This Seattle Urban Farmer Wants Less Grass, More Vegetables

Johnson, Chelsie_2015 Tilth Coop & Farm Tour_62.jpg-19654556092Deb Schwartzkopf knows a good yard when she sees one.

Johnson, Chelsie_2015 Tilth Coop & Farm Tour_47.jpg-19039139174

Moving in to her White Center home five years ago, she saw the potential for plants and livestock almost immediately — so immediately that she planted a raised bed before moving her furniture.

Rat City Studios, the name of her garden and ceramics studio, presents an ideal example of artful garden-to-table living, with a clever coop design, chicken foraging area, art-infused raised beds, honeybee apiary and edible fruit landscaping. Veggies from the garden are often wood-fired in a hand-built pizza oven. The front yard is planted for four-season beauty with perennials and a deep shade garden.

We talked with Deb about Rat City Studios, which will be featured in Tilth Alliance’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour on Sat., August 3, a self-guided tour of urban farms around the city.

How has Rat City Studios urban farm evolved?

This will be my fifth summer in the house. I got chickens the first winter and honeybees two years ago.  This is the first place I have been able to install permanent beds, trellises, asparagus and trees. Everything was covered in bindweed and ivy, and I have just finished winning the battle against it! I’ve planted seven fruit trees and installed numerous raised beds. Finally, the garden is starting to take off.

How did you learn how to grow your own food?

Both of my grandmothers gardened a lot. It seemed to have high value for their day-to-day lives, which was really inspiring. Since I work at home, the garden is a place for me to slow down and take a calming break. I’m particularly interested in seeing the small changes, like asparagus emerging and flowers slowly blooming.

What motivated you to raise chickens?

They are really entertaining animals, and add a lot of personality to my yard! The daily clucking makes the yard feel welcoming. Plus, the compost is a huge benefit to my garden because it is so nutrient-rich. I’m considering using the chickens for meat, but it would be a dilemma since I care a lot about them. I sell eggs and honey to friends and people taking classes.

What is your favorite thing to grow?

Berries!  They do so well in the Pacific  Northwest.  I have raspberries, honey berries, blueberries, huckleberries, logan, tae, marion and alpine strawberries. I also love Mexican sour gherkins. You hardly have to clean them and they are already perfect for a salad.

Why do you think urban farming is on the rise in Seattle?

People are more concerned about having healthy food. Everyone is creative and gardening can be a creative outlet. People are seeking to make things with their hands more.

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What’s next for your urban farm?

Less grass, more vegetables and trees. I am slowly turning the lawn into perennial gardens and veggie gardens.  It’s beautiful, food-producing and more sustainable.

Tilth Alliance’s
Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour

Saturday, August 3; 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

You can visit Rat City Studios and learn more about what it takes to raise chickens in the city and how to start your own urban farm by attending Tilth Alliance’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour on Saturday, August 3. Fun for the whole family, this self-guided tour showcases some of Seattle’s coolest urban farms and gardens. Learn more and buy tickets today!


A version of this article, written by Amanda Sallay, was first published in 2015. It has been updated in 2018 with new details about Rat City Studios.

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