Category: News

New Roots: Building Thriving Gardens and Communities

“I am very lucky -- my happiness knows no bounds," Krishna Biswa says while walking among rows of healthy lettuce, robust basil, and vibrant beets. His close-knit family and thriving garden plots are among his greatest joys.

“I have a beautiful granddaughter who’s 14 months old," he continues, beaming. "She visits the garden sometimes, and she loves snap peas and cucumbers.” 

Krishna’s parents, siblings, and children also enjoy the fresh, tasty produce he grows at Namaste Community Garden and Namuna Garden in Tukwila. For their family, growing and sharing food is a beloved tradition. 

Krishna recalls his parents producing corn, greens, rice, cardamom, and oranges in Bhutan, their country of origin. After resettling in South King County as refugees in 2010, they've have been able to garden again thanks to the IRC New Roots program.  

New Roots builds on the agricultural experience of many refugee and immigrant families by providing access to land, materials, and education for program participants to grow healthy food. Through a partnership with landowner St. Thomas Catholic Church, IRC began connecting resettled refugees with Namaste Community Garden plots in 2010.  

Jit Gajmer holds a turnip he helped grow in Tukwila.

“We are very lucky to have this garden because we are able to practice our gardening traditions, and the produce we grow here is very good,” says Krishna, who started tending a plot at Namaste Community Garden in 2012. “It’s supporting our family and reducing grocery expenses.” 

Krishna’s parents and brother also tend plots at Namaste Community Garden, and they love exchanging advice for growing organic food with their fellow gardeners, families from Bhutan and Myanmar. 

“I have a lot of friends in Namaste Garden,” Krishna says. “They have their own way of growing, and sometimes I learn from them, and sometimes they learn from us.” 

Namuna, an exemplary garden 

Raj Rai waters crops at Namuna Garden.

Food Innovation Network partnered with New Roots to start selling Namaste Garden’s produce to community members at Tukwila Village in 2018. That summer, two customers mentioned to New Roots staff member Kamal Adhikari that they had a big backyard in Tukwila that they’d happily make available to growers. Within months, Krishna and four other gardeners were transforming the expansive lawn into a flourishing agricultural space.   

They called it Namuna Garden, meaning Example Garden, Kamal explained. It’s an example both of community members sharing their land with growers, and of the excellent produce that can be grown in such spaces. 

Four growers stand in their garden.
Namuna Garden growers. From left: Raj Rai, Krishna Biswa, Jit Gajmer, and Santa Biswa. Jit Kami, not pictured, is the fifth grower.

The five growers who tend Namuna Garden are all graduates of New Roots’ Micro-Producer Academy, an eight-week program that teaches budgeting, crop planning, irrigation, and other essential skills. They’re putting their knowledge to work this season at the new Tukwila Village Farmers Market, where they operate booths to sell produce from both Namaste Community Garden and Namuna Garden. 

Their produce has been so popular that they sometimes sell out of items within an hour of the market opening. No problem – a grower will head a few blocks to the gardens to harvest more. Food doesn’t get much fresher or more local than that. 

“We love bringing good seasonal vegetables to the farmers market,” Krishna says. “We’re happy to see a lot of diverse people there, and to meet customers.” 

The gardeners hope that sharing their produce can help spread some of the happiness that they've enjoyed while growing it. 

Meet the growers 

Namaste Community Garden and Namuna Garden growers sell produce at Tukwila Village Farmers Market on Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m. Come out to meet them, along with Wakulima USA gardeners and other local food producers. And keep an eye on our website for more spotlights on local growers! 

Namaste Community Garden and Namuna Garden growers sell their produce at Tukwila Village Farmers Market.
Namaste Community Garden and Namuna Garden growers sell their produce at Tukwila Village Farmers Market.

 

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Farmers Market Season Is Heating Up! Here’s Where to Find FIN Food Businesses in August

It's almost August, and farmers market season is in full swing! Visit our Taste Around the Globe booth featuring FIN food businesses at six markets in South King County and Seattle next month:

Renton Farmers Market
3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays

  • Aug. 6: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 13: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 20: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 27: Taste of Congo

Tukwila Village Farmers Market
4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays

  • Aug. 14: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Aug. 21: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Aug. 28: Monique's Hot Kitchen

Burien Farmers Market
11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursdays

  • Aug. 8: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Aug. 15: Boujee Food & Things
  • Aug. 22: Mamá Tila Catering

Pike Place MarketFront
11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays

