School garden sprouts from ‘Growing Groceries’ training

By Kate Halstead, WSU Extension

Mauer-60LAKE STEVENS, Wash. – A 29-year veteran of the Lake Stevens School District, librarian Linda Mauer readily admits that, though a lifelong gardener, there were plenty of gaps in her knowledge – especially when it came to growing food.

Through a friend, she connected with the Washington State University Snohomish County Extension “Growing Groceries” mentor training. The 2014 course begins Feb. 1 in Everett, Wash. The deadline to apply is Jan. 24.

Photos courtesy of Linda Mauer.

Within a year of taking the training, Mauer had expanded her backyard garden and helped a group of volunteers and students create the Panther Giving Garden at Mt. Pilchuck Elementary School where she works.

In addition to the fresh produce provided to the school’s free lunch program, the garden gives students and teachers a learning lab, which has been incorporated into curriculum in many classes.

Mauer credits Growing Groceries for the stimulus needed to get started and the knowledge necessary to ensure the garden’s success.

“The program gave me a great deal of insight into what it takes to grow successfully in western Washington as well as how to deal with common gardening challenges and mistakes,” she said.

“I went through the training again last year and found I learned some things I hadn’t picked up the year before,” she said. “I’ll be helping with the mentor training again this year and expect I’ll learn a few more new tricks.”

Long-time program supporter and chef Graham Kerr will be a featured speaker during the 2014 WSU Snohomish County Extension Growing Groceries mentor training. Local and regional experts will share the latest research-based practices on topics including how to choose a site, building healthy soil, starting from seed, the importance of compost, irrigation, managing pests, vertical and small space gardening, food safety and more.

Training will include five classroom sessions 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Feb. 1 and 15 and March 1, 15 and 29, at WSU Snohomish County Extension’s Cougar Auditorium in McCollum Park, 600 128th St. SE, Everett. Four hands-on, in-the-garden sessions will be 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on April 19, May 17, June 21 and July 19, locations to be announced.

Teachers can earn up to 37 Northwest Educational Service District clock hours. Tuition for the volunteer mentor track is $160 and includes a commitment of 35 hours. Tuition with no volunteer commitment is $210.

Applications are available online at For registration information, contact Karie Christensen at 425-357-6039 or



Sharon Collman, WSU Extension, 425-357-6025,

Kate Halstead, WSU Extension, 360-794-6081,

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