On a crisp fall morning, I am sitting at meeting in SeaTac, Washington and I am asked to summarize the ways in which Forterra supports access to healthy food. As I pause to collect my thoughts, I am reminded how food is a thread that carries through much of Forterra’s work and is beautiful expression of both the practical tasks we accomplish and the vision we have for the region. We fight hard to conserve farmland in the region, we build gardens to feed local residents and we change policy to support urban agriculture. And throughout all of these projects we bring people together with the goal of building a vibrant region where everyone has the chance to enjoy the fruits of this magnificent place.
I begin my story with work that began in 2010 in Tacoma and Tukwila. In Tacoma, we co-hosted the City’s first (or at least in memory) Community Gardens Summit and eventually launched a now very successful community gardens program. Further north, in Tukwila, we partnered with a local church and the International Rescue Committee, to build the Namaste Garden in Tukwila. Currently in its 5th season, this community garden hosts 65 families annually, most of whom are from Burma and Bhutan, and provides a center for community gathering. As one gardener noted about the elders, “The main thing about the garden is that it helps them lose depression. All of them are so depressed sitting at home…It adds health in the community.” We are now working with the City of SeaTac to build a new community garden for their residents.
The main thing about the garden is that it helps the community elders lose depression. ...It adds health in the community.
Later, in 2012 and 2013, we worked with community members to update Federal Way’s urban agriculture policy to ensure that residents can grow and sell food and to support a thriving local farmers market. Leveraging skills developed in this project and the Namaste Garden, we are now working with the City of SeaTac to update their regulatory codes related to healthy food access and also build their first ever community garden. We hope to break ground in 2016.
The meeting I am sitting in as a retell these food stories is one for the SeaTac/Tukwila Food Innovation Network. This network of governments, non-profit organizations and community members is leading an effort to invigorate the local food economy in South King County.
This group has a vision of building a food innovation district that will include a kitchen incubator for new food businesses, a classroom for teaching business and food sector skills and market space for the sale of locally grown and processed foods. Project Feast is our many partners in this work and you can read about them in Forterra’s recent edition of Ampersand.