Introducing the fabulous, the passionate, the dedicated Margarita (Rita) Cantini!
Rita discovered Farmer Frog by chance almost four years ago, walking through her neighborhood with her kids when they saw Zsofia and a few others unloading compost at Explorer Middle School. When she asked and learned what they were doing, she and her three children knew they wanted to get involved.
The Cantini family helps out at many of our sites. We have gardens at Explorer Middle School and Challenger Elementary where her kids are, but they also spend time at Olivia Park, and our new headquarters site. But wait, their support doesn’t end there—you’ll often see them helping out with our outreach events and with the farmers markets every summer!
Growing up in Russia, Rita gardened with parents where small-scale gardening is very popular. They have found that the large-scale farms didn’t work out well so people grow most everything there: fruit, veggies, flowers, and more. She wanted to do that with her children and teach them good habits and about eating healthy.
Asked about her favorite thing to grow, Rita says, “Things change—every year I learn something new! This summer we were growing greens and the weather was challenging, so many went bitter. Kale and chard did well, still, which amazed me. How well they adapt in cold and hot weather. Blueberries and raspberries are amazing and taste so great. They are low maintenance plants with lots of benefits and kids love them fresh off the bush! Carrots are another favorite. The kids pull, wash, and eat them right away. It makes me feel so much better, as I want to teach them healthy habits.”
Rita has witnessed and learned a lot through her experiences in the gardens and meeting people at the markets, and she would love to see more people get involved. “It is so good for community and kids respond to it very well,”she observes. With three kids in school, Rita can see when our teachers are stressed with testing and meeting requirements and the kids aren’t having any fun. She believes the gardens help kids feel better about school: “They always have fun, make friends, and it is great for teaching them about patience—waiting for the seeds to become plants, and then waiting to harvest.”
Asked for advice for new and future volunteers, Rita quotes her daughter: “My daughter wrote a letter to the Snohomish Conservation District recently which said, ‘to work together to make something happen is much greater than what one person could do alone.’ You will definitely see how beneficial [teamwork] is when you work in the gardens.”
Next time you see Rita and her children—Diana, Kevin, and Natalie—be sure to thank them for all they’ve done to help us grow and teach others.
Stacy Aleksich is a Farmer Frog board member.