Map sale

PHOTO ESSAY: Community Powers Urban Farm Fair Food System Plans

by Sidney Aspinall and Azeb Tuji


Since 2017, the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands (RBUFW) has been jointly operated by the Tilth Alliance and the Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands.

“RBUFW is unique because it’s a working farm in the middle of the community, and it’s really focused on food production, [and] learn about food,” said Melissa Spear, executive director of Tilth Alliance.

Tilth’s community outreach for Rainier Beach Farm focuses on South Seattle and recognizes the diverse needs of the neighborhood’s immigrant and refugee communities.

The Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands stand remains empty. “It’s a farm where you pay what you can,” says Melissa Spear, executive director of Tilth Alliance. “You can get up to $20 worth of products for free.” (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)

“The other interesting thing about how we operate RBUFW is that not all programs are [the Tilth Alliance’s] programs. We have a lot of programs that are run by other community members who just run the site. We collaborate with them, we partner with them, we support them,” Spear said.

Spring crops, on a field behind a wooden fence, begin to grow at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Spring crops begin to grow at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The farm has large crop fields where members plant different types of vegetables to harvest later in the season. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)

She says the importance of learning to grow food is its ability to give people control and sovereignty over their access to food. “It becomes less of a question of ‘Am I making enough money? Can I afford to go to the grocery store? Growing your own food gives you some control over what you eat, and it’s healthy too.

Burlap sacks lie in the dirt in different planting strips at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Burlap sacks lie in the dirt in various planting strips at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. Bags are an important natural method of retaining heat and ensuring soil remains moist. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
A vendor's table at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford
The Tilth Alliance Edible Plant Sale takes place every year, and this year it was held in Wallingford. He welcomes freelance vendors to the front whom he has invited to the table; this tent was among those set up in the area. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
Gayle Sutherland, 54, director of development for the Tilth Alliance, rearranges pumpkin plants on display at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford
Gayle Sutherland, 54, director of development for the Tilth Alliance, rearranges the pumpkin plants on display at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford. She said, “It’s not just Tilth; it’s the whole community that makes it happen,” when asked about the Rainier Beach urban farm and wetlands. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands Greenhouse No. 4
Numbered greenhouses lie empty at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. Volunteers are working to get the greenhouses back into service, as better air circulation will help fill them with plants for the farm. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Lettuce and other starters sit on a table outside the greenhouses at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
Lettuce and other entrees sit on a table outside the greenhouses at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The farm focuses on agroecology by growing organic produce and food grown in harmony with the environment. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Community members browse the assortment of edible plants and herbs available at the Tilth Alliance Edible Plants sale in Wallingford
Community members browse the assortment of edible plants and herbs available at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
A bulletin board displays a map and messages about what is happening at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands
A bulletin board displays a map and messages about what is happening at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. The farm works with organizations and businesses in the Rainier Beach community to host events that community members can attend, such as classes and workshops, throughout the year. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Nancy Caballero, 25, youth and family coordinator for the Tilth Alliance, checks inventory at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford
Nancy Caballero, 25, youth and family coordinator for the Tilth Alliance, checks inventory at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford. Nancy highlighted the scholarship opportunities available to young people, summer camps and year-round programs offered by Tilth. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
Bees swarm around hives in the apiary at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland
Bees swarm around the apiary hives at Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetland. The farm offers many adult education programs, such as beekeeping courses for beginners, which run from March to April. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
The arm and hand of a young volunteer at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford
Vera Danges, 11, volunteers at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford. She lives in the neighborhood and has been coming to the sale for years with her mom, but volunteered for the first time today. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)
A chalkboard displays vegetables that can be picked at the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands U-pick community garden
A chalkboard displays vegetables that can be picked from the U-Pick Community Garden at Urban Farm and Rainier Beach Wetlands. Community members are encouraged to come and harvest fresh produce throughout the season. (Photo: Sidney Aspinall)
Shojun Ritnoppakum, Martin Ritnoppakum and Lena Dong (left to right) pose for a portrait near the tables of freelance vendors at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford
Shojun Ritnoppakum, Martin Ritnoppakum and Lena Dong (left to right) pose for a portrait near the independent vendor tables at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)

Sidney Aspinal was born and raised just outside of Seattle in the small town of North Bend, Washington. She is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, double majoring in Journalism and Public Service Communications, and French.

Azeb Tuji is an interdisciplinary artist, multimedia writer, and community activist passionate about advocating for voices that are often pushed to the margins. They are currently graduates of the University of Washington, majoring in journalism and public service communications.

📸 Featured image: Larry Bosley, Dijana Steward and Alina Mikolajczyk (left to right) at the Tilth Alliance edible plant sale in Wallingford on Sunday May 8, 2022. (Photo: Azeb Tuji)

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