Like much of the West Coast, Seattle is a food-loving city with a nearly year-round growing season. With so much potential for producing a bumper crop of locally grown healthy food it seems a shame to let pavement get in the way of planting.
Seattle Urban Farm Company (SUFCo) specializes in possibilities. Since 2007, they’ve been designing, installing, and maintaining small-scale urban food production plots around the Puget Sound area. SUFCo owners Colin McCrate and Brad Halm want to teach people how to organically produce good food and craft healthy environments—anywhere.
It’s this educational aspect that landed them a recent project to create a community vegetable garden on the roof of a new housing complex in the South Lake Union area of downtown, a onetime industrial hub that today houses internet giants, biotech firms, and global health organizations.
Construction of the targeted Platinum LEED certified complex is slated for completion this fall. Carpets are just being laid, but crops of kale, chard, mustard greens, and beans are ready for harvest now. Beautifully—and deliciously—demonstrating to prospective tenants the bounty that could be theirs. Plans for next season include regular garden-coaching sessions, planting and harvesting tips, and general encouragement for the next new crop of urban farmers.
Across town in the historic Ballard neighborhood, SUFCo has tended the rooftop garden atop Bastille Cafe and Bar since 2009. From the very beginning, renovation of the 100-year-old burnished brick building housing the bustling bistro included retrofitting the roof to accommodate 4,500 square feet of very local growing space. Raised beds are designed to adapt to growing conditions throughout the year with integral frames that accommodate shade cloth or plastic sheeting as needed. Along with cleverly modified kiddie pool planters, all the beds are filled with a rich potting mix amended with granular organic fertilizer and watered by a drip irrigation system.
Succession plantings throughout the growing season produce a continuous harvest of vegetables, herbs, and flowers that find their way into Executive Chef Jason Stoneburner’s kitchen. Set on a far corner of the roof, honeybee hives boost production and produce their own sweet reward in late summer. The daily harvest from the roof is posted on a blackboard that greets diners as they enter the restaurant and shapes a seasonal menu of salads, main dishes, and even specialty garden-driven cocktails.
Seattle Urban Farm Company believes creating gardens and training gardeners builds a strong community and improves the quality of urban life. Whether you’re looking at a view of the Space Needle framed by kale, or sitting down to a salad of vibrant greens and herbs dressed with French vinaigrette, the harvest is good.