Pierce Conservation District, Washington

The Salishan Community Garden has gardeners who speak Russian, Khmer, Vietnamese and Korean.

The Pierce CD designed programming to better reach urban agriculture in communities with Low English Proficiency (LEP). With 15% of the county being LEP, the district increased Harvest Pierce County’s participants to 15% of total program participants, a direct reflection of the county’s demographics. Ambassadors new serve on the HPC Steering Committee.

The district moved beyond simply translating documents and signage. Lasting bi-directional relationships were built with stakeholders in Vietnamese, Russian, Cambodian, Korean and Spanish-speaking communities. This positions the district to move not only beyond linguistic barriers, but cultural barriers as well. Each LEP community has its own way of stewarding the environment through organic urban agriculture, and all have a lot to learn from one another.

Most of the LEP urban gardeners are seniors who came here on refugee status, and while learning English as an older adult is difficult, learning to steward plants in the Pacific Northwest is something they have done exceedingly well.

To this end, the district went from supporting five multilingual gardens to 11, grew its network of multilingual contractors from two to 10, distributed 800 multilingual brochures, and hosted 30 events with LEP participants. Four new Vietnamese gardeners joined McCarver Community Garden for the first time as a result of the District’s Vietnamese brochure. Activities included:

  • Parallel event: Salishan Seed Swap
    • (Salishan Garden, Viet Huong, Swan Creek Garden – Vietnamese, Khmer, Russian, Korean)
  • Community Garden Tour
    • (Vietnamese, Khmer, Russian, Ukrainian, Korean, Spanish -Viet Huong, TCC, Salishan Garden)
  • Community Garden Leadership Training
    • Ambassadors: Korean, Russian, Khmer, Vietnamese
  • Film Screening: Babushkas of Chernobyl
    • (Ukrainian -TCC Garden)
  • Informal Plant/Knowledge Exchange between two Eastside gardens
    • (Spanish and Khmer)

The district applied conflict mediation techniques to the Salishan Garden to help resolve issues among Korean, Vietnamese, Khmer and Russian members. The Pierce CD Annual Meeting featured a language other than English for the first time.

Members of the Pierce CD’s Cultural Ambassadors program.

Sustainability

The district has institutionalized a program called the Cultural Ambassadors. It is comprised of a growing network of bilingual community connectors who co-design and implement multilingual programming with Harvest Pierce County. After hosting parallel events designed to introduce multilingual participants to district services, multilingual best practices are being incorporated into the annual events. Harvest Pierce County’s next step is to begin institutionalizing these best practices into the Pierce CD at large. The goal is to also bring these learnings to the Puyallup Watershed Initiative’s Just & Healthy Food System Community of Interest, growing into a permanent position.

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