Urgent: call your Senators about the Farm Bill

Clean radishes

Clean radishes

Here’s a breaking news update on the Senate Farm Bill and the latest message (from the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition) to deliver to our Senators. Please pick up a phone to call Senators Cantwell and Murray.

Please share this information with your networks:

Farm Bill Process
The Senate began their debate of amendments to the Farm Bill yesterday morning. Unfortunately, they missed their biggest and best opportunity to help hungry families and seniors by rejecting the Gillibrand amendment that would have eliminated the $4.1 billion cut to SNAP. Senator Murray co-sponsored the amendment and Senator Cantwell voted for the amendment. But in the end, the amendment failed to get 50 votes on the Senate floor, ultimately defeated by a vote of 26 yeas to 70 nays.

If there’s a bright side to this, the Senate also defeated a number of even more damaging amendments proposed by Senator Roberts that would have tried to instill many of the cuts proposed in the House Bill, including an amendment that would have greatly restricted Categorical Eligibility and eliminated Heat and Eat entirely.

Additionally, Senator Brown has introduced an amendment that will be debated on the floor that would add $10 million to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program as well as add funds to other programs that help farmers markets and increase access to nutritious, locally sourced produce. This is an effort that we support since the Senior FMNP helps low-income seniors have access to the fresh produce that they need to stay healthy in body and mind, but $10 million will be a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the cut to SNAP — our first-line defense against hunger.

Even if this amendment is added to the bill, the Senate will be voting on a final package as soon as tonight, or possibly tomorrow morning, that will cut SNAP by over $4 billion — a cut that will take $90 per month out of the SNAP benefits for 232,000 households in Washington.

Tell Senators: Support the Brown Amendment but Vote NO on the Final Farm Bill
Call Senator Cantwell and Senator Murray now and ask them to support the Brown amendment. Let them know that we support adding funding to the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, because if the cuts to SNAP proposed in this Farm Bill take effect, then we need to make sure that seniors have all the assistance they can get to have access to nutritious food that they can’t otherwise afford on a fixed income.

We need this amendment to get the final Farm Bill package in the best shape in can be should it pass the rest of the Senate, but in the end, we still need our Senators to vote NO to the final Farm Bill package, because the proposed cuts to SNAP are unconscionable. No Farm Bill this year is better than living with the consequences of a Farm Bill that slashes SNAP and as a result, increases poverty for hungry families with children and seniors. The Senate can always go back to the drawing board and save their yes vote for a Farm Bill that does not make unconscionable cuts to SNAP.

Senator Murray: 1.866.481.9186
Senator Cantwell: 1.202.224.3441

•    Vote YES on the Brown amendment to increase funding for Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
•    Even if that amendment passes, vote NO on the final Farm Bill because of the unconscionable cut to SNAP — our first line of defense against hunger.

Tenant Tip: Evictions in Clean & Sober Housing (Part 1)

recovery-photoThis Tenant Tip addresses RCW 59.18.550 of the Washington State Residential Landlord Tenant Act (RLTA), clarifying the rights and requirements of tenants living in “drug and alcohol free housing,” including their right to due process in an eviction (also known as an Unlawful Detainer Action (UDA) ). Under this section of the law, any tenant who lives in drug and alcohol free housing is entitled to a rental agreement IN WRITING and access to supportive services through recovery programs (i.e. Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous).

In addition, the rental agreement must include the following provisions:

  • The tenant and invited guests may not use any illegal substances, controlled substances or prescription drugs without a prescription on the premises.
  • The tenant can be required to take a urine analysis test for drug and alcohol at the landlord’s discretion and expense.
  • On a quarterly basis (at minimum), the tenant must provide documentation from the recovery program they are participating in to report progress abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

Furthermore, the landlord must provide a drug- and alcohol-free environment for all tenants and an employee who monitors the compliance with program rules.

The following types of entities are considered to be landlords under the RLTA and must provide the specific requirements and services under RCW 59.18.550:

The eviction process is slightly different for tenants living in drug and alcohol free housing. A landlord can terminate tenancy by delivering a three-day notice to the tenant with one day to comply if the tenant uses, possesses or shares alcohol, prescription drugs without a prescription, or illegal substances on the premises. A tenant may be given the three-day notice if their invited guests are participating in such actions as well.

