Bellevue is now home to a new farming project that aims to change the way the community thinks about food. The urban farm, located about a mile from Bellevue College in the Lake Hills neighborhood, is a product of the vision of urban farmer Maybin Chisebuka.
Chisebuka, through a partnership with the nonprofit Farmer Frog, broke ground on the new urban farming project on April 25. The event, which was attended by Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci, marked the beginning of the long process of converting the 2.75 acres of wetlands into a sustainable food production venture.
“We just planted our blueberries, but it will be a fairly long time before the space is fully productive,” said Farmer Frog Program Director Zsofia Pasztor.
Converting a wetland into a productive farming space is a massive project in itself. Although the project identifies itself as an urban farm, the focus is in fact not food production.
“The goals of this project are two-fold, educating the children and building the community,” said Chisebuka.
While most urban farming ventures make feeding the community their top priority, this new project has a different goal, teaching the community to feed itself. Chisebuka sees an opportunity to educate local residents on how they can produce edible crops on their own property.
“When you go to other countries around the world, you look at people’s houses and they have gardens in their front yards and gardens in their backyards. You simply do not see this in America,” said Chisebuka.
The farm is actually located next door to a community garden that has existed for years. Despite their proximity and similar themes, the two projects have no plans to partner with one another.
“I think the main difference is that the community garden is focused on adults and the new urban farm is geared towards young people. Also, the community garden provides open space where anyone can plant, while the urban farm is going to be more structured,” BC student and gardening enthusiast Josh Roter said.
To some students, the urban farm project isn’t quite as it advertises itself to be.
“When I first heard about the project it sounded like a great place to go and plant some crops of my own. I also expected the main purpose of the site would be to feed people in the community. But it seems like actually growing food isn’t the main priority of the farm,” said BC environmental science student Sterling Clarkson.
Chisebuka disagrees. He sees his project as a long-term way of addressing the food security issues that are pervasive across America. By educating people, especially children, about how to take on a more active role in how their food is produced, Chisebuka hopes to build communities that are more self-sufficient in feeding themselves.
“We want to act as a catalyst. To show communities that growing their own food can be easy and fun. To help people take control of the way they eat,” Chisebuka said.
Those interested in the project or in volunteering can visit farmerfrog.org for more information.