By Liza Burke, Communications Director
After a successful capital campaign to raise funds to improve Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, construction has finally begun. We are thrilled that the dream to build an urban agriculture center in Seattle’s Rainier Beach neighborhood – with functional year round facilities — is becoming a reality!
In August, construction became visible and it’s exciting to see! See recent images of construction along with images of activities since August.
Here’s what we have to look forward to when construction and site improvements are complete, based on architectural design by Berger Partnership.
- Better use of site. The site improvements will demonstrate the “farm to table” experience and bring to life the food system in a powerful and interconnected way with full community engagement.
- Improved access. The new gate at Beer Sheva Park will allow community members greater access to the farm. A new circle drive will better accommodate school buses, delivery vans, service trucks and physically disabled visitors.
- New classroom. A new building will provide extensive opportunities for hands-on environmental stewardship and food production education for the community, directly onsite at a community based urban farm.
- Community kitchen. Food harvested at the farm will be prepared for eating, providing cooking and nutrition education for schools and community groups. This is the first time we will have a functional kitchen for cooking, teaching and food preparation.
- More food production. The construction of four greenhouses will enable us to increase production of fresh produce at the farm, making healthy food more accessible for the community.
- Office space. Staff will work onsite to administer programs with modern facilities, being part of the fabric of the community.
- Permanence. Developments will establish a permanent home for the farm and its programs year round.
The vision began when Seattle Parks & Recreation decided to shut down a nursery on the 7+ acre site. When neighbors met and decided they wanted an urban farm there, Seattle Parks and Recreation was in full support and the idea took root. Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands became the group representing the neighborhood and they were appointed, along with Tilth Alliance (formerly Seattle Tilth), as co-operators in 2011. They have continued to build support and transform the site ever since.
Tilth Alliance manages the site and programs, providing hands-on education and volunteer opportunities restoring the natural wetlands habitat and growing food on the small organic farm. The Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands raises awareness of and support for the farm and engages the community. The community has responded in a big way. More than 2,000 people of all ages have contributed a huge amount of enthusiasm, 18,000 volunteer hours and buckets of sweat. The results: 30,000 lbs. of food grown, 26,600 community meals served and 12,464 Good Food Bags distributed to low income families.
Despite these tremendous successes, facilities at the farm have been woefully inadequate to fulfill the vision. The office for programs had been an old, uninsulated shed secured by a standard combination lock. Community meals have been cooked on camping stoves. The Seattle Parks Foundation took action and led a successful $3 million capital campaign with tremendous support from community members.
The vision is coming to life through a great partnership between many inspired parties and community members. The key partners are:
- Seattle Parks and Recreation builds community through people, parks and programs. They seek opportunities to partner with organizations with common core values.
- Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands is a committed group of neighborhood residents who created the vision for the project and secured the initial commitment of public funds. They have mobilized hundreds of community members, generated excitement and support throughout the city, and are leading efforts to secure additional public resources.
- Seattle Parks Foundation advocates and fund raises for community-led public space projects in Seattle. They are raising private dollars to help fund the capital improvements at the farm.
- Tilth Alliance (formerly Seattle Tilth, Tilth Producers and Cascade Harvest Coalition) is a regional leader in building a better, more sustainable and equitable food system including opportunities for immigrants, refugees, and other low-income people in the local food economy. They manage day-to-day programs and operations at the farm.
Farm Construction FAQs
Q: What will construction look like?
A: There will be a big fence to demarcate the construction area, possibly with cones and flagging tape. Inside the fence is considered a hard hat area and workers will be bustling around, with trucks moving materials — all the activities needed to construct a new building and reorganize the site.
Q: What are the hours of activity?
A: Construction activity will take place Monday-Friday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m., except City of Seattle designated holidays. If there are any changes to this schedule, updates can be found on the City’s website.
Q: What will farm look like in the future?
A: The vision is for the farm to be a dynamic learning center for the community featuring an organic farm, a children’s learning garden, outdoor and indoor class spaces, commercial teaching kitchen, community gathering space, greenhouses, orchards, apiaries, chicken coops, protected wetlands, a farm stand, a wash pack station for processing farm harvests, park amenities and a connection to Beer Sheva Park. Our goal is to produce more than 20,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and to engage 5,000 community members annually.
Q: How is the farm funded?
A: Contributors include dozens of generous community supporters, the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Opportunity Fund, Seattle Parks Foundation, Department of Neighborhoods – Neighborhood Matching Fund, City of Seattle Capital Improvement Project funds and Washington State funding.
Q: Will the farm be open for visiting like usual?
A: Access to the farm will be limited during construction. Tilth Alliance programs will be scaled back to some volunteer opportunities (see next question!).
Q: Can I volunteer during construction?
A: Yes! During construction we will focus on wetlands restoration work parties and planting a food forest with volunteers. Currently the weekly drop-in work party is on Friday, 10 a.m.-noon. Feel free to stop by to lend a hand! Groups are also encouraged to volunteer and can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to make arrangements.
Q: Where’s the entrance during construction?
A: The main access will be by foot at the Beer Sheva Park gate. The farm will be open limited hours for volunteer work parties and the gate will be locked otherwise.
Q: How long will it take?
A: We are estimating construction will take 6-9 months. We are hoping to welcome the community to celebrate the new building and improvements during spring 2017!
Q: Who can I contact with questions or concerns?
A: To discuss current and future programs at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, please contact Tilth Alliance: RBUFW@tilthalliance.org email, (206) 633-0451 ext. 128. To discuss the construction project, you can contact City of Seattle’s Park and Recreation Project Coordinator: Jay Rood email@example.com, (206) 733-9194.
Q: How can I stay in touch with progress at the farm?
A: To receive regular email updates about news at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, sign up for our Enews and select “Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands” in the communications list (scroll down). See updates about the farm.