kids building trellis

Summer in our Learning Garden

Thank You Volunteers!

Last week we wrapped up another great summer season of volunteering in our Kansas Avenue Learning Garden! Our Happy Hour in the Garden open weekly volunteer series is how we are able to get a lot of things done in the garden during the growing season, and collectively those volunteers contributed almost 300 hours to our garden! Some people came just once. A handful came almost every single week. One came very pregnant, and some came while on vacation. The beauty of an ongoing drop in is that anyone can contribute, and we’re so thankful for them all.

Win-Win Volunteering

One family that has volunteered the past 3 summers would regularly bring their whole clan of teenage kids and sometime their friends. This year they sanded and painted a weathered picnic table, beautified our signs, installed seed storage shelving and more weekly garden tasks along the way. In addition to getting some great work done for us at our garden, they’re getting credit towards their daughter’s orthodontia work. Have a kid with similar dental needs? Get credit to offset costs by volunteering in our community! Learn more at Smile Central Oregon.

Happy Hour Sponsors

Happy Hour in the Garden would not nearly be as happy without our beverage sponsors! A shout out to Worthy Garden Club, Boneyard Beer, 10 Barrel and Deschutes Brewery for their delicious beer, and many thanks for Brew Dr Kombucha and especially Caboost Kombucha, whose weekly growler fills kept us going all summer long!

Boys & Girls Club in the Garden

So what do we do with all the food we grow? Well first off, since it is a learning garden and not a farm, we are not really a high yield producing garden. Thank goodness, because we actually get a lot of shade from the surrounding trees and would have a lot of disappointed CSA members if that were the case! So while we don’t grow a lot of food, what we do grow is often quickly eaten  by weekly visits of youth from the Downtown Boys & Girls Club. Since the inception of this garden we have had a relationship with the B&G Club. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, as it adds some diversity to their programming and offers the kids outdoor garden space that isn’t possible at the downtown club. For us, it gets kids in the garden when school is out (i.e. MOST of the growing season!) and gives more kids the opportunity to connect with nature through food.

For the past number of years our summer programming has been a collaboration with OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program. This past summer, 2 dozen kids walked over to The Environmental Center and spent 2 hours immersed in planting, working, building, harvesting, cooking, eating and exploring the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden for 3 weeks in a row. All in all, about 100 kids in grades 3rd through 6th spent a total of 6 hours immersed in the garden. Half the time they spent with us doing garden activities, lessons, explorations and projects, and the other half of each time that harvested, prepped, cooked and ate a fresh Food Hero recipe with Ashley of OSU Extension. (The peach salsa was a hit!)

Some highlights for me this summer include testing out our new system for using reusables in the garden with youth (they loved washing dishes!), our first real blueberry harvest (happening now – get down here!), finding an actual pumpkin in the garden today (all summer long it was just all blossoms, today there are 3), building a trellis with middle schoolers, creating a special harvest celebration meal at the end of each session, and experiencing the changes that happen around us in the garden over the course of a summer.

Coming Up…

  • Fall Programming: We’ll be inviting Amity Elementary School back to the garden soon to dig up the roots and tubers, pull dried beans off the vine, harvest ripe tomatoes;, check out the three sisters garden, and discover that no watermelon ever grew. We might make a big soup with all the fall ingredients if it works out.
  • Fall Bulb Fundraiser: Beautify your garden while supporting ours! Visit The Environmental Center through September 18th to view the garden catalog, place, and pay for your order with cash, check or card. (We’re located at 16 NW Kansas Ave. in downtown Bend.) Bulbs will be available for pick-up at our Fall Garden Work Party on Saturday, October 5th or at The Environmental Center by appointment between October 8th -11th. If you can’t make it by but have an idea of what you want (ex: daffodils!) we’re happy to help you out over the phone as well. Just give me, denise, a call at 541.385.6908 x14 and I can tell you about the options, and then take a card over the phone. You get some bulbs for your garden, and we get some bulbs and money for our garden too. It’s a win win!
  • Fall Garden Work Party: Join us in the garden for our Fall Garden Work Party on Saturday October 5th from 10am-12pm. We’ll be in the Learning Garden doing typical fall garden stuff, including some early winterizing projects. We’ll have coffee, juice, and snacks on hand. Tools provided, and there will be some family friendly tasks available.

