Picardo Farm is a 98,000 sq ft (9,100 m2). parcel of property in Wedgwood, Seattle, Washington, consisting largely of 281 plots used for gardening allotments. It is the original P-Patch (the local term for such community gardens): the "P" originally stood for "Picardo", after the family who owned it. The Picardos' land went beyond the present P-Patch; it also encompassed the property of the adjacent Reform Jewish Temple Beth Am and of University Prep, an independent private co-educational, non-sectarian day school for grades six through twelve. The land was part of what had once been known as the Ravenna Swamp.
It is one of two historical farms preserved within Seattle city limits, the other being Marra Farm in South Park. The city's official web site describes Picardo Farm as having "Seattle's best soil… Rich, black, peaty, sucking with moisture in the spring, powdery dry for digging potatoes…
The Picardo family arrived in Seattle in the 1890s from Salza Irpina in the southern Italian province of Avellino. The three brothers—Ernesto (who became the family patriarch), Orazio, and Sabino—resisted the gold rush fever of the Klondike and set up farming in South Park along the Duwamish River.
In 1922 they swapped a house in South Park for a piece of land that had been part of what was known as the "Ravenna Swamp". The family farmed the 20 acres (81,000 m2) at 25th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 80th Street from the 1920s to about 1962 or '63. Architect Victor Steinbrueck, writing in 1962, called it "an unusual reminder of the past" and praised its old barn (now demolished) as "a simple example of the anonymous architecture that has always been part of the local scene." Rainie Picardo leased out plots for a few more years, and then the city bought the land.
While the peaty soil was a blessing for a farm, it was not so for buildings. Some small houses were built along 25th Avenue just south of Picardo Farm. They were effectively floating on the peat bog. When the city put in sewer lines along 25th Avenue, the situation worsened: the water table sank, and houses began to slide off of their foundations. The city eventually purchased these lots to build the Dahl Playfield. At least one of the houses was moved to a new site.
Venus statue controversy
The soil isn't the only thing that has put Picardo Farm on the map: it's also known for Steve Anderson's 2 1⁄4-foot-high bronze statue known as the Picardo Venus: "Pregnant, naked, hair in dreadlocks and sporting a sparkling nose stud". Sitting next to a children's play area, the statue was originally quite controversial. One P-Patch gardener remarked of it, "She’s glorifying fertility a little too much for kids, isn’t she?" Nonetheless, a January 2000 poll of the Picardo gardeners resulted in a decision to keep the statue.
From late 2009 to early 2010 a Clivus Multrum composting toilet system was installed on the NE portion of the farm.
- Picardo Farm, P-Patch Community Gardens, City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods web site. Accessed online October 28, 2006.
- Kery Murakami, Do you know why they're called P-patches?, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 29, 2005. Accessed online October 28, 2006.
- Valarie Bunn, "History Bits: Sinking Down on 77th Street", Wedgwood Echo, July 2009, p. 3.
- Athima Chansanchai, Marra Farm plants seeds for South Park community, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 3, 2005. Accessed online October 28, 2006.
- Valarie Bunn, "History Bits: Wedgwood's In-City Farm", Wedgwood Echo, May 2009, p. 3.
- Victor Steinbrueck, Seattle Cityscape, University of Washington Press, Seattle, 1962, p.141
- Tim Klass (Associated Press), Garden community aflame over Venus, Laredo Morning Times (Laredo, Texas), October 21, 1999, p. 7A. Accessed online October 28, 2006.
- Steve Anderson, The Picardo Venus, originally on the personal web site of Larry Nielson, Picardo Farm P-Patch Art Committee Chair; archived Dec 9, 2000 on the Internet Archive.
- Larry Nielson, The Picardo Venus Controversy, originally on the personal web site of Larry Nielson, Picardo Farm P-Patch Art Committee Chair; archived Dec 9, 2000 on the Internet Archive.
- P-Patch's bronze Venus to stay Tuesday, January 25, 2000 By Joshua Robin Seattle Times staff reporter
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Picardo Farm.|
- Official site, as part of the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
- Sculptor Steve Anderson's web site