Larry Bosley, Dijana Steward, and Alina Mikolajczyk (left to right) at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford

PHOTO ESSAY: Community Fuels Urban Farm’s Equitable Food System Plans

by Sidney Aspinall and Azeb Tuji


Since 2017, the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands (RBUFW) has been jointly operated by the Tilth Alliance and the Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. 

“RBUFW is unique because it is a working farm in the middle of the community, and it’s really focused on food production, [and] learning about food,” said Melissa Spear, executive director at Tilth Alliance.

Tilth’s community outreach for the Rainier Beach farm focuses on South Seattle and recognizes the diverse needs of the immigrant and refugee communities within the neighborhood.

The Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands farmstand
The Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands farmstand remains empty. “It’s a pay-what-you-can farmstand,” says executive director of the Tilth Alliance, Melissa Spear. “You can get up to $20 worth of produce for free.” (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)

“The other interesting thing about the way we operate RBUFW is that all the programs are not [the Tilth Alliance’s] programs. We have a lot of programs which are run by other community members who just run the site. We collaborate with them, we partner with them, we support them,” said Spear.

Spring crops, on land behind a wooden fence, start to grow at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Spring crops start to grow at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The farm has large growing fields where members plant different types of vegetables to be harvested later in the season. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)

She says the importance of learning how to grow food is its ability to provide people control and sovereignty over their access to food. “It becomes less a matter of, ‘Do I make enough money? Can I afford to go to the grocery store?’ Growing your own food gives you some sense of control over what you are eating, and it’s also healthy.”

Burlap sacks lie in the dirt in different planting strips at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Burlap sacks lie in the dirt in different planting strips at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The sacks are an important natural method of keeping the heat in and making sure the soil stays moist. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
A vendor's table at the Tilth Alliance Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford
The Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale happens annually, and this year it took place in Wallingford. It hosts independent vendors in the front whom it invited to table; this tent was among the ones set up in the area. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
Gayle Sutherland, 54, director of development for the Tilth Alliance, rearranges pumpkin plants on display at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford
Gayle Sutherland, 54, director of development for the Tilth Alliance, rearranges pumpkin plants on display at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford. She said, “It’s not just Tilth; it’s the whole community that makes it happen,” when asked about the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
The No. 4 greenhouse at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Numbered greenhouses remain empty at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. Volunteers are working to get the greenhouses back into use, as improved air circulation will allow them to be filled with plants for the farm. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Lettuce and other starters sit on a table outside of greenhouses at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Lettuce and other starters sit on a table outside of greenhouses at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The farm focuses on agroecology by growing organic produce and food that is grown in harmony with the environment. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Community members browse the assortment of edible plants and herbs available at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford
Community members browsing the assortment of edible plants and herbs available at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
A bulletin board displays a map and messages about what is happening at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
A bulletin board displays a map and messages about what is happening at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The farm works with organizations and businesses in the Rainier Beach community to host events that community members can participate in, like classes and workshops, throughout the year. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Nancy Caballero, 25, youth and family coordinator for the Tilth Alliance, checks inventory at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford
Nancy Caballero, 25, youth and family coordinator for the Tilth Alliance, checks inventory at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford. Nancy emphasized the scholarship opportunities available for youth to participate in, summer camps, and year-round programs Tilth offers. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
Bees swarm around beehives in the apiary of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland
Bees swarm around beehives in the apiary of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland. The farm offers many adult education programs, such as beginner beekeeping classes, that run from March through April. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
The arm and hand of a young volunteer at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford
Vera Danges, 11, volunteers at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford. She lives in the neighborhood and has been coming to the sale for years with her mom, but volunteered for the first time today. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
A chalkboard displays vegetables that can be picked in the Community U-Pick Garden at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
A chalkboard displays vegetables that can be picked in the Community U-Pick Garden at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. Community members are encouraged to come in and harvest fresh produce throughout the season. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Shojun Ritnoppakum, Martin Ritnoppakum, and Lena Dong (left to right) pose for a portrait near the independent vendor tables at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford
Shojun Ritnoppakum, Martin Ritnoppakum, and Lena Dong (left to right) pose for a portrait near the independent vendor tables at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)

Sidney Aspinall was born and raised just outside of Seattle in the small town of North Bend, Washington. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, double majoring in Journalism and Public Interest Communication, and French.

Azeb Tuji is an interdisciplinary artist, multimedia writer, and community activist with a passion for advocating for voices that are often pushed to the margin. They’re currently a graduating senior at the University of Washington, majoring in Journalism and Public Interest Communications.

📸 Featured Image: Larry Bosley, Dijana Steward, and Alina Mikolajczyk (left to right) at the Tilth Alliance’s Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford on Sunday, May 8, 2022. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)

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