Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Meat and Potatoes at Olsen Farms

by Dick Gillett

Checking out the Olsen Farms stall at Friday’s Phinney Farmers Market, you see two things: a large and varied row of potatoes on one table, and an array of deep-freeze foot lockers on two other tables. Not very picturesque compared to the displays of other stalls—but the proof is in the eating!

Brent and Kira Olsen’s family farm, located near Colville in northeast Washington, comprises about 300 acres plus additional leased land nearby. According to Kira, Brent started farming in the mid-1990s with a vegetable crop, then switched to growing potatoes, then tried hay. Sticking with the potatoes and the hay fields, he then got interested in raising livestock.

Today their cattle are raised on green grass pastures and are fed hay and potatoes in the winter. “We feed the cows only what we grow on the farm, no outside food sources or animal by-products,” affirms the farm’s website. “Our pigs are fed barley grown just across the road from where they live and our lambs are moved throughout the region to remain on pasture for as much of the year as possible.” The farm’s animals are naturally raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics.

Kira Olsen is one of those multitaskers: farmer’s wife, mother, and office worker (including at the farm’s USDA-certified meat processing facility nearby). For Kira, there’s a personal connection to our farmer’s market: she managed it in 2009, then met her husband through that connection. The couple have two daughters, 15 months and 2 ½ years.

Oh yes, about those potatoes…the farm’s huge selection of flavorful and colorful varieties inspire tasty recipes—like “Lena’s Big, Fluffy Viking Purple Potato” and “Ruth’s Breakfast Binjte Potatoes”—which can be found on their helpful website:

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Heads up: there are only two more Fridays left for the Market this season! Hope to see you this Friday at the Phinney Center, 3:30-7:30 pm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Comprehending Hip Hop

 Workshop explores new American art form

By Spyridon “Spin” Nicon
In March, when a gas explosion rocked Greenwood, buildings shook and windows were shattered. The community exemplified strength, compassion and the power of people coming together. Plywood went up where windows once were. And soon these sheets of plywood became canvases. Canvases where graffiti writers and street artists created visual statements of support. As color exited cans, something dull and grim and became bright and beautiful.

Graffiti—and its many mutations, now often called street art—is one of the four elements of hip hop culture.

Now held in high esteem, showcased in museums and fetching million dollars price tags at auctions houses, graffiti was not always welcome. In the mid-to- late 1970's a battle waged between the NYC subway system and graffiti writers.

Without the aerosol art that fleetingly transformed the trains of New York City, there would be no street art as we know it today, no bidding wars over a Banksy. And the blank sheets of plywood that temporarily mended business windows, would have been simply that. Instead, we witnessed a vivid visual expression that blossomed as part of a larger youth movement called hip hop.

What is hip hop? Why does it matter? Hip hop is a vibrant culture that came to life in New York City in the 1970's, and is comprised of four elements—DJs (disc jockeys), MCs (rappers) and B-Boys (breakdancers) and Graffiti Writers (street artists).

DJs amassed records, spun tracks, isolated breaks, manipulated elements, produced new sounds, and kept the party jumping.

MCs honed skills, rhymed effortlessly, verbally dazzled, and spoke from and for the streets of New York, America and beyond.

B-Boys rocked to the breaks, innovated moves, defied gravity, entertained the party, and integrated new style.

Graffiti writers shook cans, released aerosol, created controversy, and communicated visually, laying the groundwork for street artists around the globe.

Now embedded in popular culture, hip hop is part of our everyday. Hip hop is a great American art form, which is precisely what makes it an infinitely interesting subject for sociological examination and discussion.

Treat yourself to a greater understanding of hip hop culture. During a five week, intergenerational course, embark on a deeper examination of the elements of this great American art form.

The course runs five Thursdays: 9/29, 10/6, 10/13, 10/20 & 10/27
7-9 pm at the Phinney Center Blue Building. Free, suggested donation $10-50 for the series.

Spyridon "Spin" Nicon: Life-long hip hop fan, promoter, connector and translator. Ever exploring this historically rich culture through images and words. Follow him on instagram @comprehendinghiphop.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A place of their own

City proposes property transfer of Greenwood Senior Center to the PNA:
Public comment requested

by Marty Chakoain

Most of us value security, especially the security of a stable home, and a stable home can be just as important to organizations as it is to families.

