(Photos courtesy Stu Hennessey)
By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog
Thanks to a group of Puget Ridge neighbors, the historically agricultural parcel of land at 5265 18th Ave SW [map] will retain its agricultural status and become urban farmland in West Seattle.
Stu Hennessey, owner of Alki Bike and Board, is part of a community group that has been working toward the preservation of this site to turn it into a publicly owned permaculture farm, to be known as Puget Ridge Edible Park (PREP). They applied for, and were recommended to be granted, a $520,000 share of the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund (here’s our coverage, with video, of project supporters making their case last October).
He says, “We thought it would be cool to have a P-Patch or garden” for fresh produce in their neighborhood.
Puget Ridge is part of an area of eastern West Seattle underserved by grocery stores and known as a “food desert” — any area in an urban setting where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain.
Stu describes the group of Puget Ridge neighbors as an informal community organization that started growing produce together and sharing the bounty. He says this is great exercise and calls it “The Permaculture Workout!” They participate in work parties for Puget Creek and greenbelt and have movie nights together.
They had been looking at this piece of property, which has been for sale for two years, to create an urban farm, but couldn’t come up with the funds to purchase it.
The approximately 50 neighbors asked the City of Seattle to use the levy Opportunity Fund to purchase the property and turn it into a public park to be used specifically for community farming.
The City Council just approved the purchase of the property this month, after the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Oversight Committee gave their blessing to PREP – and Stu says the neighbors are ready to start farming!
The existing home on the property will be demolished, and “we’ll hire a garden designer who is familiar with City requirements.” says Stu, but in the meantime, the neighbors are organizing work parties and are hoping to start planting in June. Plans for the garden include a fire pit for community gatherings and a raised-bed, wheelchair-accessible garden. Their long-term goal is to create a year-round farmers’ market to provide revenue for ongoing maintenance and development of the garden, and to provide a continual source of fresh produce to the community, including winter greens.
Stu says they decided against the P-Patch model of community gardening in favor of an all-volunteer, participatory, sharing and teaching garden. Annual fees for P-Patches, though low, still lock out some low-income families from joining and don’t follow permaculture practices. (Permaculture is a is the practice of gardening with the land’s natural resources and ecology to increase yields and minimize human intervention.)
He adds that their goals for this garden include having local produce that doesn’t need to be shipped in, reducing transportation emissions and cost, reducing the danger of cross-contamination with genetically modified strains of produce, and providing food security to those living in the “food desert.”
“We will make big differences with choices people have in our community,” he said.
Progress for Puget Ridge Edible Park can be followed by “liking” their Facebook page, where they will post information about upcoming permaculture classes and other opportunities for involvement.