Conservation Corner

Apr 10


The original item was published from April 10, 2020 12:05 PM to April 15, 2020 3:02 PM

It all started with Community Gardens: 
Du Ly, seen here at our annual Volunteer Appreciation Potluck, is a dedicated member of the Chùa Phuóc Huê Vietnamese Buddhist Temple and the host of our County’s newest community garden. Ly has helped at many different events and cross-cultural experiences that Harvest Pierce County has partnered on.

Harvest Pierce County celebrates a decade of success in urban agriculture since 2010, increasing the County’s total community garden count from 8 to 83. Though some of our County’s 83 gardens are on municipal land, there are nearly 50 different property owners that have community gardens. Each garden is a unique entity with its own leadership structure, its own set of agreements with the property owner, and its own set of relationships in the community. As such, community gardens are powerful points of connection in today’s society. With ever increasing ways to connect remotely in online groups and social media networks, gardens remain a place where people connect side-by-side and face-to-face. Having seen these connections proliferate throughout the past decade, we at Harvest Pierce County know that our work wouldn’t be possible without strong partnerships. 


Another example of how we work through partnerships is our Gleaning Project, which saves backyard orchard fruit from entering the waste stream and landfills by bringing it to food banks and community food projects. Of the hundreds of gleans that happen in a season, every single one is in partnership with homeowners, landowners, or farmers who trust our Branch Leaders to respectfully glean produce that can’t make it to market from their properties. 

Many of our County’s fruit trees were planted long before you could do your grocery shopping online and have it sent straight to your front door. Likewise, many people moving to our County inherit a backyard of fruit trees they did not plant themselves, so they don’t have caring for the
Gleaning or Community Days photo
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trees and preserving their bounty as a part of their seasonal routine. Our volunteers fill in these blanks, and in partnership with property owners, the County becomes not a patchwork of individually owned trees so much as a community orchard that can come together and feed the whole community. 

Through the Gleaning Project, the relationship between people and fruit trees is available even to volunteers who do not own their own land. In this way, people can expand their feeling of connection to our County through food, transcending the boundaries of their own yard or community garden plot. 

Looking Ahead:

As local government, we consider it especially important to be responsive to everyone in the County. We know that the best solutions are in partnership with the community, because people affected by the problem know best how to solve it. From a conservation perspective, we also know that people will defend what they love. Growing food and medicine is a reciprocal act of care that nourishes oneself, one’s family, and one’s community, and as such is a way of falling in love with the land around us. 

Engaging everyone across our diverse County is always going to be a challenge - but it is a challenge that makes our programming better. The more we try to reach out to our community across differences, the more we make sure our programming directly reflects and serves our constituents. 
Gleaning photo 1 
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In 2016, we received support from the National Association of Conservation Districts to make sure our programming is more inclusive to people who have Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Today, we maintain a robust Cultural Ambassador program that has transformed our programming to include Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Khmer, Russian, Ukrainian, and Moldovan communities. Through developing a system that supports multiple languages, we have grown a network of important and trusting relationships with community members who were previously unable to connect with us, and getting to know their lives and priorities has allowed us to develop much more relevant programming. In 2016, there were only 5 gardens in our program where LEP participants were gardening. We’ve nearly tripled the number of gardens with LEP community members to 14 in 2019. We have not only institutionalized the program within our urban agriculture program but have also supported the spread to other District teams. Our Pierce Conservation District Farm team has recently launched a Cultural Navigator program to engage and support Latino farmworkers in implementing sustainable farming practices.

This year, we have once again received support from the National Association of Conservation Districts to build upon this original work by expanding upon new relationships with local indigenous communities, including Northwest Tribes and other immigrant indigenous communities from South and Central America that live in our County. We have been building relationships for several years now and are connecting to develop a new urban agriculture site that will serve as a place for local indigenous communities to come together and connect to each other and to the land through sustainable agriculture and land stewardship. 

In many ways, these projects represent the flowering of deep-rooted relationships we have built over the past decade that involve both institutional and community partners, and we are excited for what lies ahead.