By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Among the pandemic’s side effects: A growing interest in food security, resulting in more vegetable gardens and fruit trees.
West Seattle’s Puget Ridge neighborhood is years ahead of the trend.
The 2/3-acre city-owned, community-tended mini-farm at 18th and Brandon known as Puget Ridge Edible Park (PREP) is in its fourth season, and feeding even neighbors who haven’t been participating in growing crops.
One way is through a monthly free “farm stand” for neighbors. We visited PREP during this month’s farm stand, which drew visitors even though it was happening in the heart of last Sunday’s upper-90s heat. Whlle some volunteers helped neighbors fill bags and baskets with fresh vegetables including squash, beets, chard, carrots, and cherry tomatoes, as well as bundles of herbs, others worked the land.
Longtime sustainability advocate Stu Hennessey led a community contingent shepherding the site from dream to reality, promising the Parks Levy Oversight Committee in 2010, as they considered funding the site purchase, “We will be producing a lot of food on this land.” And so they are, six years after site development began with demolition of an old house.
Stu says they changed the operational plan this year – instead of a monthly work party, they amassed a core group of volunteers who work on the site more frequently. It’s not just one big garden like, for example, the High Point Market Garden, but it’s instead split into sections, including a “giving garden” and a “food forest,” with fruit trees including apples and plums.
For the future, there are hopes of an “edible playground” where kids can dig and learn as well as play. And Stu says PREP nourishes in another way: “This park has become a special place for many to escape the daily concerns brought on by current events.”
They’ve made the most of the land that’s being used on the site. Near the farm stand, one patch held sunflowers towering over beans and lettuce. And though the site is a city park, “We don’t go to Parks for anything,” Stu says proudly – the volunteers manage it all, with some donations and purchases (piles of wood chips, for example). They’ve also raised some funds through SeedMoney.org.
The community synergy goes beyond offering free produce to neighbors; they plan to support the Delridge Grocery Co-op when its store is up and running. More broadly, they hope to inspire other neighborhoods. Even if you don’t have an entire parcel to farm, there are other creative ways and places to grow food.
This year’s growing season at PREP, meantime, is expected to stretch at least into October, Stu says. Maybe beyond, if they get some winter crops going. There’s still space left, and there’s room for more neighbors to get involved – if you’re interested, you con contact Stu via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.