New additions to Marra Farm!

The children's shed got a makeover!

The children’s shed got a makeover!

If you haven’t been to Marra Farm lately, things might look a lot different next time you visit! Lettuce Link has some incredible recent additions to the farm, thanks to our amazing partners and hardworking volunteers.

Compost Bins

Young’s Market donated their time and money installing six new compost bins at Marra. Lettuce Link is thrilled to have these new bins, as they will help us build compost onsite and move us away from importing compost from other locations. By the start of next growing season, there will be lots of compost ready to add great nutrients to the soil.

Mushroom Hut

Marra has a brand new mushroom hut and mobile farm stand courtesy of Magnusson Klemencic Associates (MKA). The engineers at MKA designed the building and came to the farm en masse on Saturday, September 13 to bring their vision to life. Produce from Lettuce Link’s giving Garden at Marra Farm is available through a work trade program to anyone who has trouble affording and accessing fresh vegetables. The new mushroom hut will allow Lettuce Link to meet diversified interests from individuals in the community, at our partnering food banks, and at South Park’s Community Kitchen nights, and is a great educational tool for children and adults who are growing food for fun or to become self-reliant.

Mobile Farm Stand

One of Lettuce Link’s areas of emphasis is creating access points in the south end of Seattle for fresh produce. For individuals who don’t have time or capacity to participate in our work trade program, the mobile farm stand is a particularly exciting project. The stand creates a space directly in the middle of South Park at the farm for people to find affordable, organic produce. Local growers in the Marra Farm Coalition can sell their produce directly onsite. Stop by Saturdays from 11am-2pm to pick up some veggies from Marra Farm’s collective of growers!

Children’s Shed Addition & Makeover

South Park Arts gave our children’s shed a great makeover, complete with chalkboards on the walls! This group has worked with children at Marra for years on many art projects, and it’s wonderful to see this lasting, colorful piece thanks to them.

Hamm Creek Signage

Lastly, a very exciting, beautiful new project this year was made possible due to the King County Conservation District, Subaru Foundation, and the Russell Family Foundation. Brand new multilingual signs (in English, Spanish and Vietnamese) about the Hamm Creek Loop were installed along the perimeter of the farm on beautiful cedar posts. Come by for a walk around Marra and you’ll read about the animals you might find in and around the creek, take a peek into the water with a periscope, and learn about foraging native edible berries and the history of the creek.

If you or a group are interested in volunteering with Lettuce Link, please contact volunteers@solid-ground.org.

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Honey bees at the Seattle Community Farm

This post, written by Scott Behmer, Seattle Community Farm Coordinator, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link blog.

Two honey bees

Dance of the honey bees

We recently acquired a new addition to the Seattle Community Farm. Well, thousands of new additions actually. The Seattle Community Farm is now home to two colonies of honey bees!

Honey bees, along with birds and bats, pollinate over one-third of the food that humans eat. Without honey bees it wouldn’t be just honey that we would miss, but many fruits, nuts and vegetables.

To prepare for the bees’ arrival, we built a small enclosure for the hives so people can view the hives up close without having bees fly in their faces. The enclosure also prevents people from accidentally bumping the hives.

The bees came from an apiary in California, by way of the Beez Neez in Snohomish. They arrived in a wood and mesh package that contained:

  • Three pounds of worker bees
  • One queen bee
  • Food for the bees during their travels

    Blue bee hive

    Blue bee hive

After we picked up the bee packages, we dumped them into their new hives, gave them some food to get started, and let them do their thing.

There are three types of honey bees:

  • Drones are the male bees. Every day they fly around and look for a queen bee to mate with. Drones are only a small percentage of the bees in the hive.
  • Worker bees are underdeveloped female bees. They are the majority of the bees in the hive, and they do many different tasks. The worker bees gather nectar and pollen from flowers, raise the young bee larva, and defend the hive from intruders.
  • Queen bees are fully developed female bees. A bee colony usually has only one queen bee, and she lays all of the eggs. A queen bee can lay 1,500 eggs in a single day!

Our new bees will pollinate flowers and crops in the surrounding area, provide a great learning tool, and (we hope) give us some sweet honey.

Interested in beekeeping? The Puget Sound Beekeepers Association, Urban Bee Project, and Seattle Tilth’s Backyard Beekeeping 101 class are great places to start!

A bazillion bees!

A bazillion bees!

On Kids & Carrots

This post, written by Jessica Sherrow, a Harvest Against Hunger Summer VISTA with Lettuce Link, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link blog. Lettuce Link is one of several partners stewarding original urban farmland at Marra Farm in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood.

A handful of carrots!

A handful of carrots!

Marra Farm is a place that defies stereotypes. The word ‘farm’ even takes on a new meaning when applied to our little agricultural oasis in South Park. The images associated with that word – solitary, quiet, pastoral – dissolve when you step onto our farm.

Truthfully, it can be a little chaotic. Kids from Concord International Elementary or the South Park Community Center running around; a few dozen of our 1,800 annual volunteers working and digging and planting; planes, trains and cars filling the air with that distinct urban din – it’s not at all what you would expect on a farm.

