On Thursday March 1st, 25 gardeners from the Namaste Garden in Tukwila traveled to the Danny Woo Community Garden for an exchange of culture, history, and seeds.
The Namaste Garden, in partnership with the International Rescue Committee and St. Thomas Parish, offers access to healthy food, supports the St Thomas food bank, creates educational opportunities for students, and provide local refugees with a place to meet their neighbors and strengthen community ties.
The gardeners who visited are Bhutanese refugees, who were exiled from Bhutan for being of Nepalese descent. In the early 1990s, about 100,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, many of whom came from families that had lived and farmed in southern Bhutan for generations, wound up in refugee camps in eastern Nepal. About 85% of the refugees wound up in the United States, and about 2,000 still live in Washington state, though many have had to move out of state because of the region's high cost of living.
InterIm CDA's Executive Director Pradeepta Upadhyay is originally from Nepal, and greeted the Namaste gardeners and introduced the Danny Woo Community Garden in her native tongue. With the help of Mandarin-to-English and English-to Nepali interpretation, Danny Woo Garden's 94-year-old Elder Xie Pan gave a tour of his garden plots and explained why the Danny Woo Community Garden is important to the community in Chinatown International District. He invited the gardeners to come back later in the season. "In July or August, there will be many vegetables," Pan said. "You can come and take as many as you like!"
After the tour, the gardeners exchanged seeds at Hirabayashi Place, InterIm's newest affordable housing development named after Seattle-native Gordon Hirabayashi, who famously resisted Japanese American Internment and won a Supreme Court Case in 1980. We discussed the history of the Nihonmachi neighborhood and the legacy of Mr. Hirabayashi. Many of the Namaste gardeners, refugees who faced persecution for their ethnic heritage, did not know that the United States government persecuted its own citizens for being of Japanese descent during World War II.
The Danny Woo Community Garden provided seeds to the gardeners, which were donations from Seed Savers Exchange, Kiwazawa Seed Company, and Seattle Seed Company. The Namaste Gardeners generously brought their own saved seeds, including amaranth, bitter melon, and rare varieties of mustard greens from Nepal used to make a dish called Gundruk.
It was a beautiful event and we hope to continue a meaningful relationship with the Namaste Gardeners.
The Danny Woo Community Garden is a 1.5 acre edible growing space located in the heart of Seattle's Chinatown/International District. The garden has been a place for elders to grow for over 40 years and is also home to a children's garden, chicken coop, and outdoor kitchen. Visit us at 620 S. Main St., Seattle, WA 98104.