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Meal at FSS

North Cascades Foodshed Summit 2015

January 11th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Annah Young, Tyler Davis, and Ginna Malley-Campos who are all graduate students in the institutes 15th cohort.

On December 4, 2015, over 20 local farmers, educators, chefs, advocates and organizers from our region gathered at the Environmental Learning Center to connect on challenges and opportunities to strengthen the health of our regional food system. The weekend was filled with lively conversation and inspiring stories. The North Cascades Institute was inspired to host this particular group of community change makers because of our belief that in order to protect the North Cascades ecosystem we need to also protect the health of our local foodshed, the region where our food comes from.

Friday night started with a locally sourced meal followed by a discussion led by Mary Embleton of Cascade Harvest Coalition. Mary has over 30 years of experience working as a food systems advocate in Washington State. The group identified that in order to move forward with discussion we needed to understand what each person does, and is motivated by, on an individual level within this complex food system. Friday night offered an open space for story sharing and connecting with individuals such as Don Power and Joel Brady-Power, father and son and co-owners of Nerka Sea Frozen Salmon. Don and Joel gave us a multigenerational look at how they have provided sustainably caught fish for the institute for over 10 years. These personal stories about where our food comes from were intertwined throughout the weekend and we recognized a need to tell these stories; where and who our meals come from and, most importantly, why this matters.

Activity at FSS

Deep into discussion.

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Classroom in Bloom Circle

Classroom in Bloom: Growing the locavores of tomorrow

October 17th, 2015 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

Hot. Dry. Dusty. A perfect description for the Methow Valley, an area currently in a severe drought. So it was rather surprising then when the new graduate cohort arrived to the Methow Elementary School to see an oasis of a garden in full bloom!

Classroom in Bloom Learning Circle

Learning circle space in the middle of the garden.

Part of our Graduate Program curriculum is to study local environmental education programs for examples of how we can give students different educational experiences. Classroom in Bloom is a nonprofit founded in 2004 that works with the Methow Elementary School to provide curriculum to the students based on growing food. The actual garden is located 100 yards away from the school, making transfer of students and food back and forth as easy as running outside for recess.

Kate Posey, the Executive Director of CiB, met with us first thing in the morning to explain that that day was Local Food Lunch and the students’ “farmer’s market” day. With that half of the cohort went to go help the fourth grade class with their market, while the other half went to wash carrots.

While washing the carrots, Kate explained that not only does this garden provide a space for students to learn hands-on experience, but it also produces food that the students eat. Two Thousand pounds worth each year. We were washing carrots that were planted, harvested, and soon to be eaten by the students. How much more local could you get?

As we finished up, it was time to go to lunch in the cafeteria, with food provided not only from the garden but also local growers in the valley.

Classroom in Bloom Plate

The colorful local school lunch.

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panorama at desolation lookout

Science, Sustainability, Singing, Stir-fry, and Snacks!

August 25th, 2013 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

I met them on August 1st. Twenty bright new faces arrived on buses and vans at the Wilderness Information Center in Marblemount. As they walked quietly out of the vehicles, sleepy from early morning pick-ups at high schools from Bellingham to south of Seattle, I could tell right away that they were older than the rest of our Youth Leadership Adventures participants this summer—mostly because 90% of them were taller than me…

These 16-18 year olds from western Washington and Oregon had been selected for our Science and Sustainability program. They were about to spend 15 days in the North Cascades—11 days backpacking and canoeing on Ross Lake, followed by four days of staying at the Learning Center and camping in Marblemount, all the while studying science, sustainability, leadership, and community.

backpackingBackpacking down Ross Lake. Photo by Institute staff and graduate students
practicing canoeingThe students practicing their paddling strokes before loading the canoes. Photo by Institute staff and graduate students

» Continue reading Science, Sustainability, Singing, Stir-fry, and Snacks!

ice cream

Learning to teach through the “what if…?s”

July 20th, 2013 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

On my first teaching day of fall Mountain School I was terrified. I was completely smitten with the amazing North Cascades ecosystem I’d just spent all summer learning about. However, at that moment, there was nothing more terrifying than a group of wiggly 5th graders. “What if…?s” buzzed around me and wouldn’t let go. The teaching part of it seemed scary, even if I thought it was critically important to saving the environment. I seriously doubted if I would be any good at teaching.

