As summer approaches, the bright sunshine and warm rainfall bring new life to Marra Farm – a historic urban farm that serves the community of South Park, Seattle through educating students and community members on nutrition and growing food while creating access to quality produce.
Solid Ground runs a Giving Garden at Marra Farm, and Farm Coordinator Scott Behmer is the only full-time farmer. Scott explains that Marra Farm has two main priorities: food access and education. The South Park community is historically underserved with many residents lacking access to healthy foods. To address this issue, the Giving Garden yields over 10,000 pounds of fresh produce each year to donate to local food banks and community partners.
Providing access to food for the community only scratches the surface on food insecurity. Education also provides a tangible way for people to tackle the root causes and work toward changing systems that perpetuate not only food insecurity but poverty.
Historically, field trips for students from local schools in Seattle have provided the opportunity for students to learn through both hands-on gardening experience and onsite nutrition classes cooking with fresh-picked veggies. While large group restrictions persist during the COVID-19 pandemic, these field trips are not currently an option – yet education remains a key component of Marra Farm’s mission.
The Giving Garden depends on the support of hundreds of volunteers each month during the growing season – but with the necessity of social distancing, there has been a dramatic decrease in volunteers. The pandemic has required individuals and organizations around the world to adapt, and here at the Farm, Solid Ground’s Community Food Education (CFE) AmeriCorps members have shifted focus to fill some of this volunteer service gap.
Typically, CFE AmeriCorps members teach cooking and nutrition education classes for community members throughout Seattle and onsite at the Farm, but they have stepped up during this time to support the essential work of growing produce at the Giving Garden. Fortunately, the Farm is a wide and open space where people can easily maintain proper social distancing. To ensure volunteer health and safety, Solid Ground is taking multiple precautions, including:
- limiting the number of volunteers at one time
- providing gardening gloves that are washed after each use
- bleaching tools and common touchpoints
CFE AmeriCorps member Taylor Pellizzari shares, “Working at Marra Farm has been a great way to connect with nature and with others safely. These types of connections help me destress and feel grounded during this crazy time. I also love that all the produce we grow goes back into the community to help our food insecure neighbors!”
“I have found that serving at Marra Farm during COVID-19 pandemic has been very rewarding and therapeutic. The food that we grow is directly feeding those who need it most in the South Park community. Knowing that, it makes the long days of weeding and planting all the more worth it.” ~Jackie Rybin, CFE AmeriCorps Member
Jackie Rybin, another CFE AmeriCorps member, shares, “I have found that serving at Marra Farm during COVID-19 pandemic has been very rewarding and therapeutic. The food that we grow is directly feeding those who need it most in the South Park community. Knowing that, it makes the long days of weeding and planting all the more worth it. My love of food is helping me get through this challenging time; I hope that our food grown at Marra Farm may spark similar joy and happiness in those who receive it.”
Despite CFE AmeriCorps members’ support, Marra Farm’s work to create access to healthy food and education to the South Park community depends on volunteers. There are still many safe volunteer opportunities. The Giving Garden at Marra Farm is in need of volunteers to prepare vegetable beds, plant vegetable starts and seeds, weed by hand, compost, water, harvest, wash produce, and distribute it to the community food bank and other locations. No previous experience is required as learning occurs directly on the job. For Solid Ground’s Giving Garden, growing thousands of pounds of food each year just can’t be done without volunteer support!
Volunteering at Marra Farm is a great opportunity to soak in the sun, enjoy the (safely distanced) company of others, and be productive while giving back to the community. If you are interested, please view the Urban Farmhand volunteer listing to get started.