It takes an island

Submitted by Stephanie Cariker

Something happens when you teach children to grow vegetables; they eat vegetables.

And not only do they eat them, but they also take great pride in the action of doing so.

Prior to moving to Lopez Island, my 5 and 10 years-olds greeted greens with tantrums and gag reflexes.

Now, only 1 year later, things like spinach and kale are happily plucked, eaten, and dare I say savored, on a daily basis.

While we maintain a small family garden at home, this shift in their eating habits and willingness to, not only try, but also integrate vegetables into their diets, is, in large part, attributed to the Lopez Island Farm Education program.

The L.I.F.E. Garden Program teaches children to seed, plant, care for, harvest, process and prepare healthy food in a sustainable manner. It also teaches them to enjoy the fruits of this hard work.

But this year’s program has looked a little different than other years.

“We’ve really missed the help and excitement of the kids,” says Suzanne Berry and Valerie Yuluk, the two primary gardeners for the school garden program. “Fortunately, in the way of harvests, it was still one of our best years to date.”

According to records, the school garden produced over 10,000 pounds of food for the 2019-2020 school year.

“Last week alone we harvested 100 pounds of lettuce,” says Valerie Yukluk.

But for the last 3 months, they’ve done so with 243 less hands on deck.

How is that even possible?

It takes an island.

For many years now, the Lopez Locavores have worked closely with the Lopez Island Farm Education Program to collaborate whenever, and wherever, needed.

From monetary donations to physical labor, the Locavores have helped with harvesting, food processing, fund raising, and as of late, coordinating volunteers.

“This has been an amazing year for volunteers,” says Suzanne Berry. “People have come to help with beds. They’ve planted and harvested, processed and even offered to fix our broken lawn mower. It’s really been great.”

But as you and I both know, gardening is a never ending job and cuts to the educational budget are real.

Which is why the Lopez Locavores are putting out a call for volunteers and monetary donations of any amount.

For the earth to give of her bounty, we must first give her our time.

If you’d like to get your hands dirty in the name of healthy food, if your children, (or your children’s children) fill their tummies with the nutrient rich food of the L.I.F.E. Garden Program contact Sue Roundy at to find out more information about how you can help.