Federal Way's community garden movement cultivates education opportunities for schools

A groundbreaking ceremony for Truman High School
A groundbreaking ceremony for Truman High School's community garden was held Sept. 22. Pictured left to right: Carol Stanley, Cynthia Kannenberg, Mike Stanley (with shovel), Nancy Hawkins (with shovel), State Rep. Skip Priest and Superintendent Rob Neu.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

With community gardens, Federal Way can cultivate more than just food.

The Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden, which opened in May 2009, has fueled a small movement to spread gardens across the city. The volunteer-driven senior center garden has supplied more than 10,000 pounds of produce to feed local residents and stock food pantries. The garden also sets an example for forging connections that raise Federal Way's quality of life.

On Sept. 22, a groundbreaking ceremony at Truman High School welcomed the city's second community garden. Modeled after the senior center garden, the Truman garden will occupy a 10,000-square-foot parcel near Interstate 5 at South 317th Street.

The Truman garden marks a partnership between the recently formed Federal Way Community Gardens Foundation and the Federal Way School District. Mike Stanley, executive director of the nonprofit foundation, praised the new garden as a place for learning as well as bringing people together.

"We're looking at building up to 20 of these gardens in Federal Way," said Stanley, a master gardener who runs the senior center garden. "This is kind of a major step."

Bulldozers will begin clearing land for the garden this week, and fruit trees will be planted this winter, Stanley said. In April, Truman students will start planting vegetables and eventually choose where to donate their harvest.

Community gardens have the potential to supplement education in all subjects, said Nancy Hawkins, the school district's director of career and technical education. For example, culinary students can grow their own food, while science students benefit from lessons in botany. The gardens relate to topics in social studies such as sustainability, and also promote community service among the students' families.

Hawkins has championed the idea for Federal Way schools ever since the senior center garden opened last May.

"I just thought, why can't we do this?" she said. "The time is right."

Plans are under way to build gardens at Camelot Square mobile home park as well as Enterprise, Nautilus and Green Gables elementary schools, Stanley said.

Learn more

Dozens of businesses contributed toward the cost of materials to establish the senior center garden. Each garden costs about $15,000 to start, according to an April 2010 Mirror report.

The Federal Way Community Gardens Foundation, which formed this past spring, held its first fundraising event Aug. 26 at the Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden. The event raised $3,275. To learn more, e-mail Mike Stanley at or visit

Watch a video featuring the Federal Way Senior Center Community Garden:

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