A three-day notice to terminate tenancy with one day to comply gives the tenant one day after receipt of the notice to stop the use of drugs or alcohol and be in compliance. If the tenant complies, the landlord cannot go further with the eviction and the rental agreement does not terminate. If the tenant is not able to comply within one day after receiving the notice – and at the end of the three-day period, if the tenant has not vacated – the landlord can continue with the eviction process by serving a summons for UDA.

Our website lists an eviction timeline, including the court process to physically remove a tenant from the premises. If the tenant violates the same rule within six months of receiving a three-day notice, the landlord can begin the eviction process by issuing another three-day notice without the option for the tenant to comply again. This section provides the same eviction process and timeline during which landlords are allowed to evict a tenant under 59.12 RCW.

Because of the complexity of this information, it will be posted in two parts. The next post will further address some of the barriers that people living in clean and sober housing face – including the problems a faster eviction process would pose – and how these tenants could benefit from additional protections allowing them to remain in stable housing. 

The tenant information contained in this article or linked to the Solid Ground Tenant Services website is for informational purposes only. Solid Ground makes no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to its website. Solid Ground cannot act as your attorney. Solid Ground makes no representations, expressed or implied, that the information contained in or linked to its website can or will be used or interpreted in any particular way by any governmental agency or court. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided here should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Solid Ground Tenant Counselors offer these tenant tips as generalized information for renters. People with specific questions should call our Tenant Services hotline at 206.694.6767  Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays between 10:30 am and 4:30 pm.

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).

Raising food, connecting cultures

(Editor’s note: This is the main story reprinted from our July 2011 Groundviews newsletter. To read the complete newsletter or past issues of Groundviews, please visit our Publications webpage.)

A work party at Seattle Community Farm, June 2011

On a cool, drizzly June day, Sudi convinced his 7-year-old brother to join him at a work party at the new farm nestled within their housing complex. They helped move the last load of dirt into neat rows, soon to be planted. Scott Behmer, Seattle Community Farm Coordinator, says that when he started in the fall of 2010, the Farm was little more than “a grass field and a parking lot” near Rainier Vista (a mixed-income housing community just off MLK Way in South Seattle). Today, after two+ years of planning, community meetings and “a lot of physical work moving in 200 cubic yards of soil and tens of thousands of pounds of other materials,” the 1/3-acre Farm is fully planted and celebrated its official Grand Opening on June 25.

     Seattle Community Farm is the newest project of Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link program, which works with and in communities to grow and share fresh, nourishing food, and envisions a city where people have equal access to healthy and culturally appropriate food. Scott says, “Our goal is to get vegetables to folks who struggle to afford them.”

Cross-cultural community building

Getting the new Farm to where it is today has been a true organizing effort: Lettuce Link worked with many partners, including Seattle’s P-Patch Program, landscape designer Eric Higbee (who donated his services) and Seattle Housing Authority.

     Lettuce Link Program Manager, Michelle Bates-Benetua, says, “Together, we crafted and carried out a culturally relevant engagement process so the community could tell us what they wanted. It may take longer and it is more expensive to provide food, childcare and interpretation, but our intent is to work together with the neighborhood so that in a few years, they run the Farm and we’ve worked ourselves out of a job.

     “The grand vision is that the community is able to produce food together across cultures and language, share that food among themselves and with the Rainier Valley Food Bank, and utilize the gathering space as one community instead of several distinct groups living in one neighborhood.”

     Mariah Pepper, an AmeriCorps*VISTA serving this year as Seattle Community Farm’s Outreach Coordinator, says, “It’s an interesting neighborhood; Rainier Vista is a mixed-income housing development, so there’s every kind of person you can imagine.” Residents run the gamut from Seattle Housing Authority seniors and people living on very low incomes, to Habitat for Humanity homeowners, to renters and homeowners affording full-market rates.

     Seattle Community Farm is built on a Work Trade model Scott describes as “one way to try to make the volunteer model work for people where time might mean a lot more because they’re lower income and might work more jobs. Basically, if you work two hours, you get a bag of vegetables,” worth about $30/bag. “So you’re not just volunteering, you’re coming and working in exchange for vegetables.”

