Friday, July 8, 2011

Fresh Starts for Denny Apartment Residents

In addition to growing food to donate to food banks (and coordinating with fabulous P-Patch gardeners and individuals around the city who do the same), Lettuce Link also connects families living on lower incomes with fresh, organic produce by providing seeds and starts to help folks grow their own fresh veggies.

Thanks to a dedicated volunteer group at the Wallingford Greenhouse, Lettuce Link has been able to donate plant starts to communities across Seattle. Residents of the Low Income Housing Institute’s sustainably-designed Denny Park Apartments began gardening in a community terrace after receiving starts from Lettuce Link four years ago.

This year, volunteer garden coordinator Rafael Ravenet contacted Lettuce Link about continuing donations, and residents have since added vegetables such as tomatoes, tomatillos, squash, peas, and green onions to their personal and community gardens.

Denny Park gardeners come together on Thursday afternoons to work in their terrace gardens, share food, and build community. On a recent Thursday, apartment residents Bonnie and Victoria showed off their gardens while their sons Brian and Jacob played in the common space. Both boys like to help their mothers with some of the garden work: Brian loves to dig in the soil, while Jacob prefers planting. As Bonnie observes, showing kids how food is grown is one of the many reasons that apartment residents are happy to start their own gardens.

There’s something to learn for everyone: Bonnie, who is excited to be gardening for the first time in her life, exclaims “I never really even saw blueberries grow ‘til here!” while Victoria is experimenting with different types of vegetables, from lettuce to collards.

For the residents of Denny Park, gardening is about even more than education and fun. Many of the apartment residents may not be able to enjoy fresh, local, organic produce on a regular basis because of barriers such as limited income, time, and access. The Denny Park community has seen additional benefits: as Bonnie mentions, growing your own food can often be a better route to nutritious and tasty veggies than going to the grocery store. Jessie, a social worker in the apartments, says residents also recognize that “[food] tastes better because you made it yourself.”

At Denny Park, the combination of the residents’ enthusiasm and hard work and the plant starts provided by Lettuce Link provides an inspiring example of the power of growing and giving. As Ravenet observes, gardening together has created “a transformation” in the apartment residents, as “it has liberated them... [and] enriched their lives.”

Here’s to the power of fresh starts at Denny Park--we’re looking forward to checking back in to see what’s growing later this summer!

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