Help the Little Red Hen Project grow a bigger garden in Delridge
By Lindsay Peyton
Hidden behind the Delridge Community Center stands a row of raised garden plots bearing strawberries, carrots, potatoes, peas, broccoli, zucchini and artichokes.
They were planted in the space, located at 4501 Delridge Way SW, by a group of local children and area gardeners as part of the Little Red Hen Project, a neighborhood effort to grow food at the center.
Pretty soon, the group will have a lot more room to till, water and play in the dirt. The Little Red Hen Project is preparing to add 4,800 sq. ft. to its learning garden. The green space will soon stretch past the tennis courts and towards the playground, occupying a hill of sunshine in the community center’s front lawn.
The Little Red Hen Project’s founder Jenn Dowell and program manager Katie Kadwell already have plans for a berry picking space, arbors, benches, a winter feast garden and a composting area, as well as an outdoor kitchen and classroom space.
The community will be welcomed to work in the space and have plenty of room and resources to share in the garden.
“We don’t run it like a P-patch,” Dowell said. “We run it like a farm.”
She started the program to allow more people access to gardening in Delridge, following a different model that the P-patch, which gives each individual a section to cultivate.
Instead, Dowell wanted everyone in the Delridge neighborhood to have an opportunity to dig and plant. “I grew up gardening, with a big old house garden, and I was really lucky,” she said. “We’re trying to take back our land, our forgotten spaces and grow food there.”
Everyone shares the space at the Little Red Hen Project. Garden assignments do, however, come with a caveat--gardeners are expected to mentor in the art of urban farming.
Kadwell, a master gardener, connected with Dowell about four years ago. “I was looking for a project in the neighborhood,” Kadwell said.
Living in Delridge, she knew firsthand the lack of access to fresh produce in the area. Helping create a community garden that would help solve the problem was appealing to her.
She and Dowell started by rebuilding the community center gardens and laying the groundwork for youth classes.
Brad Kadel, a long-time friend of Dowell’s, volunteered to teach the classes. “I grew up on a farm, gardened most of my life,” he said. “I went out and helped Jenn in the garden, and then she needed someone to help with the classes.”
He started teaching a group of 5th and 6th graders on a weekly basis. “It’s grown from there,” he said.
Now he goes to the garden on Wednesdays to work with middle school students and on Fridays to work with children ages 6 to 11. The sessions last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours.
“The first year, it was hard to keep the kids in the garden in the summer,” he said. “Now, they’re much more interested.”
They’re especially keen on expanding the space. The kids will plant the first bed in the new area. “They’re very excited to do more stuff,” Kadel said.
The garden expansion was made possible through a Regional Food System grant from King County Conservation District and Seattle Parks and Recreation.
Kadwell explained that the group has worked to secure the funding since 2015. In November, they received the final go-ahead.
She said that the West Seattle Garden Tour has also agreed to add the organization to its list of beneficiaries.
“Now we’re working to get community donations,” Kadwell said.
The group also needs volunteers to bring the learning garden to fruition. Dowell invites individuals to join the effort, from those who want to teach to those who can spread the word on social media.
“There are lots of opportunities,” Dowell said. “If the community wants this, they can help us make it happen.”
Kadel envisions families and neighbors working together in the new space. Perhaps parents would garden while their children play in the adjacent playground, he said.
He added that the Little Red Hen Project is an ideal way to introduce children to gardening and the discipline it takes to help plants flourish.
“It gives them something to nurture,” he said. “They’ll show you the rows they’ve planted. It gives them a long-term connection to the soil.”
For more information, visit thelittleredhenproject.org.