Since 1979, the Greenwood Senior Center (GSC) has provided essential services to the community from its home on N 85th Street. Those services were bolstered with financial and volunteer resources when the GSC became a PNA program in 2006. But the GSC facility—the building and the land it sits on—is actually owned by the City of Seattle. The City has allowed the GSC to operate rent free in exchange for the services it provides, and for taking care of the building.

Now the next step in the evolution of the GSC is about to happen: the City has proposed giving the GSC property to the PNA to own and operate permanently. A letter of agreement, jointly signed by the City’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services and the PNA, lays out the conditions: the City would transfer ownership of the property to the PNA at no cost other than the usual expenses that go with any real estate transaction, such as title insurance. In return, the PNA would commit to continuing to use the facility to deliver social and health services through the Greenwood Senior Center, and perhaps someday add new programs that could serve the community.

The City has notified neighbors and GSC participants about the proposed ownership change. (Read the letter.) There is a short period to submit comments either for or against the “sale.” You can comment by emailing or calling 206-684-7154.

Final action, which is not expected until later this year, will depend on a signed agreement between the City and the PNA, and formal approval by the City Council and PNA Board.

Even when that happens, not much will change, at least not right away. The Greenwood Senior Center will continue to do all the important things it does, and the PNA will continue to be responsible for the operation, maintenance, and repair of the building, just as it is today.
But longer term, there are two very important benefits from the title transfer.

First, the Greenwood Senior Center can have the security of knowing that it owns its home, and that no landlord—even a great landlord like the City of Seattle—can ever force it to leave.

Second, the PNA can start thinking about long term investments in the property—adding to, remodeling, or possibly even replacing the building sometime in the future to enable the GSC to better serve its community.

Please show your support for the GSC and PNA and contact the City to provide feedback in this process by emailing or calling 206-684-7154. Thank you!

We also welcome your input and questions about this exciting new development for the PNA--the next phase in growth and evolution for the Greenwood Senior Center! Please contact GSC Director Cecily Kaplan at or 206.297.0875.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Behind the Scenes at Tonnemaker Hill Farm

by Dick  Gillett
Business was brisk last Friday at the Phinney Farmers Market, with Rainier cherries piled high on the table at the Tonnemaker Farm stall. 

Serving the customers were Kayci and Alana, both from Seattle, but both deeply familiar with operations at the 128 acre farm in Eastern Washington. The farm is big on fruit (including several varieties of cherries, with apricots and peaches coming in early to mid-July) and has 60 acres of orchards. A few of the cherry trees are three generations old and still producing. And speaking of generations: four generations of Tonnemaker farmers have farmed in Eastern Washington.

But fruit isn’t the only product you can find at their booth. In season are veggies from most of the rest of their acreage, including summer squash, tomatoes, rhubarb, zucchini and cucumbers. Friday one table featured a variety of packaged organic peppers. “Our crops are rotated annually for soil preservation and also keep pests to a minimum," said Kayci. 

But who actually picks the cherries off the trees and the peppers from the plants? Amazingly, Tonnemakers are involved. Writes a member of the farm team: "Our current harvest crew consists of 2 generations of Tonnemakers, a couple of local long time year-round employees, local high school and college students on summer break, Japanese Agricultural Exchange Trainees and a seasonally variable number of members of 3 Hispanic families, several of which have helped with the short but intense cherry harvest for more than 20 years. Everyone here from the top down is a picker of one crop or another.

"Hand harvesting crops is hard work and everyone here participates - even 80 year old Gene Tonnemaker insisted on donning a picking bag and pitching in.” Whew! 

But  happily for us customers at Phinney Farmers Market, “Life is just a bowl of cherries.”

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Vendor is a familiar face to the PNA

Burton Hills Farm Joins Phinney Farmers Market

Long ago, in the fall of 1981, Collin Medeiros would often join his father (the then director and only PNA employee) for lunch at the newly opened Phinney Neighborhood Center. After lunch, young Collin would complete the remainder of his school day at a K-1 class located in Room 2 of the center. This June, Collin returns to the Phinney Center as a new vendor at the weekly Phinney Farmers Market.

Collin and Rebecca Medeiros and their family own and operate Burton Hill Farm, a raw milk dairy and farmstead on nearby Vashon Island. They have been selling their Grade “A” raw goat milk and goat cheese products on Vashon for several years through their farm stand, weekly farmers market and various island stores.

