Spokane Conservation District, Washington

The Spokane CD’s first objective connected people and organizations in the Spokane area active in urban food production and created ways for them to communicate their activities and projects and advocate for urban food production. The second objective encouraged residents to learn about and apply principles of water and soil conservation.

The Spokane Urban Agriculture Network (SUAN) is a networking group that will allow community members to communicate with each other on their projects and activities, resource needs and eventually advocacy work to support urban food production. Groups involved in the effort include Project Hope/River City Youth Ops, The Edible Tree Project, Spokane Urban Goat Keepers, Catholic Charities Food for All Farm, Polly Judd Park Food Forest Project, Spokane Community Gardens (SCG) and Bruce Rule Design.

The Spokane Community Gardens Association was formed to help gardens with finding resources, building successful garden communities, providing education classes on gardening and community development and advocating for broader community support. With the help of community garden advocates and the WSU Spokane County Extension, the Spokane Associated Garden Club, the Spokane CD and the Upper Columbia RC&D, over 40 existing community gardens were pulled together into a unified network and are starting several new ones. The group has been awarded a Vista volunteer to develop the group’s community efforts over the next year.

The Chief Garry Community Garden was one of the gardens that joined the new Spokane community Gardens Association.

The district supported scholarships to the Spokane Farm and Food Expo to help people learn about food production and preservation, farming and homesteading and food-related topics. Keynote speakers included urban market gardeners Curtis Stone from Kelowna B.C. and JM Fortier of Quebec. They spoke and taught extended classes on their methods of growing produce in urban areas.

To assist veterans interested in agriculture, the project supported the district’s Vets on the Farm program and its development of an urban learning farm to train people in market gardening and farm skills.

Continuing education classes were offered through WSU Spokane County Extension to provide community members with the skills needed to grow food and manage small livestock sustainably and to preserve water and soil quality. These included Building a Rain Barrel (three classes), Urban Goat Keeping, Starting a Community Garden, Advanced Goat Keeping, Urban Chicken Keeping, Backyard Conservation Stewardship, Urban Pig and Sheep Certification, Pruning and Grafting Fruit Trees, Managing Fruit Tree Pests, Planning for Pollinators, Basic Vegetable Gardening and Urban Market Gardening.

In addition, the district provided funding and technical support to River City Youth Ops to help pay the youth involved in the Riverfront Farm market garden and to test soil in their garden plots for nutrients. Technical support was given to help develop, plant and harvest gardens at Longfellow and Stevens Elementary Schools. The cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley were assisted with revision and development of small livestock ordinances. Classes were given on animal management to ensure their health and to protect water and soil health.

Sustainability

In general, the project pulled together several groups and individuals that are now aware of each other and are actively talking about future projects. The district will maintain communication networks to continue to facilitate the efforts.

The Spokane Community Gardens Association hired a Vista volunteer in February 2018 to help with organizational infrastructure development. The SCG’s board of directors are very active and are taking the initiative to develop membership and identify resource needs.

School garden projects are already planning for spring with a year’s experience behind them. The first year’s steep learning curve has given them the experience to better anticipate opportunities and challenges.

The Vets on the Farm project now has solid on-farm leadership and much of the infrastructure (hoop houses, irrigation, equipment) so they can expand their outreach to more veterans. Their plan is to offer plots on the farm this spring to veterans wanting to grow their own market gardens with mentorship.

The revised Spokane urban agriculture ordinances will be approved by the city council in 2018 and will strengthen the community’s ability to grow food and animals. The Spokane Valley ordinances will be voted and WSU Extension is planning several classes to support them when they do.

River City Youth Ops has plans to develop the lot the project helped clear of trees. The soil tests conducted through the project are providing the farm with a planning tool to improve production and soil conservation awareness.

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