As a young girl in Ethiopia, I was proud of the small family farm we had. My young self doesn’t quite know whether it was owned by us or our neighbors who provided a job for my family. My memories are numb to the hard work it took to produce the food but when harvest time came, I couldn’t wait to stand on the hilltop as I watch the rows, and rows of green corn fields. I remember getting chased off by farmers as we stole their tomatoes, potatoes and corn ears. The memory of running with food through the fields still gives warmth to my heart and I often miss those days.

Fast forward to 10 years and I am in the garden with my grandpa and sister in Port Townsend (My adopted family). When my grandfather retired from his profession, he spent his time enjoying gardening, drying fruits, making jam and growing flowers for my grandma. Everything about America was new but gardening was something I was familiar with. I quickly learned the hard work it takes, the patience and what getting dirty meant. My grandfather grew a little of everything that Washington weather allowed him to. Which is why we had to convince him to grow corn. I still remember my sister and biting the raw corn to commemorate our hard work after a couple of unsuccessful tries. But in the end, I just liked spending time with my grandpa, grandma, and sister while growing food.

Now age 28, I am the Rainier Beach Action Coalition farm stand manager, a partnership project with the Ethiopian Community In Seattle. As we saw fresh food insecurity in our neighborhood, we wanted to create a farm stand that identified with the vibrant culture of Beach and tackled the issues of affordable produce, health education, and farming. Unfortunately, as a new small farm stand, we faced many challenges to obtain permitting, qualify for resource and at times being recognized as a legit farm stand.  I grew into my role learning from my farmers, working hard alongside our amazing five Farm Stand Fellows, and lots of support at RBAC, ECS, and ROAR. My summer was blurred with fresh sheets, inventory, youth trainings, invoices, Instagram posts and ended with 19 successful farm stand days. At the end of every Saturday, my frustration, anxiety, and insecurities of my ability to be an affective farm stand manager would vanish because folks showed up rain or shine for fresh produce. We had no blueprint as to how to create a farm stand that was community focused while following food and market regulations. In the end, we pushed through the barriers and made our landmark as the first Rainier Beach Farm Stand. Each journey, I have taken with food has been a different world; I was the consumer in Ethiopia, the grower in Port Townsend and now the provider of food in Rainier Beach. As I pass on the torch to the next farm stand manager, I am excited to see where food takes me next.

Thanks for reading,
Liya Rubio