Seattle Community Farm: classroom-style

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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!

Community gathering space completed at Seattle Community Farm

November 21 was a frosty morning, when work crews from Shirey Handyman Service began the two-day construction project of the last piece of the Seattle Community Farm’s infrastructure. VIA Architecture’s Community Design Studio assisted Solid Ground in the design and permitting of the new shelter that fulfills the original plan for the Seattle Community Farm. Two years in the making, the completion of the overhead structures “will greatly enhance the work at the Farm,” says Scott Behmer, Seattle Community Farm Coordinator.

Now into the third growing season, the Seattle Community Farm, a project of Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, has had to cope with the ever-changing Pacific Northwest weather. Sunny summer days would wilt vegetables being washed, while the seemingly endless rain would put a damper on outdoor activities being held without a shelter. With the comfort the new overhead structures provide, Lettuce link expects to expand classes at the Farm – such as hosting additional Cooking Matters cooking and nutrition courses – and other events and activities that engage the Rainier Vista neighborhood. To Farmer Scott, “The purpose of the final infrastructure piece – to bring people together and act as a community gathering place – has finally been realized.”

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