  • Aug. 2: East and West Catering
  • Aug. 4: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Aug. 9: East and West Catering
  • Aug. 10: Boujee Food & Things
  • Aug. 11: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Aug. 17: Boujee Food & Things
  • Aug. 23: East and West Catering
  • Aug. 24: East and West Catering
  • Aug. 25: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Aug. 30: East and West Catering
  • Aug. 31: East and West Catering

Federal Way Farmers Market
9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays

  • Aug. 3: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 10: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 17: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 24: Taste of Congo
  • Aug. 31: Taste of Congo

Auburn Farmers Market
10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sundays

  • Aug. 4: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Aug. 18: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Aug. 25: East and West Catering

 

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Introducing East and West Catering!

“Do you want to get to know African food? You don’t need to pay for a ticket to fly anywhere," says Lamine Sarr, co-owner of East and West Catering. "We can take you all over Africa in half an hour!”

[caption id="attachment_3192" align="alignright" width="300"]East and West Catering co-owner Adama Jammeh makes beignets and brochettes East and West Catering co-owner Adama Jammeh makes beignets and brochettes at the Taste Around the Globe booth at Tukwila Village Farmers Market.[/caption]

Lamine and his cousins Adama Jammeh and Oumie Sallah launched East and West Catering this spring to offer traditional foods and beverages from their home countries of Gambia and Senegal, as well as favorite dishes from other parts of Africa. Their menu items include mafe peanut butter soup from Senegal, sukuma wiki braised vegetables from East Africa, and a hibiscus drink that is especially popular in Gambia. 

Check out East and West Catering’s menu and website, and hire them to bring delicious cuisine to your next event! You can also try their food at our Taste Around the Globe booth. This month, you can find East and West Catering at: 

Stay tuned to our website for additional Taste Around the Globe booth dates. In the meantime, enjoy our Q&A with Lamine: 

Tell us about your business.  

We promote a variety of East and West African foods, offering good quality and good prices. 

[caption id="attachment_3194" align="alignright" width="300"]Okra, red bell peppers, and onion sit on a plate. Sautéed okra with bell pepper and onion by East and West Catering.[/caption]

What inspired you to start East and West Catering?  

I used to own a restaurant in France, and I have worked as a chef in Seattle for three years. I’m excited to apply my food industry expertise to our family business. 

What makes East and West Catering different from other food businesses?  

We cater for all communities. Our dishes are tasty, nicely presented, and professionally prepared. 

What do you like most about your work?  

My favorite part of my work is when I’m in the kitchen, cooking for customers. 

[caption id="attachment_3193" align="alignright" width="300"]Three crispy, triangle-shaped samosas sit on a plate. Samosas by East and West Catering.[/caption]

What have been the biggest challenges in launching your business? What resources have helped?  

To know how to cook is not enough. You have to know customers’ needs and how to solve them. FIN helps us in many ways – it opened my eyes to marketing and communication. I’m learning how to connect with customers. And now I can do my accounting and business plan because of FIN. 

 

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Taste Around the Globe With FIN Food Businesses at Six Farmers Markets in July

Happy summer! Here's a hot tip: Our Taste Around the Globe booth featuring FIN food businesses is now at the Auburn Farmers Market. That means we're at six farmers markets this season! Here’s where you can find our booth in July:

Renton Farmers Market
3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays

  • July 2: East and West Catering
  • July 9: Taste of Congo
  • July 16: Taste of Congo
  • July 23: Taste of Congo
  • July 30: Taste of Congo

Tukwila Village Farmers Market
4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays

  • July 3: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • July 10: Boujee Food & Things
  • July 17: East and West Catering
  • July 24: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • July 31: Monique's Hot Kitchen

Burien Farmers Market
11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursdays

  • July 11: Mamá Tila Catering
  • July 18: Boujee Food & Things
  • July 25: Mamá Tila Catering

Pike Place MarketFront
11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays

  • July 5: East and West Catering
  • July 6: Boujee Food & Things
  • July 7: Mamá Tila Catering
  • July 12: East and West Catering
  • July 13: Boujee Food & Things
  • July 14: Mamá Tila Catering
  • July 19: East and West Catering
  • July 20: East and West Catering
  • July 21: Mamá Tila Catering
  • July 28: Mamá Tila Catering

Federal Way Farmers Market
9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays

  • July 6: Taste of Congo
  • July 13: Taste of Congo
  • July 20: Taste of Congo
  • July 27: TBD

Auburn Farmers Market
10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sundays

  • July 14: Boujee Food & Things
  • July 21: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • July 28: East and West Catering

 

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Wakulima USA Supports Local Farmers and Grows Hope

David Bulindah is one of the local food growers you’ll meet at the new Tukwila Village Farmers Market. Together with Dickson Macharia, he co-founded Wakulima USA, a nonprofit that helps immigrants connect with agricultural land and grow crops in South King County.  

