By Kat Vriesema-Magnuson, Director of Experiential Learning

When I’m meeting someone new and they ask about my job, I generally say something like “I run educational programs on an urban schoolyard farm! We do school field trips in the spring and fall, and a day camp in the summer.” It’s always interesting to see what connections people make, and what questions they ask. Often I hear stories of their gardens, or ones they knew as a kid, or questions about what we grow. One question I get frequently is “What do you do in the winter?” The answer is: surprisingly a lot! It’s a question we ask our Year on the Farm classes to think about when they visit the farms in the off season, from November through early March – what do our farms do in the winter, and what are our farmers doing?


Rest is essential for all living things! We cannot grow all the time, and the dark, cold days of winter are an important time to take some quiet time for ourselves. Rest now will give us the ability to do the hard work needed during the growing season.


Under the mulch that covers our farms through the winter, the bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates are at work eating last years leaves, roots, and stems, and leaving behind nutrient rich soil. We do the same thing! We look at what we did last year, what worked, what didn’t, what we should leave behind, and what we can transform into something new to help us grow stronger in the coming year.

Learning and Connecting

While we have fewer youth and veggies on the farms to tend to, there is still a lot of learning and growing happening! This time of year, we’re meeting with our school and community partners, recruiting volunteers, and hiring our seasonal staff. We also take some time for professional development, as a whole staff and as individuals, learning from lots of different sources and gaining new perspectives on the work we do and how it connects with others.

Making Plans

Before we can plant, we have to plan. Our Good Food team is planning crops and harvests, veggie boxes and markets, and how to get food into the hands of people who need it. The Youth Empowerment team is planning SOYL Spring Break and summer programs. And my team, Experiential Learning, is already booking spring field trips and getting ready to launch summer camp registration in February, along with reviewing and updating lesson plans and creating new awesome activities.

Sharing Stories

In many cultures, winter is a time for storytelling. In the winter, we write our annual Impact Report (see last year’s here), to share our stories with our supporters, speak at teacher ProD days, and prepare for conferences. We also visit classes in our Year on the Farm program to see the stories seeds can tell. And I’m working on making our learning resources easier to access for teachers!

I hope you are all finding time to rest, decompose, learn and connect, plan, and share your stories this winter, and we’ll see you on the farm in just a few months!

Kat Vriesema-Magnuson
Director, Experiential Learning Programs

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