Farm Works 2012 Team Tours Markets and Restaurants in Seattle

How do you become a successful farmer? Visit and become aware of your customers!

What better way to find out about how to become a successful small-farmer than to visit the markets in which they (we) will be selling and distributing to during the year. The 2012 Class took their first tour to market today by visiting Island Soul Restuarant in Columbia City, Madison Market/Central Co-Op in Capital Hill, and the University District Farmers Market.

Our morning began with a quick meeting at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm (and wetlands) and talked about Seattle Tilth’s urban agriculture projects happening in the SE District. Then we headed over to Columbia City to meet Theo at Island Soul.

We sold regularly last year to Island Soul, bringing fresh collard greens, lettuce, kales, and cabbages for about 3 months. One of the issues was scale and consistency, and this year we are working with Theo closely to find out his produce needs for the year so that we can have a better and more productive (profitable) relationship for both parties.

We then headed over to Madison Market to talk with Shelby, the new produce manager (miss you AJ hope you are loving NOLA!), and walk through the produce section, recieving area, and talk about cold storage, delivery scheduling, and some of the “best practices” that will help her team at Central Co-Op to get our produce on the shelves.

Madison Market works closely with local producers even if they are only using organic practices and not fully “certified”. This is great for us at Farm Works because the story we have, combined with our “beyond organic” production philosophy, helps to close the gap between local production and local consumption.

We ended the day with a full tour and food sampling at the Farmers Market in the University District and had a great talk with the Market Manager and Food Safety Inspector about permits, applications, food handling permitting, setting up booth spaces, best practices, and market demand for specific products that they are still looking for local sources.

Participants were able to talk to other local farmers, fishers, meat and milk folks, and value-added product producers like cheese, preserves, and breads to get a better idea about talking food with food producers, finding out what sales and revenues streams are looking like over the winter, and how to connect and network with others who can help grow your new small-farms business.

The day ended with some food sampling, small purchases, then a quick return to Rainier Beach to see Katie Penke, the Farm Manager, and have a post-tour discussion on next weeks class assignments.

Thanks to Central Co-Op (Madison Market), Theo at Island Soul, and the staff at the University District’s Saturday Farmers Market!!

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The Wash Pack Station is Nearly Complete!

United Peoples Farm at Red Barn Ranch is one step closer to becoming a fully functioning certified small-farm! After a slight pause in our construction schedule with a snowstorm, ice storm, then windstorm that brought trees and power-lines down around the neighborhood (power was out for four days), the team is back on track and finishing off our Wash Pack Station.

Zach, with our new live-in interns Paul and Ivy, with help from Ben (Cafe Racer), Ike Dodd, and other volunteers, have gotten the main poles in, framed out the station, and installed roofing. The next steps are the filters and pipes, tables, drying stations, shelving, and water-recycling system with proper drainage and gravel.

The station is a very important part of a good agriculture plan and we are extremely thankful for the support of the Sustainable Path Foundation and New Belgium Brewery. Their generous awards of support grants are helping the farm become sustainable and more efficient.

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San Diego IRC Conference: Building Stronger Communities with Farming

Having been to a few conference this year and last year, I have discovered a few things about where I will go or send staff in 2012! A good conference should be both informative (practical application) and inspiring (realisitc and motivational) and this conference did the job right!  Zach and I attended for the first time as new members and were treated like family immediately by Hugh Joseph and Larry Laverentz, founders and mentors to the network.

The RAPP conference is a convergence of all of the Refugee Agricultural Projects across the nation and everyone meets up and shares techniques and notes and networks. Seattle Tilth is currently not funded by RAPP or ORR, however we were still asked to share info, meet with IRC staff from Seattle, as well as present information about our market ideas, training methods, and challenges!

The conference was hosted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) which works in 40 countries and 22 cities in the U.S. to provide support and aid to refugees.  The IRC in San Diego supports the New Roots for Refugees Farm which is a project like ours that helps refugees learn to grow and sell vegetables in the U.S.

We visited the City Heights farmers market and saw the project participants selling their veggies like pros.  The farmer’s market was very different from the Seattle and King County farmer’s markets because it reflected the diverse immigrant and refugee population of the City Heights neighborhood in San Diego.

We also toured the New Roots for Refugees farm and it was amazing to see all the differentplots cultivated by refugees from all over the world.  The techniques of growing and the myriad of fruits, flowers and veggies growing in each plot was such a diverse reflection of the histories and cultures of the farmers.

