Category: News

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 Chef Jalissa Culinary Co.!

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 business, which specializes in scrumptious food based on fresh, in-season local ingredients.Check out Chef Jalissa’s website, and read our Q&A with her:

Tell us about your business. 

We create products for fellow “foodies” who live for delicious food and love unique culinary experiences.  

What makes your business unique? 

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? 

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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An Eventful April for Our Food Business Incubator!

We’re thrilled to announce that three new food businesses have joined our Incubator:

  • Boujee Food & Things serves up comfort food, re-imagined. Check out their catering menu, visit their website, and follow them on Instagram and Facebook.
  • Monique’s Hot Kitchen offers authentic Kenyan cuisine made with natural ingredients. Give their catering menu a look, and follow them on Facebook.
  • East and West Catering brings fresh flavors from East and West Africa. Their catering menu is coming soon; in the meantime, visit their website to learn about their offerings.
[caption id="attachment_2900" align="alignright" width="252"] Naija Buka's Chef Lilian will launch new sauces at the Cheese and Meat Festival in Seattle on April 20.[/caption]

Tasty events in April

Meet the owners of the new businesses -- and other talented FIN entrepreneurs – at exciting events coming up this month:
  • Wednesday, April 10: East and West Catering will begin holding dinner-to-go pop-ups from 5-10 p.m. at Ubuntu Street Café (202 W. Gowe St. in Kent). They have more pop-ups scheduled at the same time and location on April 13, 15, 17, 22, 24, and 29. Their April 13 grand opening pop-up will feature complimentary food and in-store dining.
  • Friday, April 12: Boujee Food & Things will begin holding dinner-to-go pop-ups from 5:30-9 p.m. at Ubuntu Street Café (202 W. Gowe St. in Kent). They have more pop-ups scheduled at the same time and location on April 16, 18, 19, 25, 26, and 30. Find them on Uber Eats if you’re looking for delivery!
  • Saturday, April 13: FIN's Taste Around the Globe booth will make its debut at Pike Place Market featuring Boujee Food & Things! Come get a delicious lunch or snacks between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Find them in the new MarketFront plaza near indi chocolate and Honest Biscuits. Our booth at Pike Place Market will feature rotating FIN food businesses on April 14, 19, 20, 21, 26, 27, and 28.
  • Saturday, April 20: Naija Buka will launch their new Mama’s Stew Sauce and Mama’s Jollof Sauce products from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. at the Cheese and Meat Festival. Learn more and get tickets on the event website.
  • Saturday, April 27: Mamá Tila will be featured at Project Feast’s Migrating Meals. Learn more and get tickets on the event page.

 

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Video: Mamá Tila Catering Spices Up Events With Authentic Mexican Food

Over the last few weeks, we've shared videos profiling each of our Food Business Incubator program participants. It's time for our fifth and final video, which features Mamá Tila Catering:Ofelia named Mamá Tila after her mother, who was known as the best cook in her town. Ofelia takes her time preparing authentic dishes from across Mexico, including many of her mother’s recipes.Check out Mamá Tila’s menu! And if you haven't yet seen all of our business profile videos, catch up now:

 

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Video: Taste of Congo Serves Up Unique Flavors

It's time for another video in our profile series of FIN food businesses! This week we're featuring Taste of Congo:The only Congolese food business in our region, Taste of Congo offers a one-of-a-kind experience! Founder Caroline encourages you to try her beignets, which can be enjoyed any time of day.Check out Taste of Congo's menu, and stay tuned for more videos in our business profile series.

 

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Video: Naija Buka Is Always a Crowd-Pleaser

It's time for the second video in our FIN food business profile series! This week we are featuring Naija Buka:Chef Lilian makes delicious, authentic Nigerian cuisine. Try Naija Buka's popular jollof rice, as well as fried plantains, peppersoup, puff-puffs, and more.Check out their pop-up event at Project Feast's Ubuntu Street Café on March 9! Can't wait that long to get your fix? Visit Naija Buka's new website to see their menu and make your order. Then stay tuned for the next video in our business profile series.

 

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