Beautify your garden while supporting ours

Support The Environmental Center’s Learning Garden by purchasing bulbs through our Fall Flower Bulb Fundraiser!

Visit The Environmental Center through September 18th to view the catalog, place, and pay for your order with cash or check. (We’re located at 16 NW Kansas Ave. in downtown Bend.) Bulbs will be available for pick-up:

  • at our Fall Garden Work Party on Saturday, October 5th;
  • in Redmond on Monday, October 7th;
  • and at The Environmental Center by appointment between October 8th -11th.

Please email Denise to discuss larger group orders.

FAQs from Talkin’ Trash: July’s City Club Forum

In the middle of July, the Rethink Waste Project was invited to come present at the monthly City Club Forum. Our own Denise Rowcroft did an amazing job talking all about waste reduction, recycling correctly, and the impacts that our consumption has on the earth. She spoke alongside Timm Schimke, Deschutes County’s Director of Solid Waste, who spoke about the short future of Knott’s Landfill, which is projected to be full by 2029. He also touched on options for where our trash will go once Knott is full. In case you missed the forum, you can watch it here

Have you ever been to a City Club meeting? After the speakers present, there is an allotted time for audience questions. After the forum, we received a list of all audience questions that didn’t have time to be answered. There are some really great questions in the list, so we decided to share some with you here. Since there were so many, look for future posts with more questions answered!

I really appreciate the work of the Rethink Waste Project. How will you continue to reach all the new people moving to Bend?

Thanks!  We realize that visitors to our area (and new residents) bring knowledge and behavior from wherever they come. Maybe their home city accepts much more items in its recycling bins than we do. This totally contaminates our local stream. Or they may come from a rural area that doesn’t have any recycling in place at all, so they put recyclable items in the trash. And sometimes it is just hard to do the right thing in a new community if you are given no information, tools, or motivation to do it. Vacation brain, anyone?

Realizing there is work to be done in this area, this past spring we brought together a couple of focus groups gathering two dozen people from across the tourism sector. Lodging, recreation, retail, travel, resorts and breweries were represented to get input on ways that we could reach visitors. We also spoke with other communities to learn about what is happening (or not happening) in similar communities that experience tourism. We are currently compiling this information to come up with a recommended action plan that specifically address these concerns. If you are tapped into this sector in any way (vacation rentals, for example) please reach out to us! – Denise

Could you please tell us more about the program starting this fall that allows food waste in the yard debris bins?

Currently, anyone in Bend city limits can opt in for yard debris service. This cart is picked up every other week on glass recycling week, and can currently accept leaves, grass clipping, branches, weeds, coffee grounds, plus raw fruit and vegetable kitchen scraps (like you would put in a backyard composting bin). Here’s a link to what they currently accept.

Beginning later this year (official date TBD) all residents in city limits that opt in to this yard debris pick up service will be able to put ALL food waste in their bins for composting (including anything that’s left on the plate, including meat, breads, oily foods that you wouldn’t put in a home bin.)  This is really exciting as it will greatly help us reduce the organics heading to the landfill. However, just because you can compost it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be working to avoid wasted food in the first place. Get tips on that here.  – Denise

Please educate me: Is kitty little ‘yard waste’ or regular garbage waste?

Kitty litter is garbage waste. And although dogs are different species than your question addresses, here is a great article from The Source Weekly about dog poop.
– Ani

What sites are being considered within the county for potential landfill locations?

The county has not disclosed any information about specific sites at this time. – Ani

Are there tool (lending) libraries in Bend?

Although there are currently no specific lending libraries in Bend, there are places that rent tools. But even better than renting tools, have you heard of the DIYcave? If you’ve never heard of this unique and inspiring maker’s space, go check it out. They offer membership as well as classes with an incredible array of woodworking, metalworking, welding tools — and more.

Another great option is to create a sharing space amongst your friends and neighbors. You can start an excel google doc where people can list what they have to borrow. You can have columns with whatever rules or restrictions you want with a check out column. This can allow your friends to try out tools or appliances they might not have without having to buy one. A few examples of what I have borrowed from some of my friends? A cider press, a pasta maker, a multimeter, a circular saw, a wetsuit. Some things I have lent out to my friends: a food dehydrator, a food processor, a bicycle pannier, a bicycle trailer. – Ani

How do you view Amazon as a company as it relates to over-consumption, purchasing of stuff in this day and age?

