How Does Your Garden Grow?

Jul 13, 2023

Nick (Xunan) Li remembers as a young child wandering through a large field of peanuts on his grandfather’s farm in China. He loved the feel of the place – something he thinks of often now that he’s volunteering at the Seattle Community Farm. The farm in Seattle’s Rainier Valley is run by our nonprofit partner Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) and Nick volunteers there through Companis. 

As a college student, Nick spends most of his time inside studying. He’s a Human Biology major at the University of Washington and carries a heavy academic load, so being outdoors at the farm every week is a special time for him. “It’s good to get outside,” he says, “and I like watching the vegetables grow!” 

Nick heard about Companis through the UW’s Career Center where job and volunteer opportunities are posted. He also talked to his college advisor who recommended that he seek out community connections and start to volunteer. “So I took his advice, contacted Companis, and came here.” 

Nick Li waters a row of A-Choy, a leafy green vegetable that is used in a variety of Asian dishes.

Nick says so far this summer he’s been mostly planting, watering and weeding rows of A-Choy, a leafy green vegetable that’s often served blanched or in a stir fry.  “I like working alongside my supervisor and other volunteers,” he says. “They give me good advice about gardening…there’s a lot of wisdom here.” 

Nick’s supervisor is Joselynn Tokashiki Engstrom, the farm coordinator. “It’s been really nice working with Nick,” she says. She’s also enjoyed watching Nick work side by side with the primary grower for the ACRS Food Bank who also speaks Mandarin, Nick’s native language. 

The food grown at the farm is distributed through the food bank and Club Bamboo Kitchen, its senior center meal program. In addition, there are rows set aside for community elders to grow their own food. 

“Nick has been coming to the farm once a week and has been a really big help,” says Joselynn. And like all the volunteers she works with, Joselynn says, “I want everyone to get something out of it. I love teaching people about plants and I love learning from the volunteers because everyone brings something special from their own lives. It’s a reciprocal relationship.”



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