Category: News

FIN volunteers make meals for communities affected by COVID-19

FIN entrepreneurs, staff, neighbors, and Project Feast have donated ingredients, and entrepreneurs are contributing their time and skills to make tasty, healthy meals for seniors and families during the COVID-19 emergency. Naija Buka owner Lilian was the lead chef for our first meal on Monday, with support from Mamá Tila owner Ofelia, Incubator Program Manager Kerrie, and volunteer Liyu. Watch a video we recorded in the kitchen:

Going forward, we'll cook up 450 hot meals each week, which our partners at Somali Youth & Family Club, Congolese Integration Network, and the City of SeaTac will distribute to community members.

We’re grateful to everyone who’s helping to nourish our community as we face this challenge together. You can make a donation at bit.ly/FINmeals, or email Kerrie if you’d like to help in another way: kerrie@foodinnovationnetwork.org.

 

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University Student Ehler Win Steps Into New FIN Leadership Role

The new year is bringing a bittersweet transition to FIN's steering committee. Gladis Clemente, a Community Food Advocate of more than three years and our most recent steering committee co-chair, is stepping back from her formal roles with FIN. Gladis has been an enthusiastic leader and vocal advocate, and we're thankful for all of her contributions to our community. Gladis will continue to be a member of the FIN family, and we look forward to seeing much more of her.

We are excited that this transition will create an opportunity for Community Food Advocate Ehler Win to step into the steering committee co-chair position, and we'd like to share some words from both of these wonderful leaders.

From Gladis:

I can share my experience as a community advocate, developing leadership and advocacy skills for more than three years. Thanks to the skills I gained during different workshops, I have been able to submit public comments at city hall, and participate more actively in community groups such as PTA and coalitions.

I would like to emphasize the impact of FIN, with its collective and innovative model. As community members, we are not used to participating in the decision-making process. But FIN's approach is unique and different: the steering committee is formed by organizations, educational institutions, and local government— and community members, as well. We feel that our voice is heard, and we are important and valuable. Coming from underserved and marginalized communities, we, as advocates have the opportunity to support system and policy change in order to end the poverty cycle in our communities. I couldn’t be more proud to be part of such an amazing organization.

I want to express my gratitude for all the support FIN provided for more than three years. I definitely wouldn’t be the same person that I am now without FIN. I welcome Ehler as a new co-chair—she is very capable, and I know she is going to be excellent in this role.

From Ehler:

I am currently a senior at UW. I've been an advocate for a little over a year and have learned and grown so much within this community. I am really excited and humbled to have been chosen as the next co-chair for the steering committee, and am really looking forward to the ways I will grow and contribute to this committee. This community means so much to me and we have many exciting things coming up ahead, especially the Tukwila Village Food Hall. I'm so excited to be one of the many, many people working behind this project.

 

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Keerai Farm: Connecting With Agricultural Traditions and a Diverse Community

At Keerai Farm in Enumclaw, Victor Anagli and Deepa Iyer are building on their families’ farming and cultural traditions. Victor’s family has been growing food for generations in his birthplace, Denu village in Ghana. Deepa’s ancestors lived among rice fields in southern India, and her family has strong cooking traditions.

"I want to rescue my cultural traditions and those of my friends and collaborators," Deepa said. "We all have deep cultural traditions related to food and farming, yet in our industrial system, many of us lose those traditions in exchange for industrially produced food that often has negative impacts on the land, water, and the people who work to grow, process, and sell the food. Not to mention that our children become addicted to packaged and processed food, to eating on the run out of a paper bag or box, rather than having a way of life that allows us time to grow the food, harvest together, celebrate the bounty, give thanks together, share meals, and lift up our ancestors."

An engineer by training, Victor left his corporate job to get back to his agricultural roots. Deepa has worked as a naturalist and food systems educator, and is currently a program coordinator with IRC’s New Roots program—FIN’s partner in organizing Tukwila Village Farmers Market and Namaste Farm Stand. In addition to supporting the Namaste Garden and Namuna Garden growers who sell food at our markets, Deepa has also shared some of Keerai Farm's abundance at Tukwila Village Farmers Market.

Deepa and Victor bought their 21-acre property in 2018, and they’re already growing some of the same foods their ancestors ate, such as roselle, bottle gourds, peanuts, and okra. The couple take produce requests from community members, including Deepa’s mother’s Indian community and Tukwila Village Farmers Market customers. They're experimenting with small greenhouses and organic agricultural techniques as they learn how to grow these culturally significant foods in the Pacific Northwest’s climate.

Okra plant
Okra is among the cultural foods that connect Deepa and Victor with their cultural heritage.

Growing community

"Keerai Farm is our dream: living life close to the land, connected to the Earth, caring for her each day we wake up, seeing our children run free and breathing fresh air, eating real food coming straight from the soil and grown with love and care," Deepa said.