I think I’m one of the Amazon holdouts.  Once you sign up for free 2 day shipping, not choosing that becomes so much more of a hassle. Why take the time to go downtown and look to see if they have the book you want in stock, when you can have it shipped right to your door?! It definitely has some benefits for our society. For example, people in rural communities now have equal access to getting what they need and getting it delivered. Also, the reviews can be super helpful in learning about the quality of the product. It is a fact that most products are actually engineered for “planned obsolescence” and break in 6 months or less.

But the impacts of online shopping can’t be ignored. The carbon footprint of the item’s traveling distance to obscene amounts of packaging has enormous downstream effects. And the widespread, increased consumption that online shopping promotes has many unseen upstream impacts. Plus, Amazon is so full of cheap stuff that it distorts what we think things should cost. Often that cheap stuff just becomes instant garbage.

I choose to shop used first for most things, then brick and mortar – both big box and local businesses. And I shop online when I can’t find something in town. If I am buying a gift for someone out of town, it wont be on time if I have to ship it myself, so online shopping it is! OK, off my soapbox now. – Denise

Update 8/20/19: Here are answers to even more questions, published on the City Club website. 

Another FoodCorps Year in the Books!

FoodCorps is a nationwide organization under the AmeriCorps umbrella. Service members are in 18 states working to connect kids to healthy food in school. Their work focuses on three areas of service: hands on learning, healthy school meals, and supporting a school wide culture of health.

Here in Oregon, our service member, Tracy Ryan, was one of a cohort of 10 members serving at different sites. Service members are able to choose to serve a second year, and we are thrilled that Tracy has elected to serve an additional year with us! FoodCorps elevates all the work we do in our Garden For Every School program, and we look forward to deepening our experience in the year ahead. Here some highlights of the great work Tracy accomplished this past year.

Hands-on Learning

Tracy served intensively at Three Rivers School in Sunriver, reaching 280 students through hands-on classroom presentations about gardening and nutrition and a school-wide cafeteria tasting. She led weekly nutrition and garden related lessons in the Three Rivers ‘”garden room” at school. She worked with Wellness Committee teachers to utilize their three indoor mobile garden carts created from shopping carts. They were able to harvest from this indoor garden multiple times throughout the school year! (Our previous FoodCorps Service Member, Claire Londagin, was instrumental in assisting teachers researching designs and equipment to make this successful.) Tracy made herself Tracy in carrot costumeknown throughout the school, even in classes she didn’t work with. She was a regular presence in the cafeteria – teaching kids about portion sizes, identifying new salad bar offerings, and simply modeling eating healthy lunches. (It also didn’t hurt that she was known as as the “carrot lady” by wearing a carrot costume at multiple school-wide events!)

Tracy taught 111 students for over 10 hours, which is FoodCorps’ benchmark that has been shown to make the most impact in children’s behavior change regarding trying new foods. This was confirmed when Vegetable Preference survey results from two classrooms that received over 13 hours of FoodCorps instruction revealed that more than half of the students reported improved nutrition choices. Students indicated a positive change in their vegetable preferences when compared to the same survey at the start of the school year.

Tracy also supported Bear Creek Elementary School’s weekly in-school Garden Club, and had a weekly presence in their cafeteria supporting healthy school breakfast and lunch choices.

Healthy School Meals

Through FoodCorps, we participated in a nationwide pilot project called the Tasty Challenge, where kids tried a sample of one food prepared two different ways, then voted on their favorite. This method is backed by research that indicates when someone has to choose one item as their favorite, they are more inclined to consider trying that item again – as opposed to just saying they liked it or didn’t like it. The students loved trying fresh carrots vs roasted carrots and voting for their favorite. (Fresh carrots won that round!) The Nutrition Services staff at school were so on board with how smooth it went, they have already worked with Tracy to pencil out a Tuesday Tasting every month for the upcoming school year! We are excited about the potential of collaborating with Nutrition Services in this way, and see opportunities for highlighting how the cafeteria is also an important part of a student’s educational experience at school.

