By Lucy Norris, PSFN Project Manager
This morning I attended Seattle Tilth Farm Works Open House. It was a dark and rainy morning but the last few miles of pavement leading towards the farm was beautifully framed by yellow and orange foliage. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see Mt. Rainier but on a sunny day the farm boasts a spectacular mountain view. Regardless, I was happy to be there.
Established in 1978, Seattle Tilth is a local nonprofit best known for it’s organic gardening education programs. Farmer education is new territory for Seattle Tilth. In fact, it was Burst for Prosperity who piloted the farm program in 2009 and then passed the reigns to Seattle Tilth in 2010. Under the leadership of Seattle Tilth, a true farm incubator program is thriving. Seattle Tilth Farm Works currently operates in Auburn, WA (on land owned by Seattle Parks and Recreation) and it’s where participating farmers comprised of Somali Bantu immigrants “learn how to operate a small farm by actually operating the farm” in a supportive, low risk environment. First year farmers are given access to small plots of about 1/4 acre that can increase during their time in the program based upon demonstrated competency and improvement. The goal is to help refugees, immigrants and other low-income individuals create a better life for themselves through their own farm enterprise. In turn, the foods they grow are marketed locally, increasing healthy food access in their own communities.
Program Manager Eddie Hill guided a tour of the farm and explained how the land was previously used as a dairy farm. It took only a hundred days – thanks to a host of farms like Full Circle, compost supplier Cedar Grove Composting and community volunteers (even the Seattle Sounders soccer team!)- to prepare the farm incubator site to be suitable for program participants to grow their first crops in time for summer market season. They grew a variety of gorgeous vegetables like beets, broccoli, romanesco (an Italian heirloom), turnips, cabbage, lettuce, and cauliflower. Recently they sold two goats, the first animals to be raised and sold from the farm.
This year’s list of buyers was impressive! This summer’s produce was sold at Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market, Highline Community College, Puget Consumer’s Co-op, Central Co-op, a handful of South King County restaurants and smaller grocery stores. They are also selling to Grand Central Baking Co (also a member of PSFN) who turn seasonal produce into delectable and savory pastries. Farm Manager Micah Anderson even participated in the Seattle Wholesale Market that PSFN held in the parking lot of the Mt Zion Baptist Church last August. Seattle Tilth Farm Works joined PSFN in March 2011.
Seattle Tilth’s Executive Director, Andrea Dwyer also announced that Seattle Tilth Farm Works was recently awarded a three-year Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development grant from United States Department of Agriculture for $483,160 to continue their work with refugee, immigrant and other socially-disadvantaged farmers to help them create viable agricultural enterprises growing and selling mixed vegetables and small livestock. PSFN congratulates Seattle Tilth Farm Works for a wonderful year, and we look forward to seeing more great work from them in year’s to come.
For inquiries about the farm or products, please contact Micah Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org or call (206) 633-0451 ext. 120. The farm is also accepting applications for farm interns (boarding is included) as well as next year’s round of farm participants. For more information please visit: http://seattletilth.org/about/farmincubatorprogram