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September 6, 2011

Susan Casey

by ebmeier

Susan Casey“Barbara Donette says that in community gardens we grow food and we grow community. You can connect with people over gardening in a way that you can’t otherwise. I know the people down at the garden more than I do the neighbors in my apartment building. It means that we connect over a larger geographic area, we are growing things concurrently and connecting on a basic level. We all need the garden to connect with community and to grow healthy, local, fresh food.”

Activities

Organization leader, community organizer, open space advocate, compost maker.

Projects

P-Patch Trust, Pro-Parks Levy, Seattle transportation issues.

Reason for Volunteering

Volunteering is just what one is suppose to do. It is part of living. I grew up in a family that was involved in civic activities. My mother was very active in the League of Women Voters. Taking part in community affairs was what you did, it was part of being an adult. And why not? It is a fantastic way to meet people and to know other parts of my community. I find it a real pleasure.

Part of finding a group to volunteer with is following your interest. Also, I look for people to work with that I find interesting, capable, talented who want to make a difference. That’s where I go.

Inspired By

My parents always gardened, so it was natural for me to garden. I typically do a Sierra Club service trip every 1-2 years. To go and spend a week or two in an area working, whether it is making or clearing trails or re-vegetation work or pulling weed at Lassen National Park or the Grand Canyon or the Tetons. Part of that sweat and muscle remains in those places. I am much closer to what was there and it becomes a part of me. There is a service aspect, but it is also a way of connecting with my environment. It is part of what life is — a sense of belonging and connecting. I am experiential; just reading about something isn’t enough; I want to physically experience a place.

Her Story

I am such a firm believer in community gardens, I can’t imagine gardening on my own without anybody else around. To me, the strength of a community garden is not just that you grow organic food, although that is a great plus, but it is doing this with other people. Barbara Donette says that in community gardens we grow food and we grow community. You can connect with people over gardening in a way that you can’t otherwise. I know the people down at the garden more than I do the neighbors in my apartment building. It means that we connect over a larger geographic area, we are growing things concurrently and connecting on a basic level. If I go out in front of my apartment building and start pulling weeds, people will come over and talk to me, if I just stand there, no one would talk to me. We all need the garden to connect with community and to grow healthy, local, fresh food.

I am between projects right now. Soon after coming to Seattle in 1984, I got involved with community gardening, the P-patch program. A friend’s daughter told me I might like to join the P-patch near my house, the Interbay P-patch. I started in 1985 and I have been gardening there ever since. I have always been involved in community activities – whether serving on a planning or zoning commission, or county board member or trying to throw the rascals out in city government back in Illinois. So, it was natural that I became a volunteer from Interbay garden to the P-patch advisory council (then Friends of P-patch, now P-patch Trust). I worked with several others, Dennis Moore for one, to change the focus from Advisory Council to Friends of P-patch to make it a policy and organizing group. We wanted it to be more focused to support the P-patch program and to ensure that the city council would fund it.

We revamped the organization, conducted a study, and came back with recommendations for a strategic plan. I served on Friends of P-Patch, often as chair for 10-15 years, then Ray Schutte took over when I had had enough of being chair. Other volunteer work I have done has been with Pro Parks. Many P-Patches are on city parks land, so it is critical to cultivate this agency. I have also been involved in transportation issues and served on Queen Anne transportation committee. I am just starting to serve as the representative from Interbay P-patch to the Magnolia/Queen Anne District Council.

I am passionate about making compost! I want to support the soil and the organisms in that soil and part of it is that I don’t disturb them a lot, I don’t walk on the soil. I used to double dig, but now I don’t. There is a whole soil ecology and environment that I don’t like to mix up so much – I like to let it do its own thing. I like to put back into the soil what I have taken out of it. Out of that tiny little corn seed, comes this big stalk of corn and when that corn has made its seed, I like to chop the plant up and put it back into the soil. That is what composting is about. You mix brown and green materials and they break down together and you add that back to the soil. The green stuff is often from my garden. The soil produced it and it should get it back. I enjoy the physicality of making hot compost. It is very satisfying and I always do it with a friend. Basically, you make it for yourself and you share it with your neighbors. The brown material comes from leaves and we’ve arranged for the city to bring them to us. They dump them off and instead of them going to waste, we incorporate them back into the soil. We also have an arrangement with organic landscapers to give us their grass clippings. Nothing gets wasted.

I am not sure what I will do next. I am currently asking myself, what are my passions? That is where I start – what are the things that I really care about? It could be transportation, food security, or health care, just as a few ideas. I am talking with people and finding out what organization is working on my issues. It does take a while to find that fit but I think that for most of us, it is better to find a group to work with than on our own.

I went to a lecture at Wide World Books and the woman speaking had spent a year traveling around the world volunteering and she was interested in working with animals and also working near water. That is something that I might want to do. I like to be part of a community where I am volunteering and it is a great way to know more about that area and the people who live there. The problem is fitting those in with getting the garden planted and picked. There is a timing issue there.

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