learned at Organic Farm School to the Midwest, where he grew up.

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