EVERETT — An effort to bring small-scale farming back is taking root in Snohomish County as a nonprofit teaches kids to grow their own food and feed their families.
Farmer Frog received a $20,000 grant to continue its work, providing healthy fruits and vegetables for students to eat while they learn science through tending gardens at schools.
Kids and parents who pitch in get to take their share of the harvest home. Leftovers are sold at farmer’s markets and directly to customers.
Farmer Frog is among five Western Washington nonprofits to receive money this year from the Taco Time Northwest Foundation.
Farmer Frog is doing “fantastic work,” said Gretchen Everett, a spokeswoman for the Mexican fast-food chain. “It’s really about healthy eating and educating people about healthy eating.”
The money will help the nonprofit design outdoor lessons that meet educational standards. Next year, it expects to kick off a two-week gardening class for each K-12 grade.
Zsofia Pasztor, a horticulture teacher at Edmonds Community College and landscaping consultant, started Farmer Frog in 2009. She planted a garden at Olivia Park Elementary School in Everett to feed families during the economic recession.
The nonprofit has since expanded with gardens at more than a dozen schools. It has agricultural projects under way across Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.
The volunteer-run group helps other nonprofits too. Farmer Frog workers planted a garden for veterans in a Monroe equine therapy program. They grow produce for a Tacoma program that works with young people who are homeless.
This month, Pasztor plans to start charging people and companies a fee for designing gardens to earn money for Farmer Frog’s work.
She wants to start paying more than a dozen volunteers who’ve long been working for free. They’re building a headquarters for the nonprofit in the Paradise Valley Conservation Area near Maltby.
The Lloyd family settled the site and started farming in 1880, before Washington became a state.
Pasztor wants to preserve the farm’s history and keep growing healthy food. Having its own space will allow Farmer Frog to help to more people, including those suffering from mental illnesses, recovering from substance abuse or transitioning out of prison, she said.
Providing food, Pasztor said, is the first step in helping people overcome problems such as poverty, hunger, homelessness, and a lack of healthcare and education.
“When we eat together, we all start speaking the same language,” she said.