So, true to form, Marra Farm manages to do what many parents thought impossible: It makes kids love vegetables. It’s a bold statement, we know. But it’s a hard thing to deny when a 5-year-old, while pulling one carrot out of the ground and simultaneously munching on another exclaims,

I WANT TO EAT ONE MILLION CARROTS!!!!”

And when you think about everything these kids experience throughout the growing season, it makes perfect sense. They dig in the dirt and plant seeds. They water to their heart’s content, and then they watch their little plants grow.

Children's Garden sign at Marra FarmThey harvest the veggies themselves – chard, sweet peas, carrots, broccoli – and help prepare a snack especially for them. Today, it’s Chinese Veggies and Rice, and it’s a hit.

We can’t help but wonder, then, if all children are secretly veggie-lovers? It appears the only thing kids need is a little involvement in their food – planting a seed or chopping a leaf – anything to make it more fun, more exciting, and more delicious. After all, if we can get a 3rd grader to eat kale, the sky truly is the limit…

For more information on gardening and cooking with kids, check out these amazing projects: Lettuce Link’s Seattle Community Farm, GRuB: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities, Seattle Youth Garden Works, Seattle Tilth, and The Edible Schoolyard Project.

Many hands, cleaning carrots

Many hands, cleaning carrots

Support the Let’s Grow Act!

This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link Blog and was written by AmeriCorps Member Amelia Swinton, Lettuce Link / Apple CorpsOutreach & Education Coordinator.

At an Apple Corps "Market Night," a student uses "dollars" to purchase rainbow chard.

At an Apple Corps “Market Night,” a student uses “dollars” to purchase rainbow chard.

Do you like federal food policies that:

  • Create incentives for people to use SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) to purchase fresh, locally-grown fruits and veggies?
  • Encourage connections between preschools and small farms?
  • Offer grants for the creation or expansion of community gardens?
  • Amend laws to allow farmers of color, women, veterans, tribes and first-generation farmers increased access to USDA funds and other subsidies?
  • Provide nutritious food on weekends and holidays for hungry schoolchildren? 

So do we!!!

These fabulous progressive programs are just a few components of the Let’s Grow Act, recently introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH). The Let’s Grow Act recognizes the potential of community-based agriculture to address hunger and decrease obesity, especially among children, the elderly and low-income Americans.

We need your support to help move this Bill forward!

Please join Lettuce Link in fighting hunger and building local food economies by asking Seattle’s Rep. Jim McDermott to co-sponsor the Let’s Grow Act. Send an email or call 206.553.7170.

Here’s a sample letter to get you started:

Urban communities deserve access to healthy and affordable food, which can also expand local economies. I urge you to co-sponsor the Let’s Grow Act! H.R.4351 introduced by Rep. Fudge (D-OH). Everyone should have access to nutritious and affordable food, and I believe that the Let’s Grow Act will improve the lives of people in my community.

Seattle community leaders have stated their commitment to equitable access to healthy food and a health-centered food system with the Seattle Farm Bill Principles. I believe the Let’s Grow Act builds on these principles and I urge you to show your support by becoming a co-sponsor. Thank you for your time and commitment to representing the voices of Washington’s 7th district.

Not a constituent in Washington’s 7th district? Enter your zipcode to find your Representative. After you call or email, let us know how it went! Leave a comment below or on Lettuce Link’s Facebook page.

Cole’s Big Gift

This post, written by Lettuce Link/Apple Corps AmeriCorps Member Amelia Swinton, originally appeared on the Lettuce Link Blog. Visit Lettuce Link’s webpage for more information about the program. 

This month, Lettuce Link is featuring a particularly special first-time donor. Meet 8-year-old Cole Pawlitschek. Don’t be fooled by his small stature – his generosity and insight into giving knocked our socks off.

Cole Pawlitschek

Cole Pawlitschek: a small but mighty Lettuce Link donor!

For two years, Cole reserved a portion of his allowance, chore and birthday money into a “save” jar. The nickels and dimes grew steadily, and last month Cole decided he had saved enough money to make a difference. Cole came into our office with his mom, Maya, to hand over $62 in cash and $11.87 in loose change.

Cole says he chose Lettuce Link “because I wanted to help kids that don’t have food to get some. Marra Farm grows vegetables and gives them to people for free.”

When it comes to vegetables, Cole is especially fond of steamed edamame with salt sprinkled on top. Though we don’t grow edamame (immature soybeans) at Marra Farm, we do grow several items that could be adapted into one of Cole’s favorite recipes – Mr. Egg Face Sandwiches! Radish eyeballs, asparagus mouths, frizzy lettuce hair … sounds like we’ve got a tasty treat to prepare with our garden classes this spring.

Aside from noshing on edamame, Cole can be found playing video games, doing math and reading, and participating in basketball, soccer and karate. He also makes sure to spend time with his kitten, Pluma. Cole says that his mom, dad and family are the important communities in his life, as well as Solid Ground’s Statewide Poverty Action Network and all his friends.

