by Carolyn Bick
Like many organizations, Tilth Alliance had to move to virtual classes and workshops when the pandemic hit last year. Now that vaccination rates are high and climbing, the local food and urban farming nonprofit is offering several in-person classes — but that doesn’t mean the online classes are going away. And these classes could attract more people than in previous years.
“We usually see a little dip in summer classes compared to spring, but it could be different this year, because so many people are interested and have been interested in growing [their] own food and learning more about how to cook, how to get closer to what they eat and to their food source,” Director of Outreach Sheryl Wiser said. “So we don’t really see this slacking off anytime soon.”
Also, Wiser said, virtual classes have made it possible for people who face transportation issues or other barriers to attending in-person classes to learn about urban gardening and foraging. Sometimes, it might just come down to something as simple as the fact that people don’t like being outside in the intense heat.
“There are maybe people … who are like, ‘You know what, it’s 85 degrees, and I don’t want to be outside, so how can I learn this?’ Or people, for whatever reason, [who] are not comfortable [in-person] and would prefer to learn online,” Wiser said.
Though summer is in full swing, several of the adult classes are looking ahead to the cooler months, with everything from starting a fall and winter garden to pickling and canning. Many of the classes take place in a live, virtual setting, as well as in-person. In addition to offering a sliding-scale rate to participants who want to join online classes but may have reduced financial capacity, Tilth Alliance has reserved a few free spaces for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) participants. BIPOC participants can find the discount code for those slots on the Tilth Alliance website.
Wiser also said that though kids’ summer camps are full, Tilth Alliance will be offering after-school and holiday or weekend camps.
Tilth Alliance also recently started up its pay-what-you-can farm stand on June 17. The farm stand is open every Thursday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. through the end of September. Wiser said that the farm stand is specifically designed to be “full diet,” meaning it has things like eggs, cheese, grains, beans, and jams, in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables. The produce the farm stand sells comes from local farmers throughout the state, Wiser said, and is focused specifically on family farms.
“This year, we have added some of our favorite garden tools and books [to the farm stand],” Wiser said. “It just opened last week, so last week, [the farm stand] had some regulars and a lot of new faces from the community, which is wonderful.”
In an effort to expand fresh, local food access to everyone, Tilth Alliances offers up to $20 of produce for free for each person in need per visit. The farm stand also accepts EBT and Fresh Bucks and offers SNAP Market Match.
Wiser also said that Tilth Alliance is often in need of volunteers to both set up and break down the farm stand, as well as to pack Good Food Bags, a weekly produce subscription specifically for families in South Seattle who have limited access to fresh food or who can’t afford grocery store prices. Interested community members can sign up to volunteer with Tilth Alliance.
Of course, it’s not all work: Tilth Alliance will also be offering a couple horticultural art classes with local artists.
“I love this art class. It’s drawing tomatoes with colored pencils,” Wiser said, referring to one of the upcoming classes. “It’s a live, virtual class. So … you’re there with your grown-up coloring book, and you just want to have some nice music on, and you have a glass of wine or kombucha, and you just sit outside and draw tomatoes.”
Author’s Note: This reporter is very seriously considering joining the art class to try their hand at drawing a tomato. Even if everything goes sideways, at least they’ll have a snack.
Carolyn Bick is a journalist and photographer based in South Seattle. As the Emerald’s Watchdragon reporter, they dive deep into local issues to keep the public informed and ensure those in positions of power are held accountable for their actions. You can reach them here and can check out their work here and here.
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