Community Farm Expansion-New plots available!

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Hey everyone! We have officially expanded Sustainable Renton Community Farm! We have 10 new plots available for gardening in this season. We offer a 10’x20’ plot for just $50. This price is good for a 12 month period, so if you want to plant perennials, or try your hand at winter gardening-now is the time. The soil is great and the people are amazing.  The farm is located at 11840 148th Ave NE Renton 98059 (behind Celebration Church). Feel free to stop by the garden any time and have a look around. If you are interested in gardening with us you can get a hold of us at sustainablerenton@gmail.com and we will get you started right away! Get empowered, grow your own!

See you at the farm!

Farm plots available!

IMG_2079The Sustainable Renton Community Farm is expanding!

We have officially been given approval from the land owners to plow and create 13 more garden plots at the community farm! There are only 4 people on the waiting list so now is your opportunity to come and be a part of the amazing community gardening that is happening. Please drop by for a gander any time. The farm is located behind Celebration Church, at 11840 148th Ave NE, Renton 98059. If you would like to arrange a meeting at the farm with the farm manager or would simply like to be placed on the waiting list for plots being made available on May 1st please contact Lara Randolph by emailing to sustainablerenton@gmail.com and she will be glad to give you a tour of the garden and what we have available.

See you at the farm!

How to Plant a P-Patch

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The magnificent Laura Sweaney conducted a workshop at Sustainable Renton Community Farm recently, titled How to Plant a P-Patch using Permaculture Design.  This was perfect for those of us that want to incorporate permaculture techniques but have a small space to do it in. Typically, permaculture is a large scale philosophy to be utilized by the designer in vast amounts of space, but the plots available at the farm are 10’x 20’ so what is a gardener to do? Well, Laura was able to show us a beautiful design that we can use on a small scale that not only increases yields, increases water retention, increases soil health, decreases pest and disease vulnerability but also increases the overall aesthetics of an ordinary P-Patch plot.

For a more detailed explanation of Permaculture principles you can go here.

We began with a blank slate. Granted, the soil at this location is absolutely luscious, so we did not have to do a lot of amending. The plot was empty save for a few pea starts that were struggling to come up after our heavy rains that all but laughed in the face of our enthusiastic gardeners trying to get something in the ground in March.

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The first thing Laura did was to create a pathway through the space. Permaculture is not an advocate of planting in rows. The overarching idea is to mimic nature as closely as possible. For anyone who has studied nature, perhaps one description would be a sort of “ordered chaos”. The path was a curved line that ran through the patch in an s-shape leaving no further than 3’ for one’s arm to reach for harvesting, while maximizing the amount of space to grow in. She made a couple of keyhole beds that were connected by the two ends of the path. A keyhole bed is a space where the gardener can walk into the circle for harvesting. This creates a microclimate where the sun comes in from the south at the beginning of our path and saturates the circle where we have some of our more heat loving plants.

We then began to plant the starts and seeds that we had available to us. We planted lettuce, kale, cabbage, chard, collards, leeks, chives, onion sets, strawberries, carrots, parsnips, rosemary, thyme, lavender and cilantro.

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We placed a bean teepee in the SE corner of the plot with a cabbage in the middle so that as the heat comes on us the cabbage will be protected inside the bean teepee. This structure will be ready for us to plant beans next month. Also we placed a structure for our indeterminate tomatoes to climb on when the time is right for planting. This should prove to be an amazing site when the summer is in full swing.

Permaculture comes from joining the ideas of permanence and agriculture or permanence and culture. As Laura stated, what we are doing at a P-Patch is really about permanent culture. We are building connections with our community to create resilience within our culture, within our city.

This plot is on display as our Permaculture garden plot. So, if you are in the area, stop by and take a look at what we have done to this plot. Up at the farm you will find that there are beautiful things growing, people laughing and making connections. Come and join us. We do have a waiting list for plots coming at the beginning of May, however, there is no need to have a garden plot to come by and hang out for a while. If no one is there, you will be amazed at the peacefulness available. If someone is there you can introduce yourself and make a friend. Bring your lunch, have a picnic with your family. There is a play structure and a sand box for the kids.

Tess the Gardener

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Here is a brief introduction to Tess, the Gardener. I first met Tess at the Meaningful Movies of Renton events; she has been a loyal supporter of them from the beginning. Over time we have come to know each other as like minded neighbors that want to make a positive change in our community.

 

 

 

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I had the pleasure of visiting Tess’ house the other day. When I parked in front of her house located in the Renton Highlands area, I was immediately struck by how the yard has been replaced by garden space to grow things. She had a multitude of berries and bulbs, kale and collards. She confessed to having been influenced by the recent permaculture workshop, led by Laura Sweany, to change the shape of her current garden bed into something a little more in tune with nature-she went from planting in a traditional row pattern to creating a spiral gardening bed. This shape lends itself to more cohesion towards how plants might grow in the wild. This is also a great strategy for confusing pests that may want to attack one crop, for if that crop is sprinkled together with other crops, than the damage is greatly reduced.

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Of course, I noticed the peace sign made from brick that had been incorporated into her walkway through her yard. My kids loved it too.

Tess had chickens in her back yard and two compost systems-one used for kitchen scraps and the other for chicken manure.

I was also blessed to get a taste of Tess’ homemade chili-yummy.

