Category Archives: Growing & Giving in the Community

The “New Normal…

Today’s Seattle Times had an interesting article by Janet I. Tu, “‘New normal’ Food banks much busier, despite better economy” that talks about the increasing number of visits to local food banks. While a lot of people think the economy has mostly recovered during last few years, this article provides some alarming statistics including: “In the Seattle area, some food banks are getting more visits now than they did during the recession. At the 27 food pantries in the Seattle Food Committee coalition, the number of visits (including delivery of food to homes) went up from 928,656 in 2007 to 1.1 million in 2009 and to nearly 1.4 million last year.”

This article also highlighted the story of a local food bank client and interviewed Sam Osborne, executive director at the Rainier Valley Food Bank. At our recent Giving Gardeners’ Gathering, we were fortunate to have Sam talk to us about this growing need for donations to food bank and how much our efforts have been appreciated.

Read the the Seattle Time‘s article at ‘New normal’ Food banks much busier, despite better economy.

I imagine that there are many reasons our gardeners are motivated to grow produce for local food banks and it would be great to hear what inspires our gardeners.

Making Compost is Simple? Not!

Making compost is simple: vegetable waste + water+ heat = rot and (eventually) soil. The tricky part comes when we realize that what we put into the compost doesn’t always rot into something that’s healthy. ( School compost programs should think carefully about how to compost: see for example for examples of ways that compost can become a problem.)

To share my own story: when I first started composting I didn’t realize that the bins let the rats and raccoons in. I fed them, made my neighbors mad, and didn’t get much compost for my garden. There are other issues with compost: it needs to be really hot to kill some kinds of the fungi and plant bacteria that ruin our plants. Many home compost systems are just too small to get that hot.

So whose advice to take? It’s important to find information that is about the area where you live. Information from a University that’s in your part of the country is a good way to start. There’s lots of resources on the web but evaluating them is pretty hard – look for articles written after measuring and recording observations. I also try to find advice from local resources and publications which report information from evidence, or the critical evaluation of information and experience. And I ask knowledgeable neighbors: master gardeners – thanks for your advice!

Here’s some Pacific Northwest resources that I found:

Backyard food composting:
Washington State University: such as (The WSU extension program looks objectively at the science behind the recommendation, and tests it to see how it works in the real world.)
Another link would be found at — search “backyard composting” and look for publication EB1784E

Several local groups teach composting in the Northwest. I’d check the credentials of the program before signing up. (A shout-out to school and after-school programs teaching gardening, composting, and research. Deb and Rachel, thanks for asking, and for sending an article to review.)

Food and Faith Programs

We’ve met involved gardeners with the food and faith initiative these last couple of years. Sometimes the folks are growing food for the public food banks, sometimes supporting their own kitchen-based feeding programs. More information about the these groups (and resources for starting or for maintaining your own) can be found on Seattle Tilth’s site. The Food and Faith Initiative provides support for faith-based organizations who want to grow veggies: including information about incorporating food gardening into existing ministries, education and training for congregations, ongoing technical support, guidance on volunteer engagement that will sustain these gardens for many years.