Community Gardens

"Public Produce" Takes Root at Bainbridge City Hall

Next time you have an errand at the Bainbridge Island City Hall, you might stop outside the front door and pick a few sprigs of purple basil and a ripe red tomato to take home for dinner. They’ll be free for the taking, thanks to an idea planted by a speaker at a recent Islandwood event.

Late last month, Trudi Inslee helped to organize an Islandwood appearance by author Darrin Nordahl, who spoke about his new book Public Produce: The New Urban Agriculture. In it, Nordahl explores the idea of using public spaces for urban agriculture.

Among those attending the presentation were Steve Morse, Associate Planner for the city, Sallie Maron of Sound Food, and local farmer Betsey Wittick, along with several of her summer farm interns. An idea took shape during a conversation between Morse and Maron after the meeting. What about growing vegetables at City Hall? There were several sunny gaps between the plantings that would be a perfect home for a few tomatoes, or some peppers.

They took the idea to Debbi Lester and Barry Peters of the Bainbridge City Council, who enlisted the support of City Manager Lee Walton and city “Wellness Committee” members Heather Beckmann and Kelly Dickson. Farmer Wittick offered expertise and volunteered her time and that of her interns to help with the planting. Brian MacWhorter of Butler Green Farm offered to donate tomato starts.

So on the upcoming Memorial Day weekend look for a crew made up of farmers, city staff and council members, and Sound Food volunteers to be hard at work filling City Hall’s planting beds with herbs, tomatoes, peppers and other edibles. All because of an idea that took root in the fertile connections of our Bainbridge Island community.

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