Sunday, September 12, 2010

Giving Gardeners: Cyrus Appell and Growing Food, Growing Community

The array of people dedicated to local food systems, gardening, and food access continues to propel Seattle's Year of Urban Agriculture. At Lettuce Link, we're blessed to work with dynamic community volunteers.

In Wallingford, for example, volunteers with Growing Food, Growing Community grow vegetable starts for Lettuce Link to distribute to Seattle's Giving Gardens and food bank clients.

Cyrus Appell, Sue Hartman, and Abby Klingbeil organized Growing Food, Growing Community two years ago after a Sustainable Wallingford meeting. Cyrus hosts the volunteer project at his backyard greenhouse. Come spring, it bursts with green lettuce sprouts, tiny tomatoes that crowd the top shelves, and snap peas hardening off outside the greenhouse doors.

Wallingford Greenhouse
Cyrus gives his time each spring in greenhouse management and plant care along with offering his home to the cause. His commitment to growing and giving stems from years of community involvement around Seattle. "Community grows to support each other," notes Cyrus, "it inspires people to work together in a great diversity of activities." This support provides hundreds of starts for growing and giving efforts in Seattle.

This past season, Lettuce Link was able to request that volunteers grow culturally appropriate types of vegetables for food bank clients. "It was important to have the communication link" notes Cyrus, "we understood what they wanted." Cyrus witnessed first hand the results of growing culturally appropriate seeds through his volunteer work at a free medical clinic in Lake City upstairs from the food bank. "Some of the patients were carrying vegetables that we'd grown the starts for" says Cyrus, "It's exciting to see the end result."

Growing in the greenhouse
In addition to growing plants, the group is growing community, knowledge, and skills. Volunteers come with a range of gardening experience. Through weekly assignments in the greenhouse, they learn about seed starting, transplanting, and plant care. Next season, several volunteers are taking on leadership roles. This will help sustain the project, and allows volunteers to learn more about plant care and management.

In 2010, volunteers from Wallingford donated over 1,500 starts. Cyrus sees the vision growing, "it could be that we have five or six greenhouses scattered around Seattle that would produce for Giving Gardens, teach classes, and facilitate more gardens in Seattle with a strong emphasis on organic growing and community sharing," he muses. Though resources can be tight, its amazing what can be accomplished when volunteers come together.

"With poor economic times, having a local, community based food production resource as well as other cooperative ventures may become a vital component of our community's viability," notes Cyrus. With Growing Food, Growing Community, volunteers are bringing their skills and passion to care for one another and their community.

If you're interested in growing starts for food banks or P-Patch Giving Gardens, we'd love to hear from you: Cyrus Appell is also happy to talk about starting a greenhouse project in your neighborhood

Tomatoes getting ready to go.
-Sadie Beauregard, Lettuce Link

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