Wakulima is Swahili for farmers; the organization's name reflects their initial group of eight food growers who are immigrants from east and central Africa.

“We are trying to encourage our farming practices because many of us were farmers in our home countries,” David said. “When we come here, it’s something we find we can be able to do, and that we do out of passion.” 

Wakulima USA focuses on growing culturally relevant food – nutritious vegetables that David and Dickson grew up eating in Kenya. Some plants like amaranth and spiderplant are rare in the Seattle area, while others such as kale and collard greens are more common. 

David takes inspiration from his mother, an urban farmer in Kenya’s Rift Valley. 

“We were too poor to own land, and we lived in the city. But my mother would go up on the side of the road and plant amaranth, corn, and other things. So we were able to survive and get something to eat,” he said. 

David Bulindah stands in a garden holding radishes
David Bulindah holds a tiny fraction of Wakulima USA's radish harvest on a sunny day at Sonju Community Garden. This spring, Wakulima USA donated more than 60 pounds of radishes to the Des Moines Area Food Bank.

“It gives you a sense of hope” 

Now a mental health therapist, David sees farming as a source of nourishment for not only the body, but also the mind. 

“It’s therapy for me,” he laughed. “We put the seeds in the ground, and every day we have to water them, and we see how they’re coming up. And then you wake up, you see a tomato there -- it gives you a sense of hope.” 

He loves to share the practice of gardening with others, including his children and nieces.  

“I bring them here to see how to plant the crops -- because most kids don’t understand where food comes from,” he said. 

David’s wife, Irene, agrees that it’s important to pass along farming knowledge to the next generation. 

“People need to learn about farming. We kind of walked away from it, but there’s now a big new push to know where this food is coming from. It’s hard to know what’s in it when it’s done by somebody else, somewhere miles away,” Irene said.

For Irene, the flavors of fresh produce are an added benefit: "There's a big difference when you grow your own food. You think it’s a cliché, but the taste is different straight from the garden.” 

Irene waters a garden
Irene Bulindah grew up tending her family's farm outside Nairobi. She said it feels like coming full circle when her family helps out in Wakulima USA's garden.

Finding space to grow 

Locating agricultural land has been Wakulima USA’s biggest challenge. They reached out to local organizations, and Highline Urban Agricultural Garden helped them connect with a plot at the City of Des Moines’ Sonju Community Garden. Wakulima USA also works land in Kent thanks to World Relief Seattle.  

Earlier this year, Wakulima partnered with Highline, King Conservation District, and FIN to present a workshop on farming in King County. Turnout was great, and more than 30 growers have asked Wakulima USA for support to start growing food in our region. The growers are on a waitlist as the organization works to locate more land. 

One creative solution Wakulima USA came up with is collaborating with local property owners.

“We're trying to find senior citizens who have space on their property, who used to love gardening, and who can’t do it anymore. We would go there and volunteer, and clean it up, and put in a small community garden,” David said.  

As Wakulima USA grows little by little, they have a grand vision for the future: a 20-acre farm with a research center where they would work with scientists to study the nutritional and medicinal values of crops like amaranth. They also envision an on-site restaurant that would give visitors a true farm-to-table experience. 

For now, David and the other Wakulima USA farmers are excited to share their delicious, nutritious produce with community members at Tukwila Village Farmers Market

Connect with Wakulima USA

Are you a property owner who's interested in working with Wakulima USA to build a community garden on your land? Are you looking for opportunities to get involved in community farming? Contact David and Dickson at wakulimausa@gmail.com.

 

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Meet Jalissa Horton, Owner of Boujee Food & Things!