Collin and his family at the Farmers Market

This year they increased production enough to take on another market and have chosen the Phinney Farmers Market as their logical next step. “It’s a no brainer,” says Collin. “I know the community. Many of the people may remember me. And my parents have offered to help at the stand!”

Rebecca and Collin have dreamed of operating a goat dairy from the beginning of their relationship. In 2004, they sold their belongings and travelled with their infant son to Portugal as WWOOF-ers (Willing Workers on Organic Farmers) to live and work on a goat dairy.

It has taken several years to grow their herd, gain their Grade “A” certification and perfect their specialty cheeses. The season will begin with Burton Hill Farm Raw Goat Milk Feta. Aged four to eight months for a creamy and deeply rich but not overly salty flavor, their raw goat milk Feta dresses up any veggie, fruit, or pizza.

Also available will be their St. Benedict’s Blue cheese. Aged from two to four months, with a natural, rustic rind, this full-bodied raw goat milk blue cheese is earthy and sweet, an excellent companion for honey, jam, fruit, and wine.

And, you can always count on fresh Grade “A” raw goats’ milk and goat milk soaps.

Stop by, welcome Collin back to the community and take home some local flavor.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Transforming our bilingual classroom--indoors and out

PCPE, PNA’s Spanish Cooperative Preschool, Awarded a Community Grant from the University District Rotary

On March 18 the University District Rotary Club announced that Phinney Cooperativa Preescolar en EspaƱol (PCPE), PNA’s Spanish Cooperative Preschool, was awarded one of their 2016 Community Grants. The grant will go towards a remodel project that will transform the bilingual preschool classroom with new physical, sensory, and outdoor play spaces. Rotary's investment in PCPE will go towards ensuring high-quality bilingual preschool education for generations to come. Some improvements include a new play structure and a science, inquiry-based space.

The project will begin over the summer break and it is anticipated to be completed by the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, which starts in September 2016.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Kind words from Greenwood businesses

We've received many words of thanks from businesses who have received relief from the community's generosity to the Greenwood Relief Fund, and we wanted to share them with you:

This help will go a long way for the immediate future and the rebuilding process, thanks for being so kind and compassionate during this difficult time.
~ Sammy Arhseed, owner of Mr Gyros

As you know, the last few months have been incredibly difficult for small businesses in the Greenwood area, especially for Tim and the Angry Beaver. With the explosion and the recent break-in, Tim’s been beaten down pretty bad, and struggling financially to keep his bar and his dream alive… I recently saw your letter to Tim and learned of the Phinney Neighborhood Association’s commitment to Tim and the Angry Beaver. I just wanted to reach out and say thank you, and let you know that it damn near brings me to tears to see this good man finally be treated the way he treats others. Tim needs all the help he can get, and the Phinney Neighborhood Association has made a potentially game-changing decision that could save Tim and his business. This type of effort by the PNA makes me proud to be a member of this community, and I just wanted to share with you my sincere appreciation and respect for what you guys are doing. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This is amazing.
~ Aaron Thompson, Angry Beaver’s attorney

Your efforts along with those of everyone else at PNA to support businesses, employees and residents through the Greenwood Relief Fund is very much appreciated. You are a model in so many ways for the value of a strong community. Thank you for providing assistance to our business. Although our loss was not nearly as great as others’, the help you have offered for our small business is meaningful.

~ Bill Clements, owner of Rosewood Guitar owner

I want to thank you for the funds that was appropriate it for my business, will be a big help to restore some of the funds that the insurance will not cover…I want to thank you for the wonderful work everyone is doing one day soon I will give back!
Eleni Henry, owner of Kouzina and Zoey Catering, 4/14/16

WOW! This is amazing, and not what we expected at all. Thank you so much.

~ Davey Oil, owner of G&O Family Cyclery, 4/20/16

The gang at Angry Beaver brought us flowers when they came to pick up their employee relief checks.
(Razzi's also brought us pizza--twice!)

Greenwood Relief Fund tops $260,000; funds still needed

It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two months since the explosion that devastated the center of Greenwood.

Fundraising efforts have reached $260,601, thanks to countless individuals and over 100 businesses who donated or held benefits. We expect more contributions to come in through various fundraisers and charitable organizations, including proceeds from the Bureau of Fearless Ideas' book Encyclopedia Greenwoodia and proceeds from the auction of the Greenwood plywood murals, which Urban Hands has organized. The auction will take place at Greenwood Square/Upper Crust Catering (8420 Greenwood Ave N), starting at 6 pm (appetizers, bar and social hour at 5 pm) on Friday, May 13 during the BIG One Art Walk.