School-wide Culture of Health

Our team also supported Wellness Committee teachers to think through and complete the Bend La Pine School District’s new School Garden Development Application, as well as meeting with the BLPS District Staff to ensure that all parties were on the same page. As a result, Three Rivers courtyard garden will be the district’s first outdoor school garden to be officially approved since this process has been put in place! They have already started to receive in-kind and financial support, and will begin building when school starts in the fall. Tracy is looking forward to helping build this garden, and more importantly, to support teachers wanting to integrate the outdoor and indoor garden into their existing curriculum for the long term.

THANK YOU, TRACY! It’s been a fantastic year and we’re just getting started.

Summer in a School Garden

Here in Central Oregon, the prime growing season is exactly when school is out of session. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any use for a school garden! There are tons of ways to get students involved throughout the school year, from planning indoors in the winter months to hands on garden work outdoors in the fall and spring. But there still is the reality of what happens to a school garden when school is out? Here are some ways that local schools do – or could do – to deal with this reality.

  • Family Volunteers

    Some schools have a generous point person volunteer that loves gardening and wants to own this project. Others have asked student families to sign up for one week over the summer to come visit the garden and do some maintenance work. This works best when the garden is in an accessible location at the school (and you have willing volunteers!)

  • School Garden Champion

    In this case, one teacher has either officially or is the self appointed garden champion, and they take it upon themselves to check on it over the summer. If this is you, we recommend you work to form a Garden Committee next school year, because you may eventually burn out. On a lighter note, our garden grants (available in the fall)  can be used to cover up to $500 stipend for a teacher that is the garden champion, especially over summer break.

  • Summer Programming

    Some school locations have summer activities happening at the school already, either by the school itself or by a youth organization utilizing the site over the summer to run their programs out of. This can be a great way to get youth involved in the garden over the summer, enrich their programming, and make sure that someone is taking care of the garden. Also be open to youth programs nearby? Partnerships can be mutually beneficial in this way. For years we have worked with Amity Elementary School and the Downtown Bend Boys & Girls Club, both within walking distance, as a way to have students experiencing the garden through it’s entire growing season.

  • School Year Gardening

    Some schools ensure summer success by only growing during the school year. This is most appropriate for smaller indoor year round growing type set ups. However, there are some ways to plant an outdoor school garden specifically designed for only school year harvesting.

    • Plant spring crops that can go in early as soon as the soil can be worked (peas, spinach, radish) and harvest whatever comes up by the end of the school year. Your peas will not have reached maturity, but your students will be blown away that they can eat pea leaves that indeed taste like peas!
    • Plant things that can stay in the ground until students return in the fall, and are fairly low maintenance. Ideas include carrots, beets, potatoes, onion. They can plant garlic in the fall, you come back and harvest it when it’s ready in late July or so, hang em up to dry and they will be ready to join the other roots veggies for a roasted veggie meal or a soup. Another idea is to plant beans at the end of the school year when it’s warmed up, and then leave them on the vine. You’ll come back to dried beans (or still drying) that can be saved for replanting, sent home with students, or turned into a soup for a class harvest celebration meal.
    • Make seed tape with your students to accurately space out those tiny carrot and beet seeds, that way you don’t even need to spend time thinning out the seedlings in the summer. Also it makes a great wintertime/early spring indoor classroom activity to prep for your garden.

Let us know if you do, saw, or heard of other ideas for school garden summer maintenance. Happy Gardening!

The Dirt on School Gardens: Spring 2019

Our dream of a ‘garden for every school’ is becoming reality! Here are some recent highlights as kick off another season:

  • We approved garden grant requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet their own unique needs and goals.
  • Our Garden Educator Network is now comprised of 117 educators in our region! The most recent workshop, “Spring Activities in the School Garden,” offered hands-on lesson ideas and a tour around the OSU Extension demonstration gardens.
  • Our FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy, is working with students at Three Rivers Elementary and Bear Creek Elementary schools. As part of a national pilot project with FoodCorps, she just conducted a ‘Tasty Challenge’ at Three Rivers, where students tried one vegetable prepared two ways and selected their favorite. Nutrition Services have since planned out a fresh food tasting once per month in the coming school year!
  • Bend-La Pine School District implemented a School Garden Development Application that we helped to develop. Last month, the first permanent outdoor raised bed garden has been approved by the district.