Deepa and Victor’s children are already well acquainted with farm life. Their 15-year-old son, Devon, loves tinkering with machinery, and helped install their irrigation system. He’s also creative in the kitchen, and surprised their family with tasty popsicles made from homegrown berries he’d collected. Their 3-year-old daughter, Samika, has learned to identify many of the plants they grow, and loves riding on their tractor as they cut grass.

Victor and Deepa want to share the experience of farming with other families--particularly those who have a hard time accessing land because of displacement or economic reasons, or because they don't feel socially or physically safe living in a rural area.

"This is why we focus our work on connecting with BIPOC (Black-indigenous-people of color) families—because in King County there is diversity, but many folks of color do not own land and/or do not feel comfortable or have a space that feels welcoming to come and connect to the land," Deepa said. "We hear this from so many people who come to visit: 'We would love to live this way but we are not comfortable.' Well, if we could live in community, then we could keep each other safe and inspired."

Deepa smiles and holds out kale on a sunny day at Keerai Farm
Deepa holds kale, one of the many foods that has been bountiful at Keerai Farm. Keerai is a Tamil word for greens.

Deepa and Victor have been overwhelmed by positive feedback from community members who have visited Keerai Farm. Some have already been inspired to change their eating habits.

"Every time people come here, they taste the produce and say that it tastes different from the stores. That is a hell of a testament," Victor said. "A group came to visit last week and harvested produce and cooked a meal in our kitchen, and then told us that that experience made them want to eat more fruits and vegetables and cook more for themselves."

Victor loves sharing not only fresh food, but also knowledge about organic farming that has been passed to him down through generations.

"I believe growing food authentically without chemical aid is the way to do it. Food is medicine. Food is a healer. If you keep pumping it with fertilizers, that defeats the purpose," Victor said. "It is important that we all know this, for this knowledge to be passed down—the actual doing part, not just reading a book. You have to go through the process with somebody. It is vitally important to share that knowledge."

In addition to inviting community to come farm, Victor and Deepa are organizing events on their property. In June, 90 people spent a weekend practicing capoeira, camping, and enjoying the land at the “Grounded in Freedom” event that Keerai Farm hosted. Deepa and Victor plan to hold more events combining food, community, and healing arts such as yoga.

"Keerai Farm is a place of healing, a place where you are able to come and feel one with nature," Victor said. "My vision for the future: a lot of people, like-minded folks who believe in authentic food, building community, and just being here now, being present together."

Victor feeds chickens
Victor feeds chickens at Keerai Farm.

Help harvest at Keerai Farm

Deepa and Victor invite you to experience and help farm their land—and take fresh produce home. You can email Deepa at keeraifarm@gmail.com to set up a visit. It’s harvest season—a great time to be on the farm!

 

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Food Is Medicine at Laura’s Garden

As an acute care nurse, Laura Vogel helps patients who have heart and kidney diseases—conditions she connects to poor diets.

“I see the effects of processed food every day. And it’s not just diabetes—it’s the inflammatory state that food can potentially put you in. You’re just so much more susceptible to disease, and illness, and poor healing if you do get sick,” she said.

Laura believes that eating a diversity of fresh foods can help prevent disease. She’s working to spread the word, and also to share her homegrown produce with her Tukwila neighbors.

“I want to help the community get healthy and not have to come see me at Harborview!” she said. “Food should be our primary medicine—not pharmaceuticals.”

A thriving home garden designed with permaculture in mind

You may have met Laura at Tukwila Village Farmers Market this season. When her schedule allowed, she set up the Laura’s Garden farm stand to sell fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown in her yard just a few blocks from the market.

Embracing permaculture—an agricultural design system modeled on nature—has enabled Laura to cultivate an abundance of produce on a residential property.

“It’s about permanent agriculture, and growing food systems that are sustainable and economical, and better for the environment,” Laura said.

Flowers that support pollinators are intermingled with vegetables and fruits at Laura's Garden.

Permaculture rejects monocrops, the modern practice of growing large amounts of a single plant. Natural food systems are diverse, and so Laura’s garden is incredibly varied. Among her edible plants are squash, tomato, asparagus, tomatillo, beans, peppers, chard, gherkins, fennel, sorrel, ginger, tea, hops, tulsi, turmeric, bay leaf, parsley, thyme, oregano, and garlic. She also grows almond, fig, apple, pear, peach, and plum trees, as well as flowers that support pollinators.

It’s easy to spot other elements of permaculture on Laura’s property: a rainwater irrigation system keeps her plants healthy without using city water; wood chip mulch reduces evaporation, suppresses weeds, and conditions soil.

Laura holds a watering hose in front of a large rainwater collector
Laura has installed several rainwater collectors to help minimize use of city water.

Laura is completing a certificate in permaculture design, and hopes her garden can one day become a permaculture demonstration site to provide inspiration to other gardeners.

“You can do a lot with a little, and I want to show that to other people, so they can also grow a lot of food even in a little space,” she said. “And if you do grow more than you can eat—which happens very quickly—then you can share it.”

