Meet our Farm Manager Shanelle Donaldson & the Bloom Project
Shanelle Donaldson is the rockstar manager behind the Food Bank’s rooftop garden program and has some incredible projects up her sleeve this spring!
Shanelle started at the Food Bank in October 2020 taking over managing our rooftop garden where we grow seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs year-round to feed the community. With all that she does for us she’s also operated her own business, an urban farm called Percussion Farms, since 2016. It’s a backyard farm model where people donate space and she grows food in Seattle’s Central District, Beacon Hill and in Auburn. Food that’s grown is distributed to food banks and the local BIPOC community.
In 2021 Shanelle partnered with the Doorway Project to found an urban farming job training program called the Bloom Project, dedicated to educating youth about how to grow food in an urban setting. Last year they had enough funding for one cohort and after receiving grant funding they will be able to offer two cohorts that will each run for 10 weeks in 2022 and in 2023!
The program is offered to 4-5 students per session ages 18-24 and focuses on black and indigenous youth, as well as those experiencing housing insecurity and living in youth care and transitional housing. The students are paid $20 per hour for 10 hours of training per week and get to experience everything hands-on. They will spend 5 hours at the University District Food Bank and the other 5 hours at Doorway Project where they will work on building an urban garden and growing space. They will learn about food systems, how food is distributed, all about worms and composting from the folks at the Tilth Alliance, a beekeeper will teach them about bees and pollinators, and a local forager will take them foraging in the city.
Additionally, art will play a big role in the curriculum offering a creative and healing experience. This includes painting beehives, writing poetry, making lip balm from flowers they grow, making vegetable dyes from veggies they grow, making seed paper, and building a mason beehive.
After the 10 weeks they hope to place all students in urban agriculture jobs including at farmers markets, with beekeepers and at urban farms like Percussion. Shanelle hopes to open their eyes and minds into the world of urban agriculture which is filled with opportunities they may have never known about.
Shanelle is also in the process of converting the Food Bank’s rooftop raised beds from milk crates to larger wood and metal beds that are deeper allowing for more growing options. We can’t wait for you to see it when it’s completed later this spring!