Here at the PNA, we’ve been working hard with the Greenwood Relief Advisory Board, communicating with the 53 businesses, and all of the employees and residents affected, determining needs and distributing funds.

So far, $234,423 has been disbursed but funds are still needed, as the estimated damage is in the millions. Roughly half of the funds went directly to the displaced residents and the employees who lost work hours because of business closures. The remaining is currently being distributed to businesses based on the amount of damage they suffered. Of the 53 businesses affected, 30 have requested funds for uninsured loss, many have declined assistance because of sufficient insurance coverage and we are waiting to hear back from several businesses who have not responded.

Progress with repairs is moving slowly as businesses, building owners and insurance companies navigate this complicated situation. We have heard countless expressions of gratitude (including flowers and a pizza!) from those receiving relief, and we are honored to steward the community’s generosity.

PNA continues to welcome donations to the fund, and we will keep it open through fall. You can still donate online or via mail/in-person at 6532 Phinney Ave N., Seattle, WA 98103. PNA will also continue to promote any fundraisers or benefits organized by businesses or groups.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sustained conservation

Columbo, service dog in training,
appreciates energy conservation.
Reduce, reuse, recycle are Phinney Center founding values
Originally appeared in the Fall 2015 edition of The Review
In the 1980s, when a group of neighbors formed the PNA, one of their very first projects together was focused on conservation: designing and building internal storm windows for houses in the neighborhood. “Energy conservation and sustainability were som-e of the first cornerstones and one of the ways they started reaching out and finding a community to work together on stuff,” says PNA Director of Facilities Bill Fenimore. “It was also based on that idea of neighbors helping neighbors.”
Sustainability is an important PNA value; the drive to “reduce, reuse and recycle” is reflected through many different programs and initiatives, including the Tool Lending Library, the PNA Fixer’s Collective, PhinneyWood Garage Sale Day, book swaps and various recycling drives. However, according to Bill, “the most green, the most sustainable initiative we have taken on is the preservation of buildings on this campus.”

He continues, “The ability to take what was an elementary school and turn it into a community center without tearing old buildings down and putting up brand new buildings is an enormous creative reuse of what is here.”

Just as the PNA upgraded the original three-story Blue Building with an elevator and other improvements, the new Campaign for Accessibility will modernize the Brick Building so it can remain useful and functional for the community.

As Bill notes, “In making these buildings work better, you are actually doing something very sustainable. You don’t have to go out and buy new bricks and new timbers and build a new building if you can make an existing building work really well for what the community needs.”

Even with smaller projects, Bill and his team capitalize on sustainable practices whenever possible. When the Brick Building needed a new roof, he found a vendor willing to re-roof using 70 percent of the existing slate, instead of buying new. When PNA’s hot meal partner Crown Lutheran Church was demolished, he got them to donate their industrial appliances and sink for the Blue Building’s kitchen.

PNA staff Michel Broili was already an expert in the field of rainwater harvesting when he spearheaded a project to bring rain-flushed toilets to the Blue Building. With donated time and expertise from a number of folks, including the City of Seattle and King County, the group built a system that stores over 8,000 gallons of rainwater. This water is used to flush the two main toilets in all but the driest months. When rains return, the system switches back on.

Last summer, another conservation project brought a lot of attention to the Phinney Center, when Seattle City Light installed a 78.4 kw solar energy system on the roofs of the Blue Building and the Woodland Park Zoo. With its program Community Solar, City Light installs community systems and converts energy savings into electricity bill rebates for City Light customers who buy a solar unit in the project. 

The partnership was perfect for PNA. “It’s a way for our neighbors to support solar energy without having to have the perfect roof or access to engineering themselves,” says Bill. “So it’s a natural fit with our values.”

Sustainability is a word that’s thrown around a lot these days, and at the PNA, it means stewarding our environment and our neighborhood as a community at every available opportunity—through our own conservation initiatives or through programs that help neighbors to fix instead of throw away, borrow a tool instead of buy new, or take a class on harvesting rain to flush their toilets.

The PNA Fixers Collective meets every first Wednesday at 6 pm at Greenwood Hardware. For more information and for PNA Tool Library hours, visit

Then PNA Director of Facilities Bill Fenimore had electric car charging stations installed in the Blue Building’s parking lot.