Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feeding the Hungry through Farming with Solid Ground

NAAAP-Seattle volunteers returned to the land…for four hours of farming at the Giving Garden, Marra Farm in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood on March 26.

The local non-profit Solid Ground operates Marra Farm as an “urban community farm engaging people in sustainable agriculture and education while enhancing local food security.” Marra Farm Manager Sue McGann said the organic food grown on these four acres help feed the local community, comprised of mostly Latinos and a large Asian minority, through Providence Regina House Food Bank, Mien senior citizens, and Concord Elementary School.

The NAAAP-Seattle volunteers learned first-hand about the cycle of growing food. NAAAP-Seattle pruned the raspberry patches, cleared clubroot diseased patches, transported compost, and tilled beds of soil. All volunteers were newcomers to Marra Farm, and most had never tried farming before.

Volunteers included Jiunn Lee, Miles Matsumoto, John Park, Howard Yu, Tracy Zhen, CH Lee, Timothy Chang, Micah Chan, Jason Nguyen, Janet Chu, Cheng Lee, Yen La, Phillip Yu, and Richard Palawan.

Five NAAAP-Seattle board members also volunteered: Community Service Chair Jenafer Park, Technology Chair Sherwin Tsao, Vice President-Operations David Eam, President Gil Gido and PR/Marketing Chair Julie Pham.

Community Service committee member Jiunn Lee led the project. Jiunn said that some people even contacted him at 1 am the night before the event to sign-up.

"We're really thankful for all the volunteers who came because every thought and hardwork counts at the end of the day," said Jiunn Lee. "It just feels great to see people from different backgrounds giving up their precious time to volunteer."

For first-time NAAAP-Seattle volunteer Cheng Lee, he said he signed up for the event because he was “curious about farming.”

“I sit in my office and (computer) program all day,” said Cheng Lee. “It was really interesting to learn about farming, about the clubroot disease.”

Cheng Lee added, “It was a great workout, better than just going to a gym. And we did a lot of teamwork exercises because we had to share tools.”

According to McGann, Marra Farm attracts over 1000 volunteers each year. Last year’s crop yielded a record-breaking 22,000 pounds from one acre. “It was 9,000 pounds more than in any other year, despite the super cold weather,” said McGann.

People don’t just go to Marra Farm. “Sometimes people come here for birthday parties. Groups farm for four hours, eat birthday cake, and donate some money to the program,” said McGann. “In September, we’ll have our annual outdoor movie screening. People will eat roasted corn, bring blankets, and watch a movie under a starry sky.

Since the South Park bridge's closure last June, many of the local businesses have been hurt. The volunteers ended their day's worth of farming by dining at South Park Mexican eatery, Muy Macho.

Miles Matsumoto also created a photo documentary of the day's event.

Photos: (top) David Eam and Sherwin Tsao clearing clubroot patches; (middle) group photo of NAAAP-Seattle volunteers; (bottom) Gil Gido on the path to the fields.

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