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New Roots, New Opportunities

IRC gardener Krishna, once a farmer in Bhutan, was one of our a first-time sellers at the new Tukwila Farmer's Market this year.

Photo: Food Innovation Network

At around 3:00pm every Wednesday afternoon, the quiet gathering space outside of the Tukwila Library comes to life. Gardeners from the IRC's Namaste Community Garden and Namuna Garden carry tables, tents, baskets, signs, and coolers of freshly-harvested produce into the space, filling the air with conversation in their native Nepali language. Tents are erected in minutes, and produce is arranged in beautiful patterns across the tables. With a whole summer of market days behind them, the growers have learned how to set up quickly and efficiently.

The IRC's New Roots program established its first community garden in partnership St. Thomas Catholic Church and Forterra nearly a decade ago, and have since expanded to three additional garden sites totally 72,000 square feet throughout South King County. The program empowers hundreds of newcomers with land, materials, and education to grow healthy foods for their families. Now we're helping gardeners like Krishna bring their produce to the wider community. 

Krishna, a refugee from Bhutan who came to the U.S. in 2010, runs the show with four other leaders of Namaste Community Garden. This has been his first market season, and the speed of his transformation from producer to seller is remarkable. Having grown up on his family’s farm in Bhutan, Krishna is no stranger to growing food. He has been farming at Namaste for eight years, growing healthy food for his family and neighbors in Tukwila. The farmers market, however, has been a new kind of challenge. He had to learn everything about market management, from budgeting to crop planning to recording sales. But of all the new things he has had to learn, customer interaction has been the hardest: “In the beginning, things like saying ‘hello’, ‘welcome’, ‘can I help you’…it was very hard for me,” Krishna says.

Now, he smiles and greets customers with confidence as he helps them with their purchases. The rows of beans, cucumbers, squash and potatoes grown by the Namaste and Namuna gardeners slowly disappear as people come through the market. The market has sold out every day since it started in June 2019, and several community members have become regular customers. The market accepts SNAP and provides Fresh Bucks to EBT recipients, making the market accessible to more members of the community.

When asked about the future of the market, Krishna is hopeful: “We learned from this year, and next year we will do more in a good way,” he says. “We will grow more, and we hope for more demand from the outside.”

The Tukwila Village Farmers Market is operated in partnership with Food Innovation Network, a program of Global to Local, that focuses on enhancing the local food system and increasing access to healthy foods. We hope to see you at the market next season!