I have to say that this is a shining example of one of the products of being involved with Sustainable Renton-community.

Although it was a short visit I was left with the feeling that we were more connected to one another and how absolutely grateful I am to belong to an organization that fosters a healthier community through fostering healthier relationships with our neighbors.

Priceless.

Laura Sweaney shares her wealth of knowledge in Permaculture

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Recently, Sustainable Renton hosted an excited group who were eager to learn more about the nuances of permaculture. Laura Sweaney was kind enough to share the knowledge she has obtained from two decades of experience in the field. The seminar drew a sizeable crowd at the offices of Sustainable Renton which focused on strategies for individuals to implement at home, including: sheet mulching, composting, zoning and layers, hugelkultur, herb spirals, and plant guilds.

The ethics of permaculture stress a holistic approach of limiting consumption, caring for the earth, and caring for people. It is a method of growing which incorporates traditional ecological knowledge with whole systems design. The general idea is to become productive towards natural systems as opposed to continuing the strain of our current consumption cycles.

When beginning a permaculture garden, Laura noted the important things to consider include planning for future yields, diversity, input & output, energy, wild-soil, a multi-dimensional design, and relative location. Minimizing the amount of non-replenishing resources used such as petroleum based products and precious metals allow scarce energy to be redistributed towards other projects.

Microclimates were also discussed as another aspect to consider when choosing the location of your plants. Laura emphasized, “If you have a corner of your yard that’s a bog or wetland, let it function as a bog or wetland.” It is almost instinctual to want to dig ditches or add soil from outside resources to change the landscape, but many plants love the excess moisture including rhubarb, celery, and fuki.

One of the last things covered in the class was the invisible structures of permaculture. Cottage industries, intentional communities, political and monetary systems, and farmers markets are all elements that play a role in a successful permaculture operation. However, personal relationships, the most tangible and critical structure, was immediately present in the room of enthusiasts. At the end of her talk, the space was adherently fervent and ready to begin networking with each other and working together towards a common goal.

by Joshua Reasoner and Steven Nguyen

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.

Winter Gardening Workshop-This Monday!

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I know its last minute, but if growing food in the winter has always sounded interesting but fear and doubt reigned heavier than a sense of adventure, now is the time to spread those proverbial gardening wings and attempt to fly!

Sustainable Renton Community Farm is holding a Winter Gardening Workshop on Monday, September 23rd at 5:30 pm. This workshop will be led by Cascadia Edible Landscapes. These folks are a small, local company located in the Skyway area and are offering winter veggie starts for those that show up. It would be great to have a good turn out for these folks; however, they offer these starts to anyone who contacts them. Their website is www.eatyouryard.com .

Some of the great things that can be grown in this area are most of the brassicas such as broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Mustards as well as many different greens such as kale, collards, chard and bok choy are also good choices. Many varieties of lettuce, spinach, onions and peas can also be grown. This comes as a relief because these crops are essentially the crops that have a tendency to bolt, with the exception of onions and peas, in the heat of summer. So come and check out Cascadia Edible Landscape’s collection and face those winter gardening fears this year.

Also, if you happened to miss our seed saving workshop with the Urban Food Warrior, Caitlin Moore, you will have another chance to meet her in January with our Plan Your Garden Workshop-details to come within the next month.

Also, there are four plots being used for pumpkin and squash beds, those plots will be coming available for new gardeners in the next months following the harvests. The price for a garden plot is $50 for a 12 month period.

There are already two people on the waiting list, so if you are interested, please contact Lara Randolph at larar35@comcast.net or Elizabeth Zwicker at linguisticnurse@gmail.com or Sustainable Renton at sustainablerenton@gmail.com

Happy gardening!

Harvesting community.

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Wow. This has been such a busy time of year and especially busy at the farm. Cucumbers, beans and zucchini coming out of our ears with tomatoes hot on their tails, we have been given so much abundance that it is impossible not to stop and absolutely marvel at the gifts that this earth gives and gives and gives.

The farm is such a wonderful place to see what we can have if only we work together. It is a magical place of community and democracy. Everyone is heard and no one is denied. There aren’t any economic chasms or religious strife. There is no anxiety about the future, only pure enjoyment in the present, and a teaching that we are connected to everything and everyone. We are not isolates. We all play an integral part in the fabric of existence and we all have a duty to one another. That duty is to be conscious-to make ourselves available for connection to one another. How easy it is these days to whirl around in a fog of anxiety, feeling alone while we are desperate to find connection on social websites, having opinions about things, but taking no action towards changing the cause of our anxiety.

The farm is a place where action can be taken to build a sustainable space for all to enjoy. I say this as someone who feels anxiety from time to time about the future of things, followed quickly by a sense of powerlessness, but at the farm there is a sense of empowerment, a place where actions make a difference, a place where community gathers to work towards a common goal. It is a place that has a core value that is worthy of exploration.

That being said, it is time to plant for a winter garden. One of the benefits of having space at the farm is that we garden year round, which makes it great for planting perennials like asparagus, garlic and berries.

We are planning on expanding for next Spring, so if you are interested in reserving a space please let us know as soon as possible and come and help create that space on Sundays at 4 pm.

Organically yours,

Lara Randolph, Farm Manager

larar35@comcast.net

sustainablerenton@gmail.com