Mar 24, 2010

Urban Agriculture, lessons and hard work

On Saturday March 20th I showed up with a friend in tow to the Yeslar Terrace community center to help out with the p-patch restoration and expansion project. The day was shining, the neighborhood was still sleeping and the bus got us there right on time.

I saw a few colleagues of mine already there, Owen our videographer, and Corey the Community Development Co Lead. I greeted them and then ducked out of the way of the camera trying to hide my face and likeness. I don't want another screen cap of my grill being the face of our next video like the staff video up on our website...scary.

There were about thirty people in attendance with most of them youth from various community groups like Ground Up Yeslar, Seattle Tilth, a few local High Schools like Franklin and of course the agriculture professionals, one of them a fifteen year veteran at this particular growing site.

The students were dressed sensibly and were excited about the prospect with roughly half of them female and the other half...male. I spoke with Karen from Ground Up as we had previously met at the Journalism that Matters conference and it was great catching up. She then convened the volunteers and we had a brief, but effective safety meeting.

The students were fired up and the atmosphere was friendly, dedicated, with banter that was surprisingly appropriate. I'm always surprised how much people expect teens to be rude, obnoxious, cursing troublemakers, when the majority of them that I've interacted with over my many years has been exactly the opposite.

I decided to go do some composting and after an hour of wheel barrow shifting, shoveling, sorting, digging and listening to an adult give the teens a true history of African American heritage, I was tired and feeling great.

The p-patch itself is very large and spread out amongst the apartments in Yeslar Terrace. The patches are mostly overrun with native plant weed, but they are fertile and with the right stewardship would be a reliable source of food for the community.

Corey was chosen to be a lead in one of the projects and he cheerfully responded. He is doing so much work in this community and his heart is definitely feeling the unique, diverse vibe that Yeslar Terrace exudes. I look forward to coming back and seeing where this partnership leads.

Did I fail to mention the home cooked lunch provided to us after we were done? It was an exploration of East African cuisine provided by neighbors and participants. I loved the greens and actually ate more than my fair share. I kept sneaking more fork fulls onto my plate after distracting other hungry volunteers with questions and conversation. Best lesson learned is to always give participants a way to participate. The neighbors who cooked the food did what they do best and everyone benefited.

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