Lastly, our own Kansas Ave. Learning Garden is thriving! Swing by for Happy Hour in the Garden, a fun volunteer event, each Tuesday from 4-6pm.

Learn more about the Garden For Every School Initiative. 

2019 Garden Grants Award Winners

The Environmental Center is proud to announce the winners of their annual Garden Grant Program.

Through community, business, and foundation support, we approved requests for $10,000 to nine school garden projects in Bend, Sisters, Sunriver, and Prineville. Schools receiving award funds include: Crooked River Elementary School, Seed to Table Educational Farm for Sisters Elementary School & Sisters High School, Three Rivers School, REALMS High School, Waldorf School of Bend, Wonder Years Preschool, and Desert Sky Montessori School.

Projects include relocating a large donated greenhouse; building new raised beds; critter-proofing existing garden beds; turning an unused bike rack into a temporary mini greenhouse; improving outdoor classroom space; purchasing garden supplies and curriculum; and building a rainwater fed container garden.

“Once again we are excited about the innovative ideas that schools are coming up with to connect their students to plants, food and our environment through school gardens,” said Denise Rowcroft, School Gardens Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “These funds are helping schools implement garden-based learning in ways that meet the unique needs and goals of their own school community.”

The goal of The Environmental Center’s Garden Grant Program is to provide local funding for public and private Pre K – 12 schools in Central Oregon to build or support a school garden. Gardens can be indoors, or an outdoor classroom, depending on the needs and goals of each school.

“Local schools are fortunate to have opportunities like the Garden For Every School Program,” said Jackie Wilson, Bend La-Pine School District Sustainability Coordinator. “It helps students to connect to meaningful experiences outside the classroom and to become thriving and sustainability-minded citizens.”

Garden activities and education provide a wide range of positive benefits for kids, communities and the environment. Garden grants is one strategy in The Environmental Center’s Garden for Every School program. As part of this program, The Environmental Center also provides technical assistance to schools, has a FoodCorps service member to connect kids to healthy food in schools through garden and nutrition lessons, organizes local Garden Educator Network trainings and events, and operates the Kansas Avenue Learning Garden. Our garden grant funds this year were raised through donations from almost 60 local community members, generous businesses, and foundations.

Residential Composting Pilot in Bend

Last week, Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal announced that they’ll be introducing a residential food waste pilot program to some areas in Bend. About 300 households from each company will participate in the pilot, which allows customers to put more food in their standard yard debris bins for curbside collection and composting. (Raw fruit and veggie scraps can currently be added to this bin. During the pilot program, they will accept meat, dairy, bakery items, and more.) If all goes well, residential composting could be available to all of their customers sometime in 2019. We’re very excited to hear this news, because it’s estimated that 26% of Knott Landfill is food waste!

We have partnered with both haulers to provide food waste prevention information for those selected for the pilot, including an Eat First card: a tool from our Rethink Food Waste Toolkit that helps you separate out foods in your fridge that need to be eaten first so they don’t end up in the compost pile. Of course we want to keep food out of the landfill and turn it into beautiful and useful compost, but we encourage you to prevent food waste in the first place. Sign up for our Rethink Food Waste Challenge to learn more and access helpful resources around food waste prevention.

You can read the full press from Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal here.

View the article from from KTVZ.

Celebrating Five Years of Repair Cafés in Central Oregon

On Thursday, October 18, 2018, it will be exactly nine years since Martine Postma organized the very first Repair Café in Amsterdam. Today there are over 1,600 Repair Cafés in 33 countries on six continents. Here in our own backyard, The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project organized the first local event five years ago at Pakit Liquidators, which has since transformed into the shared maker space, DIY Cave.

Repair Cafés are events that connect people with broken stuff, with people who like to fix stuff. Over the past five years, over 400 items have been repaired through 15 local events with different host partners including The Gear Fix, DIY Cave, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore, Deschutes Public Library, Central Oregon Community College, and more.