Almost five years later there’s a lot less fear in my life. While the “What if…?s” aren’t gone, they are much quieter now and easier to ignore. So much of what I’m doing now with my life is thanks to the confidence that I gained through my Master of Environmental Education classes and my wonderful residency experience at the Learning Center. The coursework and teaching experience gave me an amazing toolbox that I still draw on today; for both teaching in the classroom and for launching my own ice cream business. I am very grateful for the confidence I developed while I was in graduate school.

After  graduating I moved back down to Seattle and sought out environmental education jobs. I ended up at the amazing Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center as a teacher for their school programs and summer camps. My canoeing experience from living on Diablo Lake was invaluable. I loved expanding my nature knowledge from the Cascades down to lowland wetlands. I even capitalized on the activities and facts that I learned during my natural history project on the nocturnal world by leading Night Walks at the Slough in the fall and spring.

» Continue reading Learning to teach through the “what if…?s”

Facing Climate Change in the Pacific Northwest

April 7th, 2013 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

North Cascades Institute former staffers and current friends Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele just launched four new films for their multimedia project, Facing Climate Change. Oyster Farmers, Coastal Tribes, Potato Farmers, and Plateau Tribes all explore global climate change through people who live and work in the Pacific Northwest, with an emphasis on how climate change will impact food production and tribes.

These stories came about after one of the project’s partners, the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington, released the Washington Climate Change Impacts Assessment. It’s an incredible resource with startling projections for how climate change will impact the Northwest’s future, but it’s also 400 pages and a lot of science to wade through. Benj and Sara’s goal is to put a face to projections like these and to bring new voices into the conversation.

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Kitchen Gratitude: Another Year in the Foodshed

November 29th, 2012 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

 Above two photos: (top) Sous Chef Mike Cuseo gets some help trying out a crazy ides: Oyster (mushrooms) on the Half-shell. (bottom) After the oven… Photos by Kacey Shoemaker

This time of year, there’s few of us here at the Learning Center with as much to be thankful for as the kitchen staff. The whole idea of Thanksgiving seems to be a celebration of what we do as cooks. It also gives us the opportunity to highlight the hard work of the farmers and ranchers who supply us with the goods we need all year round to continue the work of the Foodshed Project. It’s called a project because we didn’t initiate it and it’s never finished, but we’re nonetheless thankful to be a part of something that’s simultaneously mundane and ephemeral. So in the spirit of the season I would like to extend a few Thanks You’s on behalf of the kitchen staff from a demanding and productive season at North Cascades Institute.


Chefs Mike Cuseo, Myles Lindstrom and Matt Douglas (not pictured: Chef Shelby Slater). Photo by Lauren G

Seattle City Light: I suppose there’s the obvious, like the entirety of Diablo Lake, the roads, the electricity and the light. But we have even more to thank Seattle City Light for, and that’s our role in the continuation of the Skagit Tours on Diablo Lake. The program has brought a wide-ranging audience of curious folks from all walks of life to the Learning Center to share in what we do as an educational organization. Sharing the dining hall, the campus, the lake, and especially the food with our mutual participants has helped us spread the word about what we do as well as strengthened our partnership.


Anne Schwartz shows off a field of winter squash plants to a group of high-schoolers under the watchful eye of Sauk Mountain – August 2012. Photo by Mike Cuseo

Cascade Climate Challenge: Aneka Singlaub and Chris Kiser did so well at integrating food security into the curriculum for their youth programs this summer that they even created a farm tour with a guest appearance by North Cascades Institute chefs. It allowed Chef Shelby and I both the chance to get out of the kitchen and show the students some of the actual dirt that supplies the produce for the midsummer menus at the Learning Center. We were able to really articulate our perspective as cooks on the way our work interacts with culture, climate change, agriculture, health, community values, social justice, and a wide variety of other topics. It felt great to not only be included in the fabric of the curriculum, but to be taken seriously by the educators and the youths in the programs at North Cascades Institute.

» Continue reading Kitchen Gratitude: Another Year in the Foodshed

Saturday, September 29 — Institute events in overdrive!

September 25th, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

This Saturday, September 29, North Cascades Institute is either hosting or involved with not one, not two, but three special events in Seattle, the Skagit Valley and North Cascades. We invite you to join us where you see fit. Please read on for details!

Public reading of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail at the Conway Muse, 1-3 pm, SOLD OUT!