Get involved

Participating in the farmers market this year, Laura realized that she didn’t have enough spare time to regularly harvest and prepare her produce for sale. Still, she’d love to share her food with people who will enjoy and benefit from it. Now she is looking for a community member who’d like to harvest her produce and share it with the community.

“It would be a dream come true if someone came to harvest weekly, and either donated to the food bank or set up their own stand,” she said. Laura envisions a learning opportunity for someone interested in permaculture, and a potential income opportunity if that person wanted to sell the food locally.

Would you like to partner with Laura to share her food with our community? Get in touch with her at vogel.laura.k@gmail.com.

Kaya the dog eyes a plum that Laura holds
Kaya, Laura's dog, is also a big fan of fresh vegetables and fruits--especially plums.

 

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FIN Entrepreneurs Are Cooking Up Goodness in October

Days are getting shorter, leaves are changing colors, and pumpkins are turning up everywhere. Fall is here, and farmers market season is winding down--but you still have opportunities pick up delicious meals from FIN food businesses at our Taste Around the Globe booth and at special lunch pop-ups!

You can find our booth at three farmers markets in October:

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

  • Oct. 2: Monique’s Hot Kitchen
  • Oct. 9: Monique’s Hot Kitchen
  • Oct. 16: Monique’s Hot Kitchen

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

  • Oct. 3: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Oct. 10: Boujee Food & Things
  • Oct. 17: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Oct. 24: East and West Catering
  • Oct. 31: Mamá Tila Catering

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

  • Oct. 5: Taste of Congo
  • Oct. 12: Taste of Congo
  • Oct. 26: Taste of Congo

Lunch pop-ups

You can also catch your favorite food businesses indoors at pop-ups throughout the fall! FIN entrepreneurs are contributing their culinary talents to help raise funds for the future home of our Food Business Incubator; they're cooking up tasty lunches with all proceeds going to Tukwila Village Food Hall’s capital campaign. Join us on first and third Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Boon Boona Coffee (724 S 3rd Street, Ste. C, Renton). Drop in at an event, or get your tickets in advance to guarantee your boxed lunch:

 

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Taste Around the Globe With FIN Food Businesses in September

As the weather starts to cool, it's the perfect time to pick up some hot food at our Taste Around the Globe booth featuring FIN food businesses! You can find us at six markets in South King County and Seattle in September:

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

  • Sept. 3: Taste of Congo
  • Sept. 10: Taste of Congo
  • Sept. 17: Taste of Congo
  • Sept. 24: Taste of Congo

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

  • Sept. 4: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Sept. 11: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Sept. 18: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Sept. 25: Monique's Hot Kitchen

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

  • Sept. 5: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Sept. 19: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Sept. 26: East and West Catering

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

  • Sept. 6: East and West Catering
  • Sept. 7: Boujee Food & Things
  • Sept. 8: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Sept. 13: East and West Catering
  • Sept. 15: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Sept. 20 East and West Catering
  • Sept. 21 East and West Catering
  • Sept. 22: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Sept. 27: East and West Catering
  • Sept. 28: East and West Catering
  • Sept. 29: Mamá Tila Catering

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

  • Sept. 7: Taste of Congo
  • Sept. 14: Taste of Congo
  • Sept. 21: Taste of Congo
  • Sept. 28: Taste of Congo

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

  • Sept. 1: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Sept. 8: East and West Catering
  • Sept. 15: Monique's Hot Kitchen
  • Sept. 22: East and West Catering

Lunch pop-ups

As farmers market season starts to wind down, we're ramping up a lunch pop-up series. FIN entrepreneurs are contributing their culinary talents to help raise funds for the future home of our Food Business Incubator! Eight amazing businesses will cook up tasty lunches with all proceeds going to Tukwila Village Food Hall's capital campaign. Join us on first and third Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Boon Boona Coffee (724 S 3rd Street, Ste. C, Renton).

Tickets are available now for our September lunches:

Tickets will go on sale soon for future events. Subscribe to our email newsletter to stay posted on upcoming pop-ups:

  • Oct. 4: Taste of Congo
  • Oct.18: Sherehe Kenya Kitchen
  • Nov. 1: Boujee Food & Things
  • Nov. 15: Soozveen Mediterranean Catering
  • Dec. 6: Mamá Tila Catering
  • Dec. 20: Monique’s Hot Kitchen

 

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Join a Lunch Pop-Up to Help Us Open Tukwila Village Food Hall

FIN entrepreneurs are contributing their culinary talents to help raise funds for the future home of our Food Business Incubator! Eight amazing businesses will cook up tasty lunches with all proceeds going to Tukwila Village Food Hall's capital campaign. Join us on first and third Fridays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Boon Boona Coffee (724 S 3rd Street, Ste. C, Renton).

Buy advance tickets now to guarantee your $15 boxed lunch, or drop in at the event. The series includes cuisines from around the world:

 

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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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