Seattle Community Farm: classroom-style

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Seattle Community Farm (SCF) is really something else. Most of my young adolescent life was spent going to school not too far away in Columbia City, but the neighborhood now is much more developed than it used to be. So I got lost.

But three light rail crossings and two U-turns later, a large recently installed sign told me that I’d arrived to a narrow (1/2-acre) strip of land that would otherwise be overgrown with blackberry bushes and giantess maple-looking trees. The strip has been turned into a full-blown farm in which 100% of the produce goes to local residents of the Rainier Vista housing development in the Rainier Valley neighborhood and the Rainier Valley Food Bank.

For the next three hours, I found myself beside complete strangers who had one thing in common with me: We came to work. We harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans and zucchini. We prepared beds and planted spinach and bok choy. We cut back some invasive, thorny blackberry vines. And we did something adults don’t often like to admit: We learned.

Scott Behmer is the SCF Coordinator. He told us all what to do with such enthusiasm and timeliness I had a feeling he was well versed in shaping up us (sometimes clueless) volunteers. And while we hacked at those pain-seeking blackberry bushes and burrowed our faces deep into the leaves of cucumber plants searching for ripe ones, Scott made a point to engage us in little-known facts about plants and the food system in Seattle. Like the fact that there are 29 food banks in Seattle (we all guessed around 10). As we prodded the thorny cucumbers, he asked us how long we thought the vegetables we picked that day would last at the food bank. A couple days, we guessed uncertainly? Actually, it was a couple of hours. That’s how in demand fresh, organic produce is in a community that cannot afford it otherwise. One other volunteer mentioned her experience seeing people in a pretty long line at a local food bank. All eight of us fell silent, looking for more ripe cucumbers that weren’t there.

As city-dwellers, small scale gardening and urban farming can make us feel more connected to the food we eat. Being part of the growing and picking experience can put the food on our plate under an entirely different light. But planting, watering, nurturing and harvesting while knowing full well that you, yourself, will not be able to enjoy the taste of them (save a few rogue cherry tomatoes) – but that someone with little time and fewer resources will – well that adds an entire dimension of humanity to food. Think on that a while.

But also keep in mind that there’s no standing around at the SCF. Get to work!

Lettuce Link joys, challenges and new directions

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on the Lettuce Link blog.

Welcome to 2012! On these gloomy January days (when we are rather glad to be warm and dry indoors instead of out in the garden), it’s a good time to pause and take stock of where Lettuce Link has been and where we’re going.

So, without further ado, here are a few of our accomplishments in 2011, made possible by the help of our generous volunteers (over 9,329 volunteer hours!) and financial supporters:

And yet, as we catch our breath this winter after a busy year, we’ve found ourselves at a bit of a crossroads. Fewer grants, budget cuts and belt-tightening measures provide an opportunity to reassess our work: What are our program’s strengths? What do we do that’s unique? How can we continue to grow and change our program to meet community needs, provide wrap-around services for Solid Ground participants, and further our anti-racism work?

These are not easy questions, but we’re committed to working through them with your support. Here are a few exciting projects to keep an eye out for in 2012:

  • Building an overhead structure at the Seattle Community Farm, which will allow protection from the elements and make the space more conducive to community gatherings.
  • Expanding our CSA project at Marra Farm, to both raise funds for our program and offer a sliding-scale subscription to our neighbors.
  • Advocating for just food policies on the city, state and federal levels. Watch the Lettuce Link blog for details in the next few days!
Thank you for your time, resources and support both this past year and as we boldly stride into 2012 – pushing a wheelbarrow and wearing our rainboots!

The Lettuce Link team – Michelle, Sue, Scott, Robin, Amelia, Mariah and Blair (with much gratitude to Molly, Kate, Andrea, Sophie and Alice – our staff, AmeriCorps volunteers and interns who have moved on to new adventures).

%d bloggers like this: