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Senior to study agriculture in college

Teddy Rutberg values Botany and Horticulture class

Jaya Flanary, Editor-in-Chief
Originally published May 3, 2016


Chelsea LeingangSenior Teddy Rutberg repots his cabbage plants in the greenhouse. The cabbage plants were outgrowing the pot they were in, so he moved them to multiple pots.

Chelsea Leingang

Senior Teddy Rutberg repots his cabbage plants in the greenhouse. The cabbage plants were outgrowing the pot they were in, so he moved them to multiple pots.

“I’ve always loved nature, and plants have always fascinated me because they just sit there silently and do their thing and get bigger,” senior Teddy Rutberg said. “And food was one of my other first interests. And agriculture and gardening and permaculture is where nature and food combine.”

Rutberg has Botany third period and Horticulture sixth period, so he spends a lot of his time in the school’s greenhouse. He’s currently growing apple trees, pear trees and artichokes that he started all from seed, as well as garden huckleberries and cabbage plants.

Rutberg has been serious about his future in agriculture since the beginning of high school, but first started gardening with his mother when he was eight years old.

“We started off with just growing little things here and there, trying out potatoes and stuff like that, your usual little kid plant experiments,” he said. “Then when I started getting more interested in food and the production of [it] and the idea that people shouldn’t have to spend money on food, I decided that I wanted to grow as much [of it] as possible and so I started expanding the amount of area that we had.”

In addition to expanding the area and building more raised beds, Rutberg also experimented with new growing methods such as hugelkultur and no-till agriculture. The goal of his home garden expansion was primarily to figure out what worked best, produced the most food and gave him the most variety.

“I’d love to go entirely off the grid someday and grow all of my own food, but I don’t think that’s quite possible on the about one-twentieth of an acre that we’re on. But it’s a start,” Rutberg said. From one summer to the next, his potato and tomato production tripled at home.

The garden has been successful, and Rutberg tries to eat one meal from it every day in the summer. His family also occasionally invites others over for dinners made entirely from the food he grows. “It really is kind of a surprising amount of food that we’ve been able to get from our land and it’s really fulfilling,” Rutberg said.

Next year, Rutberg is attending Evergreen State College to study Agriculture and Food Production. He plans to take many courses that will teach him about food health as well as sustainability.

The school has an organic farm with a section dedicated to permaculture, or the design of food systems that don’t rely on human input. Instead, the system supports itself by mimicking nature.

Beyond college, Rutberg wants to travel and eventually buy land, most likely in the Pacific Northwest, in order to start a sustainable living community where he plans to grow his own food.

“I’ve talked with people working in Haiti who are spreading agroecology principles there and teaching people how to grow food sustainably, and there’s a chance that I’ll go down there and live and work for a few years,” he said.

Taking Botany and Horticulture has helped Rutberg learn a lot about the science behind plants, preparing him for college and his future in agriculture. Through Botany teacher India Carlson, Rutberg has learned about plant structures, species and families. He has also had hands-on experience dissecting plants, which has helped him understand their cellular structures.

Rutberg’s parents appreciate the produce, and like that he spends time outside, so they support his interest in growing plants. “But when [my parents] first learned that my life plan was to get some land somewhere and grow all my own food and start some sort of sustainable and intentional living community, they were not super thrilled with the idea,” Rutberg said. “They kind of grew up with the ingrained culture of: go to school to get a job to earn money to buy a house to get married etcetera, and that’s just not where I’m headed.”


Rutberg takes his apple trees from the school’s greenhouse to just outside of it. This smooths the transition for the plants from being in pots inside to then being in the ground outside. (Chelsea Leingang)

Rutberg takes his apple trees from the school’s greenhouse to just outside of it. This smooths the transition for the plants from being in pots inside to then being in the ground outside. (Chelsea Leingang)

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Senior to study agriculture in college