With family roots in the American South, Jalissa Horton acquired a taste for soul food as a child. By age 13, Jalissa was preparing full-course meals for her family, and she developed her love of cooking making family recipes passed down through generations. Jalissa’s mother nurtured her passion by allowing her to turn their home into a weekend restaurant for family, friends, and co-workers. In high school, Jalissa learned cooking fundamentals at a culinary vocational program, and then received a scholarship to the prestigious College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University. After earning her degree, she studied Italian cuisine at the Florence University of Arts School of Culinary Arts in Italy. A new member of FIN’s Food Business Incubator, Jalissa is continuing her culinary journey through her new business, Boujee Food & Things, which specializes in reimagined comfort food. Check out Boujee Food & Things’ website and catering menu, and find Jalissa at FIN’s Taste Around the Globe booth at Pike Place MarketFront on June 8, and at Renton Farmers Market on June 11 and 18. (Subscribe to FIN’s e-newsletter for updates on future Taste Around the Globe events.) You can also try bites from Boujee Food & Things at our June 13 Food and Fashion Makers Night fundraising event, where FIN food businesses will offer up delicious samples. In the meantime, enjoy our Q&A with Jalissa! 

Tell us about your business. 

Boujee Food & Things is a one-of-a-kind catering and novelty business. We create products for fellow “foodies” who live for delicious food and love unique culinary experiences.  

What makes Boujee Food & Things different from other food businesses? 

We present a fusion of Southern American cuisine and international spices to create a unique experience. I take pride in making everything from scratch, using authentic and natural ingredients for all dishes.  

What inspired you to start this business? 

For me, the name “Boujee” means elevation, which I apply to my life. I started this business because I love to cook for others -- my food is authentic and made with love. I have spent my entire career in the restaurant industry. I live, eat, and breathe food. It’s not a hobby for me, but a way of life. Boujee cake

What are some of your most popular menu items? 

Mouth-watering smoked meats, fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, sweet potato pies and other desserts, specialty ice teas, homemade condiments, and sandwiches. 

What’s been the biggest challenge in launching your business, and where did you find help? 

Finance has been the biggest hurdle, and FIN has been a big help to me. I have peace of mind now, and I am so excited for the future! 

 

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Find FIN Food Businesses at Five Farmers Markets in June!

Our Taste Around the Globe booth featuring FIN food businesses gets started at two more farmers markets next month, including our new Tukwila Village Farmers Market! Here's where you can find our booth in June: Renton Farmers Market 3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays

  • June 4: East and West Catering
  • June 11: Boujee Food & Things
  • June 18: Boujee Food & Things
  • June 25: East and West Catering
Tukwila Village Farmers Market 4-7 p.m. on Wednesdays
  • June 19: East and West Catering
  • June 26: Taste of Congo
Burien Farmers Market 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursdays
  • June 6: Mamá Tila Catering
  • June 13: Taste of Congo
  • June 20: Mamá Tila Catering
  • June 27: Mamá Tila Catering
Pike Place MarketFront 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
  • June 1: Boujee Food & Things
  • June 2: Mamá Tila Catering
  • June 7: East and West Catering
  • June 8: Boujee Food & Things
  • June 9: Mamá Tila Catering
  • June 14: East and West Catering
  • June 15: East and West Catering
  • June 16: Mamá Tila Catering
  • June 21: East and West Catering
  • June 22: TBD
  • June 23: Mamá Tila Catering
  • June 28: East and West Catering
  • June 29: East and West Catering
  • June 30: Mamá Tila Catering
Federal Way Farmers Market 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays
  • June 1: Taste of Congo
  • June 8: Taste of Congo
  • June 15: Taste of Congo
  • June 22: Taste of Congo
  • June 29: Taste of Congo

Food and Fashion Makers Night

You can also try FIN food entrepreneurs' offerings at our June 13 Food and Fashion Makers Night fundraising event in Seattle! Tickets are on sale now.

 

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Introducing Monica Wachira, Owner of Monique’s Hot Kitchen!

The culinary arts have been Monica Wachira's passion since she started learning to cook at age 5. She went on to study catering, and has worked in restaurants for more than 10 years. Her love of preparing and sharing healthy food led her to join our Food Business Incubator and launch her own business, Monique’s Hot Kitchen, this spring.   Check out Monique’s Hot Kitchen’s catering menuand find Monica at FIN’s Taste Around the Globe booth at the Federal Way Farmers Market on July 6, and at our new Tukwila Village Farmers Market on July 3. (Stay tuned for more Taste Around the Globe dates.)  You can also meet Monica at our Food and Fashion Makers Night fundraising event, where FIN food businesses will offer up samples of their delicious cuisine. In the meantime, enjoy our Q&A with Monica! 

Tell us about your business. 

Monique’s Hot Kitchen is a catering business making authentic Kenyan food 

What inspired you to start Monique’s Hot Kitchen? 

