by Carolyn Bick
The farm stand hadn’t even opened for business yet, but the socially distant line for Tilth Alliance’s new farm stand was already starting to stretch down the organization’s driveway on the sunny afternoon of June 25.
The nonprofit organic gardening and urban ecology organization is located at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands in partnership with Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. Tucked away in a leafy residential area on South Cloverdale Street, this is the city’s largest urban farm. Tilth Alliance officially launched the new farm stand in this outdoor space on June 18. The farm stand is open every Thursday from 2–7 p.m. and is yet another one of Tilth Alliance’s efforts to support South King County residents.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Tilth Alliance has been working to help the South Seattle community. While it only recently started up its volunteer work parties again, with strict masking and distancing guidelines, it has continued to provide gardening and ecology classes online and provide families in need with Good Food Bags, a weekly seasonal produce program.
Most of the farm stand’s produce is grown at Tilth Alliance, while other products, such as fruit, edible flowers, honey, and eggs, come from local farmers. Though only the produce selection is pay-what-you-can for up to $20 worth of produce — even if that means a person pays nothing — all the money collected goes towards supporting the nonprofit and local farmers who grow the food. There is also a discreet checkout system, so that people don’t feel self-conscious about paying or not paying for produce.
Market Programs Manager Kerri Cacciata said that there had been a small farm stand at the location years ago, but it has recently taken new shape with the collaboration between Cacciata and Tilth Alliance farmer Suez Gebretsadik, including a newly-launched CSA that people can pick up at the farm stand.
Cacciata also said that they make a point to prioritize local farmers when sourcing goods.
“We prioritize King County farmers, and BIPOC farmers, so I’ve got a handful of immigrant and refugee farmers that I work with, and female-run farms,” Cacciata said. “So, those are kind of my first tier of sourcing standards. A lot of the farms are on the small side, too, so … being able to source for the farm stand is a nice way to connect.”
South Seattle-based nonprofit Bike Works will also be on site at least once a month to do free bike repairs for people who visit and was there the day the Emerald visited.
Because there is still a pandemic raging throughout the world, particularly in the United States, Tilth Alliance ensures that people wait six feet apart in line and hands out sanitized and bagged masks to those patrons who arrive without them. There is also a handwashing station on site.
Though the farm stand is only in its second week, at least 200 families have already visited. The number doesn’t include the 30 CSAs and 20–40 Good Food Bag pickups, but Tilth Alliance’s Market Programs Coordinator Lexa Dundore said in a follow-up email to the Emerald that there is likely some overlap.
Cacciata said that there are no plans to expand beyond just the one farm stand once per week, at least not until the organization can get solid feedback from the community.
“Definitely would love to expand our reach,” Cacciata said. “I think it will just kind of be an exciting summer to see how we can serve the community, especially with everything that’s going on right now.”
The Tilth Alliance farm stand in Rainier Beach is located at 5513 South Cloverdale St., Seattle, WA 98118, and is open every Thursday from 2–7 p.m. All Tilth Alliance produce is pay-what-you-can for up to $20 worth of produce. Other items sourced from local farmers can be purchased with cash, credit, EBT, or Fresh Bucks. Tilth Alliance also offers SNAP Market Match. You can learn more about the farm stand and associated volunteer opportunities here.
Featured image: Adrianna Petty, left, hands Jordan Petty a box of produce to carry at Tilth Alliance’s farm stand at the organization’s Rainier Beach home base in Seattle, Washington, on June 25, 2020. (Photo: Carolyn Bick)