A child laughs with an attendant at a past Tilth Edible Plant Sale

Anyone Can Grow Their Own Food: Tilth Alliance Hosts Spring Edible Plant Sale in Rainier Beach

by Amanda Ong

On March 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tilth Alliance will be hosting an Edible Plant Sale at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The sale will include plants bearing fruits, greens, and more, all for between $5 and $15.

Tilth Alliance hosts a number of garden- and sustainability-related educational programs, and the edible plant sale is no different — garden educators hand-picked the offerings you will see at the sale. The many plants available will range from veggies to edible flowers and herbs. While Tilth Alliance usually hosts its Edible Plant Sale in Wallingford in May, this spring sale is an exciting opportunity to offer plants to the South Seattle and Rainier Beach communities. 

“The exciting thing is that we can plant a lot of things in the spring, and people are probably already starting to plant things,” said Laura Matter, Tilth Alliance’s director of natural lawn care. “Things like lettuces, kale, mustard greens, collard greens, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, [broccoli] rabe, arugula, different kinds of greens, spinach, and chard, beets, you’ll see all of that. I think I have seven varieties of onions, even a new one called Blush, which is a beautiful pink color.”

Starts for beets, greens, and more at Tilth’s Edible Plant Sale in March 2016. (Photo: Jennifer Leigh for Tilth Alliance)

In addition, it will have strawberry plants; a variety of herbs; some flowers, like pansies and violets; as well as an assortment of peas. Matter says that aside from the sale, most of Tilth Alliance’s programming is free or has tickets available on a sliding scale, from its email-based garden hotline, to classes and workshops on avoiding pesticides and protecting natural resources, to its Master Composter/Sustainability Steward Program, whose spring class will begin on March 16.

The plant sale will take place at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, which is owned by the Seattle Parks and Recreation and managed by the Tilth Alliance and the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands board. The space is co-managed by Tilth Alliance staff as well as the Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, which is made up of volunteers, and it reflects a legacy of the Rainier Beach community who advocated for the area to be turned into an agricultural center. Seattle Parks then brought in the Tilth Alliance to help with management, and the farm now has an abundance of impressive programming. 

At the farm, Tilth Alliance hosts the Rainier Beach Youth Stewards program, a paid summer internship for Rainier Beach-area students to learn about farming and gardening. It has dedicated fields for organizations like The Burgess Group — a special education and behavioral health group — and East African elders, who have been involved with the farm since its inception. It also partners with organizations like Plant Based Food Share, the Colored Girls Garden Club, the Black Farmers Collective, and Black Star Farmers.

“The goal for [the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands] really is to engage people in the community, especially in Rainier Beach,” Matter said. “We’re doing this plant sale there on purpose, so that we have plants closer to people that have to come up to Wallingford in May. … You’re going to have more variety when you come to a plant sale and pick out a plant.”

While many culturally relevant plants will be available, Matter also says she hopes Tilth Alliance can have even more culturally relevant plant sales in the future. For now, she hopes the Edible Plant Sale can demonstrate to the South Seattle community that anyone can grow their own food. Many things available at the sale will be easy to grow, and March is a great time to start planting. Moreover, she hopes that through the sale and plants available, people might gain some education on the connections between gardening, food, and health. Whether that means branching out to grow a more colorful lettuce, gaining a sense of food agency, or simply trying and appreciating a new edible plant, the Edible Plant Sale will be here to offer something for everyone.

Visit the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands at 5513 S. Cloverdale St. on March 18 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the Edible Plant Sale. Parking will not be available on the farm, but street parking will be available near Be’er Sheva Park. Be prepared for rain or mud, and bring your own boxes and flats to take your plants home in.

Editors’ Note: This article was updated on 03/13/2023 to clarify that not all of Tilth Alliance’s programming is free and that the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands space is co-managed.

Amanda Ong (she/her) is a Chinese American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate at the University of Washington Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in creative writing and ethnicity and race studies.

📸 Featured Image: A child laughs with an attendant at a past Tilth Edible Plant Sale in March 2016. (Photo: Jennifer Leigh for Tilth Alliance)

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