     Michelle says, “The goal is to make sure our volunteer opportunities are accessible and meaningful for the community” – and yet this poses challenges. The Rainier Vista area is extremely culturally diverse: Residents speak approximately 50 different languages. Mariah says, “With so many languages and so many cultures, it makes outreach a bit difficult, because there are so many different ways that people interact with each other – and a sea of information. And that’s the thing we’ve all learned: We have to have multiple ways of getting information out there.”

     When possible, staff use interpreters and have outreach materials translated into multiple languages. Scott says Rainier Vista has “a lot of community events. So we’re going to those, and going door to door, leaving flyers and talking to people.”

Sudi, a Seattle Community Farm volunteer and Rainier Vista resident

Sudi, a Seattle Community Farm volunteer and Rainier Vista resident

Good chemistry

Sudi is one young resident who both volunteers regularly and is helping get the word out to other residents. Originally from Ethiopia, his family has lived at Rainier Vista for six years. Having just finished his third year studying chemistry at St. Martin’s College, he says his dad asked him to come out to volunteer one day, and they happened to be doing a class on composting. “We talked about fertilizers and nitrogen, and so I get interested when I hear that!” Sudi says, “I think it is wonderful. Aside from just doing the work, you actually learn how to grow plants. We have fun talking about different kinds of plants, and it’s just a learning experience.

     “I try to get people involved here in the neighborhood. Scott gave me flyers, and one day I took it down and gave it to some people – trying to explain the reason behind it. The reason why this is here, from my understanding, is this is a (mostly) vegetable garden – and trying to get more nutritions from vegetables into this community, who either don’t know much about the importance of it – or since vegetables are expensive, they don’t get much of it. Having it here, and them working on it and harvesting it themselves, is a big thing.”

     Scott says, “It’s always great to get volunteers from the community to come out and work, and hear a little about them, and see them enjoy it.” Mariah adds: “Food is so connected to culture – so it’s a way to talk about how we grow things, how we cook things and eat things, and have a conversation across these differences. I would like to see the Farm be able to bridge that.”

For more information about the Seattle Community Farm, please contact 206.694.6828 or urbanfarm@solid-ground.org, or visit www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Nutrition/CommunityFarm.

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.)

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.

Serving up healthy produce with Jack Johnson

(Editor’s note: This report comes from our favorite carrot, Amelia Swinton, who along with the smiling pea, Meredith Wilson, represented Solid Ground’s Lettuce Link and Apple Corps programs at a very special event. Their report can also be found on the Lettuce Link. blog.)

Meredith and Amelia wearing pea and carrot costumes!

(L to r): Meredith Wilson and Amelia Swinton spread the word about healthy produce in Jack Johnson's Village Green during his concert at The Gorge

Last weekend was a mobile one, with Lettuce Link posters, Marra Farm produce, and even a few staffers packed into a Prius and shipped eastwards. The occasion for this expedition down I-90? Jack Johnson, acoustic guitar and philanthropic superstar, was playing a show at the Gorge Amphitheater. And though his To The Sea tour has crisscrossed the nation’s biggest venues, Jack has consistently prioritized sustainability, locally sourced materials, and connecting his fans to nonprofits in their communities.

Through the fiery determination of Solid Ground staff, Lettuce Link and Apple Corps (an AmeriCorps team focused on educating kids about healthy lifestyles) were chosen to table on Jack’s “Village Green.” In addition, the programs received $2,500 in match funding from Johnson and his foundation!

Sandwiched between a surfing/beach cleaning organization and a kids+arts+nature group, Meredith and I engaged with hordes of JJ fans about food: its justice, affordability, cultivation, nutrition and education. We spoke with people about our work in schools, community gardens, urban farms, food banks, and private backyards, and discussed the connections between these programs and domestic food policy. We connected teachers with composting resources, greeting-card-writers to lovely Marra Farm harvest cards, and eaters to new vegetables (bok choi! paddy pan squash!).

We also urged people to take personal actions: donate to Lettuce Link (: , support farmers markets, and educate themselves on the Farm Bill so that they can speak out for fairer ag policy.

What’s more: 100% of the  profits from Johnson’s tour go back into his foundation, to continue supporting nonprofit work. I’m sounding like a total Jack Johnson speaker box here, but frankly, I wasn’t expecting to be so darn impressed.
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