This weekend, the City Fruit team will travel to Kent to co-host an orchard work party with gardeners from the International Rescue Committee. It’s the first step of many in a year-long expansion into South King County.
So, who is the International Rescue Committee and why is this partnership exciting?
The IRC is a large, nationwide organization that helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and regain control of their future. Since last Harvest, we have been working with their South King County office, specifically their New Roots Garden, because of the overlap in our work in improving access to locally grown food and creating important connections to land.
Here’s how they describe their work:
“The IRC’s New Roots program focuses on food access and the nutritional needs of families upon arrival in the U.S., and builds on the agricultural experience of many new refugee and immigrant families by providing access to land, materials, and education for program participants to grow healthy food. New Roots is about healthy families, secure communities and a more sustainable future. It’s about dignity, determination and the boundless possibility of human connection. And it’s about the power of people to heal and nurture positive change from the ground up. Through environmental education workshops, food justice programming, volunteer and community engagement, and the facilitation of leadership empowerment and peer-learning, the New Roots program in Seattle enables the sustainable development of safe, inclusive, and healthy green spaces for refugees in South King County.”
Our first Harvest Hub with refugee gardeners from the IRC New Roots program was one of our most exciting experiences during 2017’s Great Seattle Fruit Harvest. City Fruit staff led three harvest groups with gardeners who had spent much of their own lives growing and harvesting food. Even with incredible language barriers, the gardeners knew exactly what to do and joyfully picked about 600 pounds of fruit from West Seattle trees, in just a few short hours.
In exchange for their support, the harvested fruit was donated back to the gardeners who decided to share it with their families and neighbors. But, the feedback we received, was that they were most excited by having an opportunity to work with the land again and contribute something of value to their greater community. After being separated from their own land and their own communities back in their home country, they were longing for a sense of meaningful connection to this new place.
As we chart an expanded partnership with IRC, we are excited to see where the gardeners design the future use and value of fruit. They’ve already discussed creating culturally-appropriate value-added products (like preserves and sauces), which they can they sell at their own farmers market, to support community projects. In the ever-emerging sharing economy, this demonstrates how we can put our city’s resources to their best and fullest use for everyone in the community, in a way that shows true solidarity with our neighbors.
We’re excited to share more on this partnership as it evolves!
In the meantime, if you know anyone in South King County who owns or stewards fruit trees, please send them our way.
And, many thanks to Puget Sound Energy for signing on to be our first corporate partner in supporting this expansion!
Carrie Ferrence, Executive Director