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Everett’s Red Barn Community Farm run by volunteers on city-owned land

Jul 2nd, 2013 | Category: Community

Project offers plots and leases

by Samantha Schuller

On the 100-year flood plain in Everett’s Lowell neighborhood is an historic big red barn. It’s part of a city-owned 400-acre plot that, while remaining picturesque, sat fallow for decades. But in 2011, a group of enterprising gardeners transformed the area into an enormous community garden and farm incubator. Red Barn Community Farm grows fresh produce for the food bank and leases garden plots up to a quarter-acre.

“We have about 60 participants,” said group organizer Dean Smith. “Some are there every Saturday, and some come once or twice a summer to help harvest.”

The group has about five acres in production, though they have access to 40 acres of the city land. Some gardeners lease plots for their own use, while others grow almost exclusively for the food bank. Participants who agree to donate at least half of their produce enjoy a free lease.

The donated veggies benefit the Volunteers of America food bank in Everett. “They get mostly canned and dry goods donated,” Smith said, “so they’re very happy to get donations of fresh produce, especially when it’s grown right here in Everett.”

Last year, the group donated 1,000 pounds of carrots, and Smith estimates that they will double that amount this year.

The group faced challenges early on. “We proposed the community garden plan,” Smith said, to a favorable response from city representatives. “Then they got back to us saying, ‘Sure, let’s do it—we just need a $200 million insurance bond on the property to indemnify the city’s liability.’ We were just a group of volunteers; we had no way to pay for that.”

Red Barn Community Farm is volunteer-driven. Work parties are held every Saturday at 10 a.m. All are welcome. COURTESY PHOTO

To deal with the challenging financial roadblock, Red Barn Community Farm reached out to other community groups. Volunteers of America agreed to sponsor the insurance bond on their behalf. Since then, the group has gained momentum and established permanent roots.

They received another boost from a City of Everett grant for $15,000 to bring in a water supply. Now what they need is a tractor. “What we’re realizing is that if we really want to produce lots of food, we either need a lot of labor, or some mechanization,” Smith said. Volunteer labor is sometimes scarce, he explained, and the group doesn’t want to see good crops go to waste. While it’s easy to plant an acre of potatoes, it’s much harder to dig them all up. “We’re looking to give a small tractor a good home,” Smith said.

Red Barn Community Farm can always use more volunteers and members as well. “Show up at 10 a.m. any Saturday,” Smith said, to participate and get your hands in the dirt. Opportunities are also available to lease your own plot, organize a harvest party, or get involved with food bank farming. “All are welcome,” he said. “The goal is to produce and share.”

For more information, visit Red Barn Community Farm on Larimer Road in Everett, see their website at www.redbarncommunityfarm.org, or follow them on facebook.

Published in the July issue of Grow Northwest

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