Meet our Gardeners #3: Laura Sweany

Hello readers! Here is the next installment of getting to know the gardeners up at Sustainable Renton Community Farm. Laura has been an amazing resource throughout our process of getting the gardens at the farm started. She is a wealth of knowledge on so many topics of sustainability. She led our first official workshop at the farm site, and has been utilized countless times for consultation throughout this first growing season. We are blessed to have her presence.

headshotName: Laura Sweany

City of residence: Skyway

What do you do for a living? Urban Agriculture

How long have you been gardening? 20 years

How did you become interested in Sustainable Renton Community Farm? I have been an active member of Sustainable West Seattle and was delighted to find a local SCALLOPS group in my area.

What do you like most about the SRCF? The soil is AMAZING. Even weeding is a joy when you have such pristine soil to play in.

What kinds of things are you growing in your garden? The hot-weather plants I included are going strong this year: jalapeno, banana and green bell peppers, cucumbers (so many cukes!), radishes (especially the seed pods), dill, chives, cilantro/coriander, epazote, chamomile for tea, yellow and Italian zucchini, cabbages, collards, scarlet runner beans (when the deer don’t beat me to them), onions and tomatoes. Not many tomatoes. Late blight got almost my entire crop – I lost about 120# of tomatoes. But I harvested 40# of tomatillos, so that makes up for it a little.

What is your favorite thing to grow and why? That’s like asking “which of your children do you love the most”. Impossible to answer. Japanese cucumbers are fun – they yield over a long period and do well in cooler weather. This year they didn’t even really start bearing till it got cooler – early September. The jalapenos were a huge surprise this year – I got two BIG bowls full off of 6 plants. The collards keep trying to take over the world – that’s a lot of fun to see, too.

Do you employ a particular gardening philosophy? If so, what it is it and why? I grow using the principle of polyculture – many things growing together. No rigid rows or single-crop straight lines. So I have edibles, ornamentals, tea plants and herbs all in a riot of production. It confuses pests and minimizes disease, except in my monoculture of tomatoes. Once again, the hazards of monoculture become apparent, even in the small scale of our community garden. If you have one diseased plant, it easily becomes MANY diseased plants.

There is a waiting list forming for the next season of growing. Please contact:

Lara Randolph/Farm Manager

Larar35@comcast.net

or

sustainablerenton@gmail.com

 

Meet our Gardeners #2: Niki Samek

Hello everyone! This week the interview comes from a gardener who tried her hand at gardening at this capacity for the very first time.

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Name:  Niki Samek

City of residence:   Renton

What do you do for a living?

Nanny

How long have you been gardening?

1 whole season!

How did you become interested in Sustainable Renton Community Farm?

I’ve been wanting to try gardening for a long time but haven’t had the space for it.  It was a big YES! moment when Lara asked if I was interested.

What do you like most about the SRCF?

I love the peaceful feeling that comes over me when surrounded by such lush and beautiful new life and growth.

What kinds of things are you growing in your garden?

This season we grew giant sunflowers, 3 kinds of bush beans, spinach, broccoli, radishes, potatoes, bell peppers, strawberries, beets, amaranth, marigolds, sugar pumpkins, cucumbers, rosemary, calendula and carrots.

What is your favorite thing to grow and why?

hmmm….  the pumpkins were CRAZY fun to watch and try to manage as they tried to take over our entire plot.  Food wise, I loved having the ability to wander out and pick some dinner off of our broccoli and spinach plants.

Do you employ a particular gardening philosophy? If so, what it is it and why?

Sew seeds, and water, weed, love on obsessively, until I get busy and then ignore guiltily.   Occasionally throw some rabbit poop around to feed.  It has been such a wonderful experience to share in everyone’s enthusiasm and wonder at how miraculously things grow. The seed pod is genuinely one of nature’s many abundant miracles that provide us with everything we need to live wholesome, healthy lives. And to think, it didn’t come from a drive-thru window! Who knew? A lot of people know that, but in a busy world that keeps us from ourselves it is easy to forget that the earth provides us with everything we need.

Sustainable Renton Community Farm is a facilitator of remembering what a wonderful gift the earth is.

Interview conducted by Lara Randolph, Sustainable Renton Community Farm Manager.

We have a waiting list for gardening next season-if you are interested, please contact:

Lara Randolph/Farm Manager at larar35@comcast.net or 425-228-0345

Or Sustainable Renton at sustainablerenton@gmail.com

Meet our Gardeners #1: Liz Kramps

This is the first of many interviews talking with the people who garden and who are involved with the Sustainable Renton Community Farm. They are such an amazing group of people that I thought it would be great to get to know them a bit better.

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The first gardener I am featuring is Liz Kramps. She came to farm in July and has managed to make her plot so abundant, that she has been able to contribute to the harvests that go to The Red House twice a week. She has an amazingly mellow and confident demeanor that makes her very easy to talk with and when you do, you find out that she is a wealth of knowledge on various topics of gardening. She has provided the farm and other gardeners with excellent resources and information.

Liz lives in Renton. Here is the interview:

What do you do for a living?
Currently I’m working for a clinical research organization. Not my ideal job, would much rather do something with a bit more soul, but it pays the bills for now.

How long have you been gardening?  
I’ve been gardening for about 10 years to varying degrees.  I started with tomatoes and peppers on my fire escape, to a barrage of containers in a neighbor’s yard, to a community garden plot.  Most of my experience has been on the east coast so there’s been a little learning curve since I moved to WA 2 and a half years ago.  I am enjoying the mild winters and am really excited to grow this winter.

How did you become interested in Sustainable Renton Community Farm? 
I was looking for a space to grow things and in my search found the SRCF.  I was so excited to find such a great space so close to home!!

What do you like most about the SRCF?  I really like that it’s a new space with so much potential and a great mix in it’s knowledge base.

What kinds of things are you growing in your garden? 
Right now I have a LOT of greens, some peppers, eggplant, tomatillos and summer squash.

What is your favorite thing to grow and why?  
The one thing that I grow every year are thai hot peppers, though I’ve found the PNW a little tricky to grow hot peppers in.  I’m thinking of keeping them in a small hoop house all summer next year and/or keeping black plastic over the soil to keep the temps up.  I am most excited to expand my garden and include brassicas and garlic.

Do you employ a particular gardening philosophy? If so, what it is it and why? 
I don’t have a specific philosophy, obviously I employ organic principles.  Beyond that I grow food because I want to know what it is that I am eating.  Over the years I have transitioned to eating probably 85% local and in season, my weaknesses being coffee, sugar and bananas :).  I preserve quite a bit, have a well stocked chest freezer and participate in countless bulk buys to procure food that is locally produced from small farmers.  Overall I know who grows or raises most of my food.  I currently have a small flock of laying hens and have in the past raised meat chickens, which is something I’d like to be able to do again next year.  This year I am raising turkeys for my sister and I for the holidays and have learned that turkeys are super funny and am dreading their impending end.  Though I guess my ‘eating philosophy’ is that if I want to eat it, I should be able to grow/raise it and do all the steps from farm to table.

Interview conducted by Lara Randolph, Sustainable Renton Community Farm Manager.