Another highlight was the IRC and New Roots for Refugees plant nursery and a tilapia aquaponics/aquaculture system all located downtown in City Heights.  The tilapia aquaponics system was made famous by McArthur genius grant recipient Will Allen and the Growing Power urban farm in Milwaukee.  Here’s how the system works:  Tilapia fish are raised in large tanks inside a greenhouse.  The nitrogen rich wastewater that the fish create is pumped through a filtration system of gravel and sometimes watercress which both work to break down the ammonia in the fish waste into nitrogen fertilizer.

The filtered nitrogen rich water is piped through the roots of plants also growing in the greenhouse.  The plants further filter the water removing nitrogen so that the water is then safe to flow back into the fish tanks where it first came from.  In the end you have tilapia that can be raised in an urban environment and plants and vegetables that are fertilized as a byproduct of the tilapia production.   It’s a loop that requires very little extra input–the water is recycled and the fish waste used to nourish plants instead of “wasted” or disposed of.    In conventional fish farming the high concentration of the byproduct waste can be a serious pollutant and in freshwater systems the amount of water needed is tremendous.  Hence the beauty of the aquaponics/aquaculture system.

Now in Seattle and King County, I would lean towards Lake Trout or local white fish verses Talapia for several reasons, we will be connecting with Department of Ecology and WSU to figure out a regional safe fish that does not require tropical conditions to be raised. Vertical space used by hanging plants. Underneath are veggies growing aquaponically and fed by fish waste water.

Zach and I also got to tour other farmers markets in San Diego, a water processing plant, a few local garden/farm sites, and of course eating So. Cal Fish Tacos! Maybe for the last time in a while due to radioactive waste arriving from Japan’s earthquake last March. More a reason to start indoor organic fish growing…..


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Early Freeze and Seattle City Council Tour

It has been a whirl-wind Autumn and Winter is coming fast (actually already here at 410′ off the Green River floor!

Things have been very busy at the farm! Unknown to us we had a very early freeze around October 15th, much earlier than we expected. We continued to sell frozen chard and kale until mid-November, got cover crop see into the ground a few weeks late (each week you are late, you lose of the potential 50% biomass), however we got it in just in-time for the freeze.

In November we had a great tour of the farm by Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin, well known for supporting and making changes to our local food regulations and codes.

On his Blog Conlin gave the following supportive input, “It’s a great concept (Seattle Tilth Farm Works), and our tour group – which included staff from the Port of Seattle, Public Health, and other organizations – could see the potential that this land has.  We are looking forward to working with Tilth to ensure that all of the arable land is brought into production – and that Seattle residents will have access to healthy food while creating income for new farmers.”

Much of the work now is preparing for the next group of participants, set to start on January 14th, 2012! We have accepted three new interns; Ivy, Paul, and Dana! Totally excited! We have also connected formally with the International Rescue Committee and the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the 2011 IRC Conference that was held in San Diego, in early December. It was great meeting everyone and we will be working closely with this outstanding international organization to build a stronger program.

Have a great Holiday season and we will see you in January! Thank you all for all of the help and support that you have provided, we could not have done this without very committed partners, supporters, advisors, and staff!

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Seattle Tilth Receives USDA Funding for Farm Works Business Training Program

Seattle Tilth Receives USDA Funding for Farm Business Training Program for Underserved Communities!

Seattle Tilth has been awarded $483,160 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s(USDA) Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a competitive grants program administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The funding will support Seattle Tilth Farm Works which provides training for immigrants, refugees and low-income families in farming skills and business development in South King County.

“We’re thrilled to have our work recognized nationally as an important contribution towards repairing our regional food system.” Executive Director Andrea Dwyer explained. “An investment of this magnitude will provide long-term benefits by creating viable small businesses and improving overall public health.”

Seattle Tilth Farm Works provides local refugees, immigrants, and low-income Americans the opportunity to participate in developing a sustainable food system by growing food organically and selling it to local corner stores, farmers markets and other small market buyers in their geographic or ethnic communities.

Farmers gain hands-on experience growing food on and develop small farm businesses. Access to land, equipment, and utilities is subsidized for program participants, with subsidies decreasing over time as farmers grow their businesses. Farmers also go on educational field trips to tour other farm operations, get support to sell food at local markets and events and take classes on creating a business plan as well as other farming and business topics. Somali Bantu, Ethiopian, Burundian and other low-income
families have participated in the program. The program is currently accepting applications for new participants.

