Community farming heals bodies and minds – KIRO 7 News Seattle

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KENT, Wash. — In a South King County greenhouse grows a cure: raw, organic vegetables sown and harvested by the hands of low-income and immigrant families.

Vegetables that can even save a life.

“As an African, the blood knows, you connect more deeply with the soil,” said community farmer Dixon Njeri. “It matters. Yes.”

It does, because the food goes directly to their communities. From farm to table. Health and friendliness.

“We produce food here, organic and fresh, and then we distribute it in a food center like a food bank,” said Nisar Omari.

Omari, who holds a postgraduate degree in agriculture, manages the greenhouse run by the non-profit group Living Well Kent. It provides these expensive organic products free of charge to thousands of people every year.

“It’s so hard, you know, they can’t find fresh food even if you go to Renton and Costco, there’s frozen food and there’s nothing fresh like here,” Omari said.

The program is not only about physical health, it also improves mental health.

“Most of our community work in the healthcare industry where they are inside. Working in hospitals, nursing homes,” Dixon Njeri said.

He is with Wakulima USA, another agriculture nonprofit for the community.

And this community may have difficulty adapting to the cold, rainy climate of the Northwest.

“So they are not able to adapt where they can access the sun – and the ground. So they end up having mental health issues like depression as well,” he said.

But Njeri said they found solace in the bright, warm greenhouses where some even grew foods that were hard to find from overseas.

Even so, the most precious seed planted there is hope.

“And you feel good because you see life, you start a seed from when it was a seed. You water it, you see it bloom and then you see life. So you are given peace in yourself knowing that you are doing something positive,” Njeri said.

And farm produce is at the center of Living Well Kent’s food hub. Ahmed Farah is the Food Access Officer.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap of food inequality that exists all over the world and we’re trying to make it a food hub and not a food bank,” Farah said. “It makes them feel more connected to us. Because we don’t want them to just feel like they can get any type of food, but food that they know, that I know they’re going to cook. Do you know what I mean?”

Farmers also work on eight acres of land that Living Well Kent shares with Wakulima USA.

“Oh, it’s therapy for me. It’s so therapeutic. I love it,” said Maura Kizito of Living Well Kent.

Kizito, who brings the children to the farm, is pure sunshine.

“It makes me feel like I’m giving back to the community. And it’s also, as I said, therapeutic. I appreciate. And that’s just food. I love food,” Kizito said.

“All of this food I made today is from our culture and our community,” said Nidhal Kadhim, farmer and beneficiary of the Living Well Kent programme.

And when that food hits the table…

“When you grow food and eat it, it pays off. Sometimes it’s (a) tough time, but it’s worth it when you get fresh, organic and healthy food,” Kadhim said. “My health is better and my family, the same.”

I am told there are 16 farmers in the program this year. This number will increase, because the fruit they grow will never spoil.

“Food – it’s a language that you can connect with a lot of diverse communities because food has no borders. It’s like music. It’s where (you) connect, it’s where you fellowship with people,” Njeri said.

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