Private dinner and reading with Cheryl Strayed at Nell Thorn restaurant in La Conner, 5 pm, $100 tickets available at or (360) 854-2599.

North Cascades Institute is excited to welcome author Cheryl Strayed to the Skagit Valley on Saturday, September 29, for two fundraisers for Institute youth programs. Strayed will read from the best-selling book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, her powerful, blazingly honest memoir that was recently chosen as the first book in Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club 2.0.

In the afternoon, join us at the Conway Muse, a charming and eclectic venue inside a converted 1915 Scandinavian barn in the lower Skagit Valley, just minutes off of Interstate 5. Strayed will read favorite passages from Wild, answer questions and sign books. Wild, along with her new title Dear Sugar, will be available for purchase, along with lunch, beer and wine.

In the evening, you’re invited to join Strayed at a dinner engagement for a more intimate experience with this in-demand author. Nell Thorn restaurant in La Conner specializes in preparing meals in tune with the seasons, with an emphasis on delicious food, sustainable ingredients and nourishment.

Proceeds from both events will support North Cascades Wild, Mountain School and Cascades Climate Challenge, Institute programs designed to get kids outdoors in to the North Cascades for free or reduced cost. More info at


Fall 2012 Sourdough Speaker Series: “Edible Pacific Northwest” with Jill Lightner

Join us for a delicious night celebrating the tastes of the Pacific Northwest in the peak of fall harvest. Jill Ligtner, editor of the James Beard Foundation 2011 Publication of the Year Edible Seattle, has been a food writer for over a decade. She is passionate about the Pacific Northwest’s locally-sourced ingredients as well as its abundance of imported cultures.

“I want farmers to be as famous as rock stars,” Lightner says when discussing her work as editor and food writer. “Not just farmers—also fishers, food artisans, wine makers and brewers, bakers, cheese makers…you get the idea. My real mission is to promote sustainable food at all levels of our local economy: healthy farmland, rivers and oceans, lower use of fossil fuel, a living wage and safe working conditions for those in the food industry, and keeping as many dollars within the community as is feasible.”

Lightner edited the brand-new Edible Seattle: The Cookbook, a celebration of our region’s diverse, delicious and dynamic food culture. Brimming with tempting photographs, the cookbook features engage profiles of the people, places and ingredients that make our Pacific Northwest cuisine so unique, along with more than 100 recipes and valuable tips, techniques and ideas. Alongside famous culinary landmarks like the Pike Place Market, Volunteer Park Café, Le Gourmand and Theo Chocolate, Lightner profiles several of the fantastic producers from the Skagit Valley, including Bow’s Gothberg Farms, Skagit River Ranch, and Samish Bay’s Taylor Shellfish.

Our talented kitchen staff at the Learning Center, who share Lightner’s passion for local producers and sustainable agriculture, will create a special menu for this evening that utilizes the best the season has to offer. Expect fresh produce, healthful fare and exquisite tastes, as well as Lightner’s engaging stories about covering the Puget Sound’s food revolution of the past decade!

Register at or by calling (360) 854-2599.


Senator Jackson Centennial Celebration
Saturday, September 29, 2012 at Kane Hall, University of Washington

Join SCA, North Cascades Institute and the Jackson Foundation in celebrating the life and works of the late Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson and our young conservation leaders who carry on this legacy. We’re hosting a forum led by student leaders from SCA and Institute youth programs with a discussion panel that includes SCA’s founder Liz Titus Putnam. The evening will highlight the past connections, the present conservation efforts, and the goals for the future.
Senator Henry M. Jackson spent over 30 years of his life representing Washington State in the U.S. Congress. The list of Jackson’s contributions to the Pacific Northwest and our nation is long.

During his time of service, he crafted key pieces of legislation including the Wilderness Act of 1964 leading to the establishment and preservation of wilderness areas. He promoted legislation that led to the foundation of national parks, including North Cascades National Park and San Juan Island Historic Park, among others.

Jackson’s influence was not limited to the Northwest region. He ensured the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Public Lands for Parks Bill in 1969. He continued to support conservation efforts and investment in our youth when he later collaborated with fellow Washington State Senator Warren G. Magnuson to establish the Youth Conservation Corps, placing young Americans in conservation service opportunities in national parks and wilderness areas throughout the country.

Register online at

Questions? Call Shelley Green at 206-324-4649, ext. 4812