verde valley school farm

A Story of Environmental Stewardship

John Chorlton
Sustainability Coordinator.

One of the Verde Valley School Guiding Principles is Environmental Stewardship – nebulous words that can mean many things to many different people – person to person, family to family, and culture to culture. When I volunteered to take on the role of Sustainability Coordinator here at VVS it was because I didn’t want to lose the gains made by a group of people tied to the school. We had made progress despite nearly constant disagreement about the path forward.

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Earth Day Events Planned

It’s only natural that a school with such a deep dedication to the environment would celebrate Earth Day the way we do at VVS.

After regular Friday classes, students and faculty will meet at the garden expansion to work on the new vegetable beds. Following dinner, author Bill Carter will talk to the school about the copper mining industry and his book “Boom Bust Boom,” which is also our summer reading. The evening concludes with our annual recycled fashion show, organized by students Grace Shoup and Lola Olorode.

Visit the VVS gallery at for photos.

Fast for a Meal February

This Monday, February 29th, Verde Valley School will once again Fast for a Meal to benefit the Backpacks for Kids program.  The last Monday of each month the VVS community skips lunch in the dining hall and the school donates the money we would spend preparing that meal ($300 per lunch) to alleviate local hunger.    

To date, VVS and a current VVS  family donor have been able to contribute $1,800 to the Backpacks for Hungry Kids program.  Program coordinator Caroline Diehl uses the funds to buy additional protein sources, shelf stable milk and 100% fruit juice for the program. The program also receives fresh fruit donations from the Sedona Women’s Group and the Gibson family.

The VVS community will continue to fast for a meal the last Monday of each month throughout the end of the school year. Consider fasting for a meal yourself or at your business.




Garden Expansion


Anyone driving onto campus the last two weeks would have noticed more than the usual early 2016 Garden Addition websizespring planting preparations at the garden.  Farm Manager Mike Spielman and Sustainability Coordinator John Chorlton have been digging in the dirt working on part one of a three part garden expansion.  

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from an anonymous garden benefactor, the two have purchased and are now finishing the building of a new greenhouse.

The generosity and belief in the VVS Farm don’t end there however. We’ve also recently  received a $25,000 grant from local sustainability-focused developer Thomas McPherson.  This generous donation will enable us to move through the next two phases of expansion. VVS Board of Trustees member Will Buckling,’80, has also been instrumental in the expansion.

Phase two and three will include, but are not limited to, leveling and fencing off the northern expansion and orchard space and building raised beds.

All of the expansion is planned with a couple things in mind. Two very important objectives are to meet more of the VVS food needs, while also growing and contributing produce to the Yavapai Food Council’s Bountiful Kitchen program, which provides whole food meals to at-risk children in our county – one in three children in the Verde Valley is food insecure.  Finally, we will use a portion of the production for entrepreneurial programs to help fund and sustain the farm. As with every project at VVS, every piece of this is tied to the School’s guiding principles.

Needless to say, Paul, Mike, John and the entire VVS community are so pleased and grateful for the support to make this happen.




Climate Care Awareness Farm To Table Tour


December 6th at 2PM, Verde Valley School will give a “Farm to Table Tour” of it’s innovative farm and environmental stewardship program as part of “15 Days to Climate Awareness: A Call to Action,” presented by Climate Awareness and Inspiration Sedona.  We will offer tasting samples of some of our farm produce, and host the showing of two short videos, Small Scale Farmers Cool the Planet and Soil Solution to Climate Change. VVS’s gardener-in-residence, Mike Spielman, and Yavapai Valley Food Council’s, Harvey Grady, will be present along with other Q&A panel participants to answer questions.
The combination tour, tasting, videos, and Q&A event, is part of two weeks of local events, from November 28th through December 12th, that the local community group, Inspiration of Sedona, is presenting in conjunction with the global actions surrounding the December UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris. (
The Inspiration of Sedona is an open, egalitarian, community-building group, where people with enthusiasm for positive world change can collectively come together with their skills and talents to create a new level of community based on connection, partnership, and sustainability. VVS was invited to participate in the Climate Care Awareness program of events because of our stellar green example. The school’s garden is organic and ethically farmed, using compost harvested by students and incorporating 100% of their kitchen waste. An approved food source for their school dining hall, their garden program helps students understand the cycle of food waste, composting, growing and harvesting.
After the farm tour, guests will be invited to try samples of VVS’s farm produce. Then they will be treated to two short videos. The first video, “Small-Scale Farmers Cool the Planet,” is a 17-minute documentary highlighting the role of industrial agriculture in climate change while expounding on how small farmers are combating the climate crisis through regenerative organic agriculture.
The second video that will be shown is, “Climate Change: The Next Generation.” Ahead of the UN’s global summit on climate and as thousands gather in NY for the People’s Climate March, the film focuse on 18-year-old Oregonian Kelsey Juliana, who is walking across America to draw attention to global warming. Kelsey began her activist journey to help slow down climate change, at 15 years-old, as one of two plaintiffs in the public trust lawsuit that was filed against the state of Oregon, claiming that the state was not doing all it could to protect their future by reducing global warming.
After the videos, a Q&A session will address questions raised during the event. Harvey Grady, President of Cornucopia Community Advocates, will be present to share plans to grow organically grown food for the Yavapai Food Council, next to the VVS garden, and to answer questions. VVS’s gardener, Mike Spielman, who has spent the last two years turning a formerly empty piece of land on the school’s property into the bountiful garden that now provides a significant portion of the school’s produce, will also be available for the Q&A.
Please feel free to email for questions or for more information if you want to attend the Farm to Table Tour, tasting, videos, and speakers. You can also contact the school at 928.284.2272 for more information.





Farm to Table Dinner Highlights

After months of planning, the VVS farm’s harvest hit tables today during our inaugural Farm to Table Feast. The event was sold-out as diners from Sedona made their way to the VVS campus for a garden tour, appetizers and, the main event, Chef Brian Widmer’s three-course plated dinner.

The day kicked off with Farm Teacher Mike Spielman hosting tours of the farm. Student and faculty volunteers were also on hand to talk with diners about the farm as it is today, and about it’s beginnings two years ago. VVS Chef Mike Briggs provided a sampling menu in the garden, along with prickly pear punch made by Spielman and a group of students.

The group made its way to the Head of School’s house, and were greeted by Head of School Paul Amadio, his wife Donita, Board of Trustee members Jeremy Hayman, Randy Crewse and Frances Smith-Hawley as well as VVS teachers. Students served as the waitstaff and music was provided by VVS music teacher Cooper Evans. Wine tastings were provided by local vintners Chateau Tumbleweed and DA Ranch.

You can find photos of the dinner in the galleries section of the VVS website and the VVS Facebook page.
VVS would like to put forth a huge thank you to everyone – from diners to food purveyors – who made the day possible. As the tables were cleared, we started planning Farm to Table Feast 2016. Stay tuned.