Goin’ to Meetin’: Letter From Our Director

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I’ve been shopping at farmers markets since my school days. I call it my “church.” I know the people who grow my food, and I learn about their lives. Like the year a farmer’s Purple Viking potatoes were taken from his fields by aliens (insert wink emoji). Or when I heard through the grapevine that my favorite lettuce grower retired. Each week, buying a fresh chicken, purple daikon radishes, or ethereal Beurre D’Anjou pears, I fight back tears when farmers thank me. Yeah, I’m a sap. But I recognize how lucky I am to know where my food is coming from and the people who grew it. I’m the one who is grateful.

One of the farmers always thanks me by saying, “Thank you for supporting my farm.” I choke back tears when I sometimes reply, “Thank you for feeding me.” For me, the simple transaction taking place, exchanging a $5 bill, keeps me alive, and holds a world of possibilities for both of us and the places we live. For me, it’s sacred. Connection between grower and eater creates a sustainable, local food culture for both urban and rural communities. And every one of us has the right to fully participate in Washington’s food culture.

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That’s why I’m proud of a powerful partnership between Tilth Alliance, the City of Seattle Preschool Program, King Conservation District and private funders. Together, we piloted a project last year that brought locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables into the lives of 2,600 underserved families. The produce, delivered to 50 preschools and other sites, was purchased from scores of local sustainable farmers. Families got the produce for free or at affordable prices thanks to an investment by this partnership. Piquing curiosity and familiarity about whole foods, and how food gets to their plates, a connection between producer and eater is sown at an early age, and growing minds and bodies are built one nutrient at a time.

Thinking holistically about what it takes to educate young minds, the City of Seattle recognized that a necessary foundation of a good education is both enough food and whole foods. The Tilth community knows the best eating in our region comes from local producers. Making the deliberate decision to source local, we were supporting the young minds of preschoolers. But we were also helping keep our state at the forefront of advancing food sustainability. Among the many ways we buy directly from producers, this Tilth program resulted in $140,000 in wholesale purchases of produce from our region’s farmers. It’s win-win-win when public-private partnerships support local agricultural economies that nourish the region’s soil and future generations.

Fostering connections between growers and eaters has been the underpinning of the Tilth movement for 40 years. We’re as committed as ever to bridging gaps between urban and rural, young and old, different cultures and backgrounds. Next Sunday, when I head off to meetin’ at the Ballard Farmers Market, I’ll say words of thanks not only to the producers, but also to you, the Tilth community that supports them.

How have connections between producers and eaters made your life richer? I’d love to hear your stories. Email me at: leesaschandel@tilthalliance.org.

Sincerely,
Leesa Marie Schandel
Interim Executive Director, Sr. Director of Advancement and
Proud Tilth Alliance Donor
leesaschandel@tilthalliance.org
www.tilthalliance.org

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