Every time people come to my house, I cook for them and serve them as if they’re in a restaurant. They like my hospitality and they are happy about my food. They say, “Wow, I felt like I was in a five-star restaurant! You should open a restaurant!”  They see that this is my passion. When you do something you love, it will come out perfect. I make food with love, and I take pride in what I do in the kitchen. 

What makes Monique’s Hot Kitchen different from other food businesses? 

[caption id="attachment_2984" align="alignright" width="300"]Monique's Hot Kitchen's pilau rice, mukimo, and samosas. Monique's Hot Kitchen's pilau rice, mukimo, and samosas.[/caption] I make food from scratch using natural ingredients, and fresh, high-quality spices. I can taste the difference between natural and unnatural food. [Where I grew up] in Kenya you could grow things in the garden and take them straight to the kitchen -- no GMOs. That’s what I like, and why I use organic food. I want to feed people healthy food. There is so much disease these days caused by unhealthy food. 

What do you like most about your work? 

I love it when I know I’ve done the best job, and my customers are satisfied. 

What have been the biggest challenges in launching your business? What resources have helped? 

The challenges have been figuring out where to start, how to start, choosing my business name, and accessing capital! Connecting with FIN and getting coaching from Kerrie Carbary have been a big help. 

What would you say to other aspiring food business owners? 

Go for what you believe in, don’t give up, and look for resources around you. FIN is a great resource – you can’t go wrong working with them. 

 

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FIN Food Businesses Are Geared Up for Farmers Market Season

Our Taste Around the Globe booth featuring FIN food businesses had a delicious debut at Pike Place MarketFront in April, and this month we're excited to get started at two more farmers markets! Here's where you can find our booth in May: Burien Farmers Market 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. on Thursdays

  • May 9: Mamá Tila Catering
  • May 16: East and West Catering
  • May 23: Mamá Tila Catering
  • May 30: Taste of Congo
Federal Way Farmers Market 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. on Saturdays
  • May 4: Taste of Congo
  • May 11: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • May 18: Taste of Congo
  • May 25: Taste of Congo
Pike Place MarketFront 11 a.m. - 4 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
  • May 3: East and West Catering
  • May 4: Boujee Food & Things
  • May 5: Mamá Tila Catering
  • May 10: East and West Catering
  • May 11: Boujee Food & Things
  • May 12: Mamá Tila Catering
  • May 17: East and West Catering
  • May 18: East and West Catering
  • May 19: Mamá Tila Catering
  • May 24: East and West Catering
  • May 25: East and West Catering
  • May 26: Mamá Tila Catering
  • May 31: East and West Catering

Pop-ups

In addition to vending at farmers markets, two FIN food businesses will have pop-up dinners at Ubuntu Street Café (202 W. Gowe St. in Kent) in May:
  • East and West Catering has a dinner-to-go pop-up from 5-10 p.m. on May 1.
  • Boujee Food & Things has dinner-to-go pop-ups from 5:30-9 p.m on May 2, 3, and 9. Find them on Uber Eats if you’re looking for delivery.
We look forward to seeing you at one of these tasty events soon!

 

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Cuisine, Culture, and Community Connections at Our Annual Resource Fair

Check out some highlights from our April 26 Community Kitchen Dinner and Resource Fair, which we co-presented with SeaTac Community Center: [caption id="attachment_2931" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Global to Local provided free health screenings. Global to Local offered free health screenings, and many partners shared resources, information, and activities. Thanks to Partner In Employment, Project Feast, Angle Lake Family Resource Center, Ventures, South King County Food Coalition, WSU SNAP-Ed, StartZone, and Business Impact NW for joining us![/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2932" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Kids enjoyed fun activities, including learning how to make Somali biscuits. Kids enjoyed fun activities, including learning how to make Somali biscuits.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2933" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Sunny provided a beautiful Eritrean coffee ceremony. Sunny provided a beautiful Eritrean coffee ceremony.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2934" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Volunteers cooked up yet another amazing meal featuring dishes from all over the world. Volunteers cooked up yet another amazing meal featuring dishes from all over the world.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2935" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]More than 150 guests enjoyed a delicious dinner. More than 150 guests enjoyed a delicious dinner.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_2936" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Thanks to Amigos de Seattle for a delightful Guatemalan dance performance! Thanks to Amigos de Seattle for a delightful Guatemalan dance performance![/caption]  

More photos

Find more event photos in our Facebook album.

Our next Community Kitchen Dinner

Mark your calendar for our July 24 Community Kitchen Dinner, which will be an outdoor barbecue!

 

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