“For us, Repair Cafés fit into the mission of the Rethink Waste Project by preventing tangible waste through repair instead of replacement,” said Denise Rowcroft, Rethink Waste Program Manager with The Environmental Center. “But the really cool side effect of having repair events is less tangible – it’s about connecting people to their stuff in a way that gets them thinking about how they consume and the purchases they make, which is ultimately where we have more impact.”

Repair Cafés are free and staffed by volunteer fixers. Volunteers bring their own tools and variety of expertise, and will often troubleshoot difficult-to-repair items together or share tools. They have expertise in small appliances and electronics, clothing, outdoor gear, jewelry, and small furniture. Rowcroft added that volunteers receive a lot of satisfaction in keeping things out of the landfill, and attendees often really enjoy their interactions with volunteers and learning more about repair.

“It’s exciting to be a part of a global network of people, helping each other out by fixing stuff. It’s building community and resilience, and it’s just really fun.”

Shortly following International Repair Café Week, October 13 -21, the next local Repair Café will be on October 30, 2018 at the Redmond Public Library from 5:30 -7:30 p.m. People can bring in multiple items for repair, but are asked to sign up for one at a time so as not to dominate one volunteer for the whole evening.

“Repair café events are a perfect fit for Library programming,” said Liz Goodrich of the Deschutes Public Library. “These fun, community-based events provide opportunities for the volunteers to share their skills with participants.”


WHAT: Redmond Repair Cafe 

WHEN: Tuesday October 30th 2018, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. 

WHERE: Redmond Public Library, 827 SW Deschutes Ave, Redmond, OR 97756

Garden For Every School Fall 2018 Update

We are excited to be kicking off another school year rolling out our Garden for Every School initiative – our community effort to support school garden development in a way that is unique to each school’s needs, and done so with long-term sustainability in mind. To begin the school year, 14 local garden educators (potentially reaching over 700 students) gathered at The Environmental Center in mid-September for a training with OSU Extension Nutrition Education Program staff on the topic of Building Capacity with a School Garden Committee. With support from the Oregon Farm to School & School Garden Network, we act as the Central Oregon Regional Hub for school garden education, and we organize these events that feature trainings, resource sharing, and school garden tours as one of our strategies to support a garden for every school.

Thanks to strong community support, our summer garden grant campaign successfully raised $10,000 to support school garden projects in Central Oregon. The grants application period is now open, and the application, information, and highlights from last years’ grants are all available here, under the Garden Grants tab. Deadline is November 19th.

We’d like to thank our 2018 Garden For Every School business sponsors who make this initiative possible:

We would also like to officially welcome our new FoodCorps Service Member, Tracy Ryan. FoodCorps mission is to connect kids to healthy food in their schools.

During the 2018-2019 school-year, Tracy will be serving in Bear Creek Elementary School in Bend and Three Rivers School in Sunriver. Tracy will support activities in Bear Creek’s outdoor garden and assist with with indoor gardening and healthy food lessons during their weekly Friday afternoon Garden Club. This club is offered as an elective class to all Bear Creek students. She will also facilitate their staff Garden Committee’s collaboration on how best to serve students through hands-on activities in both the garden (their outside classroom) as well as the indoor classroom.

At Three Rivers School, Tracy will be working with the school’s Wellness Committee and their very creative indoor “mobile garden” that is housed in their Garden Room. Tracy will utilize this room throughout the school year to provide hands-on activities and lessons in gardening and healthy food lessons for K-5 classes.

Tracy will also be serving in the cafeteria of both schools by role modeling healthy food choices as well as encouraging students to try new foods. She looks forward to supporting Bend-La Pine School District’s Wellness Policy goals of healthy eating patterns and increased physical activity, which are essential for students to achieve their full academic potential, full physical and mental growth, and lifelong health and well-being.

Here at our own Kansas Avenue Learning Garden, the 5th graders at Amity Creek Elementary School came full circle by returning to the garden to harvest what they planted last spring as 4th graders. Back at their school, students prepped and ate delicious roasted root veggies, kale chips and tomato bruschetta.

An additional thank you to all the volunteers who helped out in our Kansas Ave. Learning Garden during the Tuesday Happy Hour in the Garden series! Don’t forget we have one more fall work party on October 20th, if you’re available to lend a hand.