One of the goals of the Seattle Community Farm is to engage the community in growing and sharing food. Therefore, we only do outreach in the immediate neighborhood around the farm, rather than engaging with large groups from anywhere in the city. The immediate neighborhood currently consists of about twelve blocks of residences, with roughly 180 families, and the surrounding area is significantly larger. Because that neighborhood is so diverse, we have tried to do outreach in many ways so as to reach as many people as possible.
In a neighborhood where there are immigrants and refugees who speak 56 different languages, it’s important to reach people in their own languages. Following are a few of the lessons we’ve learned this year and recommended tips for using translation and interpretation services to do outreach:
“Translation” refers to written materials, and “interpretation” refers to spoken interactions. Figure out which languages are most widely spoken, and offer services in those languages.
Translations of text or flyers are useful, although some immigrants may lack high levels of literacy in their native language. Translated materials are also good to give to interpreters so they have a reference in both languages. Putting the translations in smaller type makes sense logistically, but make sure the text is readable and eye-catching.
Interpreters already exist in both cultures in some ways, so they are often very good at explaining cultural norms that may be incomprehensible to you. If people will be asking questions through interpreters, allot enough time to interpret both the questions and answers to other language groups (who didn’t ask the question). When making flyers in multiple languages, think critically about the size and placement of the translations. Interpreters, especially those who live in the community, are great resources for reaching people in that cultural group. They are also good people to ask about what is polite in their culture. Always allot more time for events when using interpreters. The same activity takes roughly 40% longer when going through interpretation.
Every community has certain groups, organizations, or faith communities that attract a lot of people and hold public influence. Connecting with these groups to build and maintain good relationships is critical. In our context, we make sure to establish relationships with groups that serve all the major cultural groups in the neighborhood (i.e. East African immigrants and refugees, SE Asian immigrants and refugees, low income renters, and middle class and wealthy homeowners).
Following are some good strategies and things to keep in mind when connecting with existing community groups.
Everyone likes to be appreciated for the work they’re doing. Thanking volunteers also allows you to make a pitch for their continued involvement with the project. We sent thank you cards to our volunteers at the end of the summer with a reminder that the growing season continues through the fall. Thank-you cards are a good way to acknowledge volunteers individually and to show your appreciation for their hard work. Find something personal to say to each of them.
We also hold a Harvest Celebration and other volunteer potlucks. It’s nice to get people together just to socialize, not work. Being a farm, cooking and eating together are natural ways of doing that.
When a new volunteer starts at the Farm, we hand them a packet with the necessary paperwork. This includes a Volunteer Application, a Media Release, and a survey that is required by one of our grants. We then scan these into our computer system, so that it's all in one place.
The Seattle Community Farm (SCF) has many goals in the community: getting fresh produce to those who struggle to afford it, educating children and adults about growing and cooking their own food, and connecting people across cultural and linguistic barriers to garden together.