When asked about why he donates part of his money, Cole reminds us, “Some people in tons of places all over the world don’t have enough money to buy food or houses or beds or toys.”

These days, Lettuce Link relies more and more on the generosity of individual donors like Cole to sustain our work. His advice for adults who want to make a difference: “Grown ups can give money so Marra Farm can grow more stuff and give to people. They can also volunteer at places to help raise money and help them do their work.”

As Cole notes, there is no single way to support our work. We need all types – those who give time, money, in-kind donations, expertise and more. Alongside our diverse community of supporters, we’ll keep working to make fresh food a right for everyone! Thank you to Cole and all those who support us growing forth into 2012!

Mr. Egg Face SandwichesMR. EGG FACE SANDWICH
(from Lunch Boxes and Snacks by Annabel Karmel, adapted by Maya Pawlitschek, mother of Cole)

Ingredients (for 4 sandwiches)

  •  7 eggs
  •  ¼ cup mayonnaise or hummus – add more if needed
  •  Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  •  8 slices of bread
  • 1 can tuna and/or 1 cup shredded cheese (optional – for extra protein)
  •  Face decorations such as: sliced radishes or bell pepper, grated carrot, edamame, olives, salami, gherkins, chives, basil, peas, celery or grape tomatoes

Directions

  1. Hard boil eggs, let cool and peel.
  2. Cut two eggs into four slices each for the eyes.
  3. With a fork, mash the remaining eggs in bowl; add the tuna, shredded cheese and mayonnaise.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Spread egg mixture on four slices of bread.
  6. Have kids make faces on bread, using the sliced egg eyes and decoration ideas above.
  7. Cover with piece of plain bread and enjoy!

 

Community Fruit Tree Harvest needs your help!

Our Community Fruit Tree Harvest is gearing up for the 2011 harvest season and we need your help!

Be a Harvest Leader
This is a great way to get to know your neighbors, share food with your community, and keep that beautiful, organic fruit in your neighborhood from going to waste!

Harvest Leaders coordinate one to two harvests per week in their neighborhoods and make sure the fruit is donated to local food banks, shelters and meal programs. Mileage is reimbursed and fresh fruit abounds.

Please see the position description for more details. To apply, submit a volunteer application and a short statement of interest to Molly at fruitharvest@solid-ground.org by Friday, July 8th. Please save the date for a Harvest Leader orientation on Thursday, July 14th, from 6-7:30pm.

Volunteer
There are lots of ways to help out! We need volunteers who can do one or more of the following:
– “Scout” trees ahead of time to see if the fruit is ripe
– Harvest at scheduled work parties
– Be on-call to harvest fruit in your neighborhood
– Provide garage space for storing ladders, picking buckets and/or fruit
– Deliver fruit to food banks and meal programs

To get started, please fill out a volunteer application and join us at a volunteer orientation:
Tuesday, July 19th, 6-7:30pm, Douglass-Truth Library (2300 E Yesler Way)
Thursday, July 21st, 6-7:30pm, Solid Ground in Wallingford (1501 N 45th St)

To RSVP, or if you’d like to volunteer but can’t make it to an orientation, please contact Molly at fruitharvest@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6751.

Donate your fruit
If you have fruit to donate, please contact Seattle Tilth’s Garden Hotline at 206.633.0224 or help@gardenhotline.org. Depending on where you live, they can connect you with us or one of the other fantastic groups harvesting fruit in Seattle!

(Editor’s note: This post also appears on the Lettuce Link blog.)

The Giving Gardener: Take dry moments to sow spring crops

Early spring is good time to plant greens!

Rain and cold and more rain – and yet really, it is gardening season. Last week, we planted pea starts, onions, cilantro and radishes with 15 very cute 4-year-olds at Marra Farm. Their wonder and enchantment in the natural world was incredible, and amazingly enough, the rain stayed away the entire time they were at the farm.

That day was a good reminder to make use of any dry moments and get spring crops into the ground. Crops like spinach, peas and lettuces thrive in the cold, wet spring – and if they are planted too late in the spring, they are quick to wilt or go to seed in the warmer days of summer.

Jasminah, 2010

Speaking of warmer weather, this week of sunshine is a good time to think about planting summer crops like beans, cucumber and squash from seed.

Seattle gardeners generally sow these seeds from late April to late May, so save some space in your plot or determine which leafy greens will be replaced by these warm weather lovers. We will have these starts available for Giving Gardeners in another month.

 

Jennifer and carrots (2010)

Next week, we plant carrots with the Preschoolers. I hope the warmer weather continues so this kid-vegetable of choice is ready to harvest in late June. There is nothing quite like the delight on a child’s face as they pull a carrot up out of the ground! Well, for the Giving Gardener, there is the satisfaction in knowing that the carrot or lettuce or chard you grew was shared with someone in the community, someone that you may not know personally, but someone nourished by your garden.

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