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Remembering Elaine Stannard (1925-2011)

Mark Musick, Founding Member of the Tilth Association

Elaine Stannard, one of the catalysts for the regional Tilth movement, died in Seattle on September 16 at the age of 86. As an honored guest at Seattle Tilth’s 30th anniversary celebration, Elaine told the story of her first experience with organic gardening, gathering manure from behind a horse-drawn milk wagon to add to her grandmother’s compost pile during the Great Depression.

As a young woman growing up in Chicago, Elaine was a Quaker peace and civil rights activist. She moved to Seattle in 1956, earned a teaching certificate at the UW, and taught elementary school in Renton. She lived in a pioneering housing cooperative and was one of the founding members of Puget Consumers Coop.

An avid gardener, Elaine was always interested in health, nutrition, and growing community. In 1976 she toured intentional communities and organic farms in Europe. Inspired by what she learned there, Elaine returned home with the idea of creating a membership organization to unite the sustainable agriculture movement in the Pacific Northwest.

In August, 1977 Elaine facilitated a meeting of organic farmers and city gardeners that led to the incorporation of the Tilth Association, and she served as the organization’s founding Secretary.

In early 1978, Elaine collaborated with Carl Woestwin, Regina Hugo, Steve Ruden, and other friends to start Seattle Tilth and host the city’s first urban agriculture conference. Over the past three decades the movement she helped foster has grown into a thriving network of local and state-wide Tilth organizations in Washington and Oregon.

Elaine was a devoted wife and mother, with five daughters and a large extended family. In addition to being a driving force in the Tilth movement, she was an advocate for the handicapped and mentally ill. Elaine’s life exemplified the profound impact one person can make through the simple act of building community, and her legacy will continue to grow.

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