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Short History of Seattle Tilth

The roots of Seattle Tilth go back to 1974 when a group of friends attended a symposium in Spokane on the state of American agriculture.  The Kentucky farmer, poet and visionary Wendell Berry inspired the group with his comments about the need to change our relationship with the land and the food it produces. In follow-up communication, Berry challenged the group to “bring together individuals and organizations concerned with creating a better kind of agriculture,” in the hope that it “would be the start of something or other that would be useful."

Shortly after Berry’s call to action, the group adopted the name “Tilth” and organized the Northwest Conference on Alternative Agriculture. The conference drew more than 800 participants – many who would later become key figures in the Northwest’s ecological agriculture movement.

Three years later, in 1977, the Tilth Association was formally incorporated “to support and promote biologically sound and socially equitable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest." By the next year, local Tilth chapters were formed in California, Oregon, Idaho and Washington – including Seattle Tilth and its Urban Agriculture Center at the Good Shepard Center in Wallingford. While the parent association disbanded in 1984, Seattle Tilth and other local chapters continued to thrive. 

Since then, Seattle Tilth has continued teaching people to grow food organically while taking care of the environment in a wide variety of classes, programs and community events. We’ve become the trusted “go-to” source for organic gardening education in the region and have taught thousands of adults and children in hands-on educational programs. We published the “Maritime Northwest Garden Guide” in the 1990s, which is still considered an essential tool for food gardening in the northwest. In recent years our urban livestock programs have become very popular and we wrote “Your Farm in the City,” a 320-page manual on urban farming. We’ve also expanded our programs to include small farm education, cooking, job training and to serve communities with the greatest need.

You can read the longer version of our history by Mark Musick.

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