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Fresh produce & generosity blossom at St. James

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Seeds started early this spring are now coming to fruition, as harvest season begins.

Photo: IRC

Zucchini, squash, cilantro, collard greens… these are just a few of the vegetables recently harvested at St. James Garden in Kent, where community gardeners are enjoying a bountiful first season!

The garden at St. James Episcopal Church is the latest addition to the IRC in Seattle's New Roots program. Through community gardening, education programs, leadership development , and more, New Roots promotes food access and community wellness among refugee and immigrant communities in South King County. With the opening of St. James, New Roots now operates four community gardens, an emergency food pantry, and farm stands stocked with fresh produce from the gardens.

This spring, the St. James garden began flourishing, with farmers using nearly all of the plots to grow produce for their families. However, members of the St. James community observed that a number of raised garden beds, owned by the church, had fallen out of use. In partnership with church leaders and the Reverend Joyce Parry-Moore—known as “Mother Joyce” or  “MoJo”—New Roots began clearing out the beds and planting new crops. This new sharing garden will produce food for the St. James Outreach Ministry, which offers resources to anyone in the community needing support. 

The sharing garden has been a group effort. Asha, a community member who helps maintain the garden, does so because “no one should be without the food they need, especially fresh fruit and vegetables.” Reflecting on his experiences in the garden, New Roots Program Specialist, Kamal, praised the abundance of support that New Roots has received from St. James and the community in Kent.

Because of COVID-19, Kamal said he's had more time to go out to the gardens after work with his wife, Hema, who is new to gardening and noted that she couldn’t have imagined how beautiful the garden looks. “It’s a good feeling—nurturing plants like your own baby. There’s nothing like the feeling of harvesting - and the smell of cilantro is so special.” Thanks to the creative, hardworking gardeners and St. James community, the St. James Outreach Ministry now has fresh produce in its food pantry, open to anyone in need! 

The new sharing garden has faced a few challenges – even with the expertise Asha and Kamal bring with them. Insects and pests have posed a problem this summer, Kamal says. Despite the pests, you won’t find any volunteers using pesticides or chemical fertilizers to protect their crops. New Roots promotes organic gardening practices, using compost fertilizer once a year to help plants thrive. Community gardeners at New Roots have also found natural solutions to pest control, including organic slug repellents and mulch. New Roots conducts workshops on various topics, including pest control, in parternship with Tilth Alliance to help educate community members about organic gardening techniques.

In addition to approximately 15 raised beds, St. James Garden has 33 garden plots, which brings New Roots’ grand total to 184 plots across its 4 garden sites. New Roots gardens help bring members of immigrant and refugee communities together through experiences that nourish both body and mind. If you want a taste of what’s been happening at St. James Garden, check out the Tukwila Village Farmer’s Market, operated in partnership with Food Innovation Network on Wednesdays between 4 and 7pm!