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).

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Vandalism and theft at Marra Farm

Peace Scarecrow

This post is reprinted from the Lettuce Link. blog:

Not Cool: We have some shocking and disappointing news from the farm this week. This past Friday, July 15th, volunteers and staff arrived at the farm to a disconcerting scene. Someone had broken into each shed looking for valuable tools to take. Not only hand tools, but the much-needed (and expensive to replace) lawnmower and weed whacker had disappeared in the night. In addition, the P-Patch shed had been opened and all its contents overturned, although it appears that nothing went missing. Neighbors chased away some teens throwing the unripe apples at farm structures Thursday night, but the two occurrences seem to be unrelated.

Even more frightening, while inspecting the shed, our Marra Farm Giving Garden Coordinator Sue McGann found what looked like (and was confirmed to be) bullet holes in the walls of the P-Patch shed. The police officer who arrived at the scene believes that the holes were made by someone using the shed as target practice. The police wish to assure everyone in the community that they are still safe in the area. Even so, all of these events are a disappointing show of disrespect towards the farm property and the people who work on and benefit from the farm’s operations.

Upon hearing this news, Julie Simon, a long-time volunteer scheduled to work at the farm the next day with a group of friends, first made a detour.  Her detour was a shopping trip and out of her own pocket, she replaced the lawn mower and weed-whacker.  It was heartening to arrive and see the shiny new items. More than replacing stuff it was her thoughtful act of kindness that was totally unexpected and really lifted our spirits.  It is a reminder that we do this work TOGETHER and that it is only through caring for one another that we can truly nourish our community.

Marra Farm Giving Garden is a project of Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program. For more info about Marra Farm, contact Sue McGann at 206.694.6746 x1 or suem@solid-ground.org. For info about Lettuce Link, contact Michelle Bates-Benetua at 206.694.6754 or lettucklink@solid-ground.org.

P-Patch volunteers take ending hunger into their own hands… and gardens

Every Tuesday evening from mid-April to October, a group of dedicated volunteer gardeners gather at the Interbay P-Patch to plant, weed and harvest food for people who are hungry. 

Foodbank garden plot at Interbay P-Patch

Supported by Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, the Giving Garden at Interbay has several P-Patch plots dedicated solely to growing fresh fruit and veggies for local food banks. These food bank plots yield approximately 5,000 lbs of fresh, organic produce each season—all of which is donated to the Ballard Food Bank, Mary’s Place and St. Martin’s on Westlake. 

Master gardeners Deb Rock and Jude Berman both garden at Interbay and co-coordinate the Food Bank Gardening Program there. They also spearhead the Tuesday night work parties—enthusiastically sharing their passion for “gardening while doing good” with a core group of volunteers. Rock has been a food bank gardener at Interbay for more than a decade, and Berman joined the program in 2004. 

Last Tuesday, about a dozen volunteers braved the temperamental spring Seattle weather to help plant a huge donation of lettuce starts that had come in earlier that day. 

Berman says that volunteers show up each week for a variety of reasons. Some live in apartments and have no garden of their own. Some are new gardeners eager to learn from seasoned pros. Some are students from Ballard High’s horticulture program; others have their own P-Patch plots at Interbay and simply want to be part of the good work going on. 

“No matter what brings them here, after they are here, they fall in love with the garden, and they stay,” Berman said. “This isn’t just about growing food for a salad. There’s a critical need in this community—especially now. We’re feeding people.” 

Interbay Food Bank Garden co-coordinator Jude Berman (left) and Lettuce Link's Sadie Beauregard (right).

Lettuce Link supports P-Patch food bank gardeners with seeds, starts and volunteer support, as well as with help coordinating delivery to the food banks. Lettuce Link works with more than 40 P-Patches like Interbay throughout the city. Combined, these Giving Gardens bring in nearly 28,000 lbs of produce each year. 

Work parties at the Interbay P-Patch are held every Tuesday evening from 5:30 until sundown throughout the growing season. At the end of each work party, the food bank gardeners usually gather in the beautiful Interbay patio space to share ideas, a glass of wine and perhaps a nibble of something fresh from the garden. 

Everyone is welcome, whether you are a master gardener or a novice just starting out. Just stop by anytime after 5:30. The Interbay P-Patch is located at 2452 15th Ave W (15th Avenue W. and W. Wheeler Street). 

You can email Jude about volunteering on Tuesday evenings at Interbay, or about food bank gardening in general. 

To get involved with other P-Patch Giving Gardens throughout the city, contact Lettuce Link.

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