Seattle Community Farm: A harvest slideshow

Seattle Community Farm Panorama

Seattle Community Farm panorama (all photos by John Bolivar, jbphotography.com)

On one of the first cool, drizzly fall days following this year’s record-breaking dry Seattle summer, local photographer John Bolivar visited our Lettuce Link program’s Seattle Community Farm at Rainier Vista to help us document 2012’s lush harvest. Although Farm Coordinator Scott Behmer claimed the harvest was beginning to wane, we still witnessed as Scott, Lettuce Link VISTA Amanda Lee and a community volunteer gathered and washed scores of pounds of beets, squash, heirloom tomatoes, radishes and greens.

This is the Seattle Community Farm’s second growing season, and according to the Lettuce Link Blog, more than 7,000 pounds of produce had been harvested and donated to the Rainier Valley Food Bank as of early October 2012 (more than twice last year’s harvest, when the Farm was still getting established). Enjoy this slideshow of the bounty!

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Fresh sprouts: The Seattle Community Farm opens!

Caitlyn Gilman bubbles over at the Grand Opening of the Seattle Community Farm

We held the Grand Opening of the new Seattle Community Farm this past Saturday, June 25th. OK, that is such a blasé sentence, inadequate to convey the buoyant sense of hope and possibility that was in the air as surely as crops to feed a hungry community are about to break forth from the Farm.

The words “grand” and “opening” are so overused, conjuring images of chain stores popping up like weeds, nothing more grand than asphalt, nor more open than your wallet. But if we stop for a second to really consider these what these words mean, we’ll get a better sense of the what was going on this lovely afternoon.

Lettuce Link Program Manager Michelle Bates-Benetua

A third of an acre of neatly contoured garden beds, the Seattle Community Farm runs in a narrow strip from Andover to Lilac streets, a stone’s throw from the Link Light Rail tracks on MLK Jr Way S, snug up against the hindquarters of Beacon Hill.

While the size might hardly seem grand, the design of the farm certainly is!

Aidan Murphy and Caitlyn Gilman paint worm bins

Borne of the growing urban agriculture renaissance and shepherded by Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, the project has turned a neglected strip of defacto parking lot into a model for how we can nourish a community.

The Farm has drawn in the resources of the City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, the Seattle Housing Authority (who owns the land), the US Department of Agriculture (which provided startup funds for the project), residents of the Rainier Vista housing development and Rainier Valley communities, local designers, artists, AmeriCorps teams and many others.

Landscape designer Eric Higbee and scarecrows

Through months of hard labor, the land has been transformed. Literally tons of rock for walls and structures, sand for drainage and topsoil were moved and sculpted into 90 loamy garden beds, a children’s garden, and a community gathering space. The site was designed by landscape architect Eric Higbee with input from the neighborhood.

Scott Behmer's office is cooler than yours!

Its transformation was  overseen by Farm Coordinator Scott Behmer, whose office in the corner of the large tool shed (built by volunteers from the adjacent Habitat for Humanity build site) is truly a room with a view, with an open window surveying the property.

Baby broccoli

All but one of the beds is planted, and while our dreary spring has dampened the progress, there are so many seeds germinating and starts rooting that you can practically hear the chard, beets, tomatoes and myriad other crops shooting from the soil and reaching for the sky. The land is vibrating with potential! A few weeks from now it will be a riot of organic produce, the grand outcome of sunshine, healthy soil, water and caring human hands.

Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin and guests

As for opening: In this newly created Rainier Vista neighborhood, the Farm represents a truly open social experiment. It is a vessel of opportunity to be filled by the volunteer contributions of people who have come to the Rainier Valley from all around the world. At the grand opening alone, among the 100 or so guests were community members whose gardening experience started in East Africa, the Pacific Islands, Mexico, the Middle East and even the Midwestern US.

Many hands make light work!

Through a developing work trade model, neighbors who volunteer will receive a bag of fresh produce for every two hours of work, giving people living on low-incomes direct access to the healthiest organic produce possible.

Produce not taken through the work trade model will be delivered to the nearby Rainier Valley food bank for distribution to the broader community.

The Farm!

The model is open and evolving to meet the neighbors’ needs and interests, gleaned through a series of community outreach meetings that brought people from many cultures and lands together over food, language translators and the desire to eat more healthful food.

AmeriCorps member Mariah Pepper leads a farm tour

The event this weekend featured a few guest speakers, Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin and Department of Neighborhoods’ Bernie Matsuno, but the real stars of the show were the men and women from the community. When the speeches were done they walked through the rows, knowingly eyeing the nascent crop, excited voices in languages I could not even identify, hands pointing with passion at the healthy future to come.

Ground broken on new Seattle Community Farm

An earthmover in action

An earthmover in action

On Tuesday, September 28 at 7am, a long-awaited dream began to take shape as construction workers broke ground for the new Seattle Community Farm – tucked behind the Rainier Vista housing community on MLK Drive in South Seattle. To some, it may look like a big pile of dirt right now – but those who have been planning this farm for over a year know it’s future manna.

Seattle Community Farm is the latest project of Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, which has engaged the South Park community in sustainable food production at Marra Farm since 1998. The new farm is primarily funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Project. The City of Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods also supports the project.

Construction worker at New Seattle Community Farm

Construction worker at groundbreaking

Groundwork for the new Seattle Community Farm was carefully laid over the past year by Lettuce Link staff, VISTA volunteers Leslie Heimer and Jamie Robinson, and landscape designer Eric Higbee, in partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods. They conducted thorough outreach in the Rainier Vista community (representing seven different language groups). They gained valuable feedback and participation in finalizing the design for the new farm from the very people who will utilize and nurture it.

On Saturday prior to the groundbreaking, Lettuce Link joined a Rainier Vista Multicultural Celebration to bring the community together in anticipation of the new farm. Seattle Community Farm Coordinator, Scott Behmer, posted this story about the event on the Lettuce Link. blog.

The vision for the new farm is that it will turn unused urban land into an educational farm for local residents and volunteers. Produce grown at the farm will go to residents with lower incomes, the Rainier Valley food bank, and the children who participate in Lettuce Link programs. The farm will model a shared garden environment rather than individual plots, and will help teach children and youth about gardening and eating healthy foods.

Future Seattle Community Farm

Future Seattle Community Farm

The Seattle Community Farm is a partnership between Lettuce Link, Seattle Housing Authority, and the City of Seattle P-Patch Program. For more information, contact Farm Coordinator Scott Behmer at scottb@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6828, or Lettuce Link Manager Michelle Bates-Benetua at michelleb@solid-ground.org or 206.694.6754.

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