UPDATE: New volunteer orientation is happening on the farm on Saturday June 17 from 9-11 a.m. Event info here.
Cucumbers, salad greens and berries now grow from soil that used to be fairways and putting greens. In south King County, a former golf course has been transformed into Elk Run Farm, a productive working farm that grows food for a consortium of 12 South King County Food banks.
This year is its second growing season, and Elk Run Farm will donate 10,000 pounds of fresh organic produce to food banks. It hopes to expand to 60,000 pounds of donated produce in the future. To achieve this lofty goal, the farm relies on individual community volunteers, and welcomes employee or community groups as well.
Volunteers make it happen
It takes work to transition land from golf course to productive farm. Many helping hands, including King County employee teams, have cleared land for vegetable beds, weeded, harvested, transplanted, built birdhouses, constructed greenhouses, and set up trellises for pea plants. Volunteering offers the chance to experience a working farm, get some heart-healthy exercise, and feel good about feeding neighbors in need.
Interested in bringing a larger group, like your team from work? Contact Maggie Rickman, Americorps Vista farm coordinator. Groups of eight or more can schedule a visit most days and times of the week, including weekends. Teams can choose from a menu of tasks that fit their skills, abilities, and interests, including learning how to use seed-planting machines and flame weeders that light weeds on fire!
Individuals can join scheduled work parties every Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Check the Elk Run Facebook page for additional volunteer days as the summer progresses. Every row cleared or seed planted helps Elk Run Farm grow its food bank donations. “We literally couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers,” says Maggie.
Food access in south King County
According to King County Public Health, nearly 30,000 families rely on food banks in south King County. Improving fresh food options for at-risk families who live there will help address the nutrition-related health problems that disproportionately impact area residents.
With funding from King County Public Health, King Conservation District, area Rotary Clubs and Rotary First Harvest, plus support from Highline College, Tahoma High School, and Auburn Mountainview High School, the South King County Food Coalition wants Elk Run Farm to grow crops that food banks do not often receive. Today, most fresh food donations received from supermarkets are hardy (corn, potatoes, or onions), or close to expiration. Elk Run Farm grows food like squash, cucumber, pumpkins, garlic and fresh berries that are rarely donated due to shelf life or availability.
Elk Run Farm envisions itself as more than just a farm. It invites students from nearby schools to learn about farming, agriculture and sustainability. “Someday,” says Maggie, “our property will host a meeting and community space.”
The farm prompts community conversations about the broader food system that encourage students, food banks, and volunteers to support each other in making healthy choices.
Have you visited Elk Run Farm? Tell us about it in the comments below!