Left-to-right: Zebulun Klement, Sarah Mikkelborg, and Sophie Savoie

Left-to-right: Zebulun Klement, Sarah Mikkelborg, and Sophie Savoie

Hello, and happy holidays, from the new AmeriCorps members at Kitsap Conservation District: Sarah, Sophie, and Zeb! We joined the team at KCD in October and are excited to be here through next summer.

Fall was a busy season for us, learning the ropes and tackling projects before the cold weather set in.

Zeb is serving with the Backyard Habitat Program, which restores and improves habitat along salmon-bearing streams where they pass through private land. Most days, he has gone out in the field to plant trees, remove invasive plants, or install live stakes of willow that will take root in stream banks to prevent erosion.  He’s already planted thousands of trees across several restoration sites—frequently getting soaked with rain or caked in mud.

His efforts are helping to contribute to healthier streams, which increase the likelihood of salmon spawning successfully and better the chances for salmon population recovery. In turn, the habitat restoration benefits orcas, humans, and other predators that rely on the fish so iconic to our region.

Sophie and I are with the GRACE Garden Project, which grows produce for regional food assistance programs, in order to provide low-income families with greater access to fresh, healthy food.

Initially, most of our time was spent harvesting, cleaning, and delivering organic vegetables—nearly 2,500 pounds in our first two months. The best produce we harvest is given directly to food banks and pantries each week, while the excess and “ugly” vegetables become part of the Farm to Food Pantry program. We take to them kitchens we’ve partnered with so they can be turned into soup, salsa, and other ready-to-go items before being delivered onto the shelf at food pantries.

The other priority the GRACE crew has been occupied with is winterizing the farm. Starting in November, we began clearing the fields, seeding cover crops, and building protective tunnels to cover the cold-hardy crops like broccoli and kale from ice and snow. These vegetables, with the ones in our greenhouse, will provide a steady harvest throughout the winter and early spring when fresh local produce is in shorter supply, allowing us to serve food banks year-round.

Everyone at the district is keeping busy with planning for the upcoming year: taking inventory, ordering supplies, and deciding how to grow so we can continue to better serve our community. Excitingly, we just purchased a second greenhouse. Building it in the winter winds and rain might prove to be a challenge, but we are looking forward to more indoor growing space.

Since December is slower for the Backyard Habitat program and the GRACE Garden, we AmeriCorps have used our extra time this month is to volunteer at nearby food banks and food pantries. We’ve been sorting donations, packing boxes with holiday meals for families, filling backpacks with food for school children, and bagging groceries for food pantry visitors, among other tasks. It’s been an interesting change of pace and an exercise in gratitude.

Safe to say, we’re enjoying ourselves and our new home at the conservation district, and we look forward to continuing our service in the coming year. Meanwhile, we hope you all have a happy winter!