The USDA has awarded 36 grants totaling $18 million to organizations that will provide training and assistance to beginning farmers and ranchers to help them run successful and sustainable farms. At least 25 percent of the program’s funding supports the needs of limited resource and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, as well as farm workers who want to get a start in farming and ranching. The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program was established through the 2008 Farm Bill.

Partnering organization Burst for Prosperity piloted the program in 2009 and passed the reins to Seattle Tilth in 2010.

Essential support also comes from Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) through the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, managed locally by King County Public Health. The land belongs to Seattle Parks and Recreation and they are making it
available as part of their Parks Urban Food Systems program.

For more information about the BFRDP program, visit: Find out more about Seattle Tilth Farm Works:


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Seattle Tilth Farm Works is now accepting applications for 2012 participants!!

Seattle Tilth Farm Works 2012 Application

We provide accessible small farm business training and support for low-income, immigrant, and refugee populations.

Seattle Tilth is providing appropriate educational and farm business opportunities to immigrants, refugees and other underserved families in South King County through a “farm incubator” program known as Seattle Tilth Farm Works (aka United People’s Farm).

Seattle Tilth Farm Works participants attend farm and business trainings, tour neighboring farm operations, and gain hands-on experience growing and harvesting food using organic practices.

Current News

What’s a “Farm Incubator”?

Through Seattle Tilth Farm Works, participants are empowered, and expected, to create market, farm and business plans to ensure their success as small farm operators. Participants who successfully complete the program will have an opportunity to rent land, equipment and utilities at subsidized rates. Graduates will also continue to receive market and distribution support, in addition to opportunities for continuing education.

Somali Bantu, Ethiopian, Burundian and other low-income families have participated in the program. Seattle Tilth Farm Works is now accepting applications for participants in the 2012 training! Applications are open.

At the heart of this project is the idea that participating farmers learn best by actually operating a small farm in a supportive environment. This learn-by-doing concept has already been proven  successful at other nationally recognized agricultural small farm and new farmer trainings. This program provides:

  • A comprehensive educational program covering farming, business planning,
    operations and marketing
  • On-site mentorship from experienced farmers and food systems businesses
  • Hands-on experience growing food on 1/4 acre plots
  • Access to farmland, equipment, water and other necessary farming inputs
  • Assistance in creating marketing channels for products in both general and ethnic specific markets.


Help from community volunteers is always needed and there are always projects around to start and complete. Find out about volunteer and internship opportunities at the United People’s Farm. Learn composting, how to grow worms, start plants, or plan for spring crops.

Buy Our Produce

Somali Bantu Family Farmers of Washington (Seattle Tilth Farm Works participants) will be at the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers market, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m, June-October, located at S. 227th St. & Dock St, Des Moines, WA 98198. Produce is also sold at Highline Community College, located at 2400 S. 240th St., Des Moines, WA 98198. Seattle
Tilth Produce is also sold to Grand Central Bakery, Central Co-op and South King County restaurants and small grocery stores.

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Seattle Farm Works Open House Oct.22nd!!

Seattle Tilth Farm Works Open House

Put on your boots and come see Seattle Tilth Farm Works in action! The media and public are invited to an open house on Saturday, October 22 , 10-11:30 a.m. in Auburn.

During the open house, visitors will be guided on a tour of the farm and have the opportunity to meet the farmers and staff while they are busy harvesting and preparing the fields for winter.  Seattle Tilth’s Executive Director Andrea Platt Dwyer will be making an announcement about exciting news for the future of the Seattle Tilth Farm Works. This event is part of national, state and local Food Day 2011 activities.

Seattle Tilth Farm Works’ Open House
Saturday, October 22; 10-11:30 a.m.
United People’s Farm
17601 SE Lake Moneysmith Rd., Auburn, WA 98092
Get Directions

Seattle Tilth is providing educational and farm business opportunities to immigrants, refugees and other underserved families in South King County through a “farm incubator” program known as Seattle Tilth FarmWorks.  Seattle Tilth Farm Works participants attend farm and business trainings, tour neighboring farm operations, and gain hands-on experience growing and harvesting food using organic practices.


This farmer training program is made possible by funding from Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) through the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, managed locally by King County Public Health. Burst for Prosperity launched the farm incubator program as a pilot project in 2009, and has administered the CPPW funds to
support the incubator. The land belongs to Seattle Parks and Recreation and they are making it available as part of their Parks Urban Food Systems program. 

Find Out More

Find out more about Seattle Tilth Farm Works.

Media inquiries, please contact or (206)633-0451 ext. 103.

Farm inquiries, contact or (206) 633-0451 ext. 120

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