Jessica Breznau is one of the most creative and quietly successful community organizers I’ve seen. From launching the All Nations Soccer Cup, to running a women’s outdoor fitness program – Southside Booty Camp, to building a farming community – Southside Smallholding, she has an incredible track record for coming up with great ideas, drawing people to them then getting things done.
I had the opportunity to visit her today at her farmlet in south Seattle where she and five other people are raising 16 chickens, growing lots of delectable food and slowly but surely building a sustainable communal living environment.
Here’s our interview:
UFH – Where did you get your love of gardening and community?
“I grew up in Edmonds, graduated from Evergreen then moved to the south Beacon Hill Neighborhood. I coordinated a P-Patch there and lived in a great little house for about five years. After renting there for a while I really wanted to own a place where I could build up the soil and create a sustainable space. When this 1950’s house came up for sale 9 years ago in the Dunlap neighborhood I bought it, then added the house next door about three years ago. I’ve never had to commute and I like living really local.”
UFH – What do you like best about being here?
“I was raised by my parents to be community oriented and I like sharing daily life with other people. It’s wonderful to see things slowly coming together here; initially people in the neighborhood weren’t all that interested in interacting with each other but now there are little moments of connection and the block feels safer and friendly. This year we had a great block party that was organized by the neighbors. We had good food, music, craft and things for kids to do. People were dancing together in the street.
In addition to the community part, for me gardening is a meditation and I love the daily practice of watching things grow.
UFH – I saw you’ve been working with the Victory Market corner store. How is that going?
“It’s a good project. A group of us got together and we landscaped the area right around the market and added a community bulletin board. I got a small grant from the city but what worked out great was actually going to the big places on marginal way that have sand and gravel and just asking if they’d be willing to donate some. It’s been great; one guy gave us sand, gravel and came out and helped some with the work. It’s good to have a focal place in the neighborhood and I look forward to seeing where it all goes.”
UFH – What’s your biggest challenge?
I think communication has been the toughest thing. This area has people from all over the world and just reaching out via social media doesn’t work. You need to be very persistent and go door to door.”
UFH – What’s next?
“In terms of the property we are looking to add more committed folks soon. The ideal would be to have individuals that are focused on different skill areas like cooking, building, growing and so on that would like to put roots down for awhile. We are also really having a great time working on the tree house.”
UFH – How can people contact you if they’re interested in Southside Smallholding?
“If people are interested in living in an intentional way they can email me at email@example.com. It’s good to have people come over and so that we can work together to see if this is really what they want to be doing.”