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Food is Free Tacoma | Interview 282 with David Thompson | Building Community Through Food
24th November 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:24:11

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The biggest question I’ve gotten this year again. Is what do I do for my earth friendly landscape and what do I do with all these dandelions? But I was at someone’s place the other day, I could just tell right off the bat, looking down, you don’t have very healthy soil, so I suggested planting some clover, and then also  IDK if they have a bag for their lawnmower so when they mow they might be spreading those seeds, where if they put them in the compost pile it would be better. I think… Anyway…

It’s Thursday May 30, 2019. I’m feeling a little mic shy as I haven’t been on my mic for almost a month!

David Thompson from Food Is Free Tacoma is here to share his journey.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a navy veteran, 35 year mechanic, and I am retired. Wht I do is I have a free table and everything I grow in my garden I give away.

Tell us a little bit more, how did you get started with this? Did you just say one day I want to put a table in front of your house?

I saw food is free project on Facebook, it was about veterans and  giving away our extras to your neighbors.

I started with a small garden about 700 sq feet and now it’s 4000

tried to give it to family


tried a table where the food is free and started from there its grown into quite the little non-profit. 

I like the way it started with Facebook.

I have my FB page

food is free

Started a new project called gardens for the people

Parkway gardens throughout the city of tacoma for people to share their food directly between the sidewalk and the curb. Hoping to do 10 of those this year.

I love that idea, because where my mom lives there’s all these places just like that are covered in these little yellow flags and that’s where you’re talking about growing the ood?

We ammend the soil and remove the sod with local compost and plant straight into the ground.

I love this idea!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

I used to watch Crockets victory garden, I used to dream about having a garden but it wasn’t till I got older got this house with a small garden

10 years now.

I made a lot of mistakes, vertical gardening, I tried a lot of different things before.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

my cabbages

grew really well

tomatoes didn’t do too bad last year either?

I think we had a cool summer last year. That really helped the cabbage a lot.

Did that help with the tomatoes? Do you put them in a greenhouse, they don’t like the cold do they?

Yes, that’s true. The only thing I grow in the greenhouse is peppers.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I’m kind of busy with the Food is Free project but next year I would like to try aquaponics.

And what’s making you think about that?

Well, I have this friend in Wyoming whos into hydroponics and he’s grown a lot of stuff there, and it’s just an interesting way to combine fish and food in an urban environment.

I know my listeners are interested in that as those episodes get downloaded a lot.

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

tire gardens

I tried tires with tomatoes one year, I got alot of bugs and stuff inside the tomatoes.

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

weeding, I’d say weeding, it’s not one of my favorites, but it has to be done.

I can relate that today, I went to the garden for the first time in a week, and I can’t believe what’s coming up and mike did warn me that I should cover the fresh weeded beds with mulch of straw and I didn’t it seems like the weeds are just coming up like crazy this May!

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.


fun instant garden

I totally agree! And I’m pretty excited because I planted a bunch of zinnias that are just about ready to go in the ground.

What is the best gardening advice you have  ever received?

stay organic. I’ve learned to build my soil, because I’m challenged on money I’ve learned to be frugal so I do whatever i can for free

What are some secrets you’ve learned?


When I first started out I had raised beds

wood chips in walkways made soft loamy soil. Eventually the wood rotted out. What I learned is the soil where the wood chips were was a whole loat better then in my raided beds it was a soft loamy soil.

Where’d you get the wood cips.

The local power company – have to trim trees for the power lines so they will deliver them to your house for free!

Tacoma is a pretty big suburban area right?

Yes, we have about 100,000 people


Have you had any problems with getting neighbors on board? What have been the challenges that way?

They are excited about it, when you tell them it’s about growing food. I go out and get them started in a vegetable garden and they tend themselves and then share the harvest.

Hopefully everyone gets involved, we see them around town now with these free little pantries.

Ohhh kind of like the little libraries popping up all over. I love them!

What I do is I ask them what kind of vegetables they like. If we can grow them in this climate we help them grow so they can  feed themselves.

What the process is, I ask for volunteers that want to tend the garden

So we get out there and plant a garden for them, 

supply all plants


and all they have to do is weed it and water it from then on.

Where do you get the seeds and plants?

plants get donated from local community gardens that have too many starts

local farm

donations of seeds

Didn’t I read that it started from some health issues?

I’m a cancer survivor

started from the necessity of having to give the food away because I have too much of it.

I can relate to that, I feel like Mike and I have too much of, but I find it is stuff like too much swiss chard or kale that people don’t want or maybe we don’t have enough extra. I’m about at the point where I don’t have to buy much produce from August through November. I think this is a great solution! I love how you are teaching people to garden themselves. You’re not having any problem with people saying I don’t want food in my front yard.

The city is really excited about it and behind it all the way. They;ve been very supportive.

Right you’re giving free food to local neighborhood, and they get to participate even if it’s just watching it grow but sometimes they even pick tomatoes or things. Kids have access to locally grown food.

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.


A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

cherry trees

plum tree

home brew I make wine and beer and cider

I grow hops for my beer

I dpn’t have a grape vineyard, a lot of times people have grapes growing at their house and they on’t have anything to do with them, so through the years I just pick up grapes from friends and neighbors.

A favorite internet resource?

harvest first

They are our local food organization, they sponsor farms and local events.

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

MarketGardenerBookThe Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by JM Fortier

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

YEah! IT’s really easy to get started, all you have to do is put up a little table in front of your house and I put a sandwich board and put out in front of your house and an old table. Put it out, you’ll meet your neighbors, great way to build community.

Final question –

If there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action.

What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

food security

A lot of times people don’t even know where their food comes from anymore, we have become disconnected, by knowing where you food is and participating in it and growing it yourself. You can take control food security and have a little bit of power in that and say in what you are eating.

I think we need to go back to small agriculture.

What does that look like, can you explain to listeners?

I would love to see victory gardens again. I think it was a great trend. For people to get a say in their food security!

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

It’s really simple to do, if you are here in teht acoma area I could come by if you have problems,

Grow something simple

  • tomatoes are pretty simple
  • green beans

give it a try and see how it goes!

Mikes aboot to plant our greenbeans, he’s been digging up the minifarm with the broadfork, I think he said he was gonna try to get them inthe ground today May 30, 2019

How do we connect with you?

facebook food is free tacoma


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