Thursday, October 28th, 2010
“I like to joke that I am one of the eight people who was born and raised in D.C. I spent the first part of my life up in the AU Park area and then moved to Mt. Pleasant 15 years ago. For most of my life, I have been involved with plants and gardening. When I graduated from Wilson High School, I took a job working for a landscaper and really enjoyed it. I loved being outside with plants and the gratification of seeing a finished garden.
“That experience led me to the America the Beautiful Fund, where I now work, 13 years ago. We collect surplus vegetable, flower, and herb seeds that would otherwise be destroyed and redistribute them to community planting projects all over the country for hunger relief, environmental education, and neighborhood clean up and beautification projects.While that is mostly a desk job, I still like to spend as much time as I can in the garden and play in the dirt.
“D.C. has a great network of community gardens and I have been a gardener at the Twin Oaks Community Garden in Columbia Heights, which is owned by D.C. Parks and Recreation, for four seasons. In fact, I was just voted in as President…mostly because I was running unopposed. This garden is really unique because it is split by Taylor St. The north side of the garden has always been a community garden, but the south side used to be a children’s garden. Due to budget cuts, they cut the children’s program all together, and now it is all community gardens.
“Being involved with this garden for so long, it has been interesting to see the changes over time. In the history of America, public gardening ebbs and flows with the economy and wars. People think that community gardening started in Word War II with victory gardens, but there was a similar movement during World War I. At the time, there was a huge school farming movement where kids would work on farms and grow food to support the war effort.
“Now, gardening has become really popular again. There is no longer a stigma associated with being lower class by growing your own food. In history, as people moved up, they didn’t need to garden anymore like their parents. They were wealthier and could buy their own food. Now, gardening is cool again because everyone wants local and organic. Just take this garden, we have 80 plots and 50 people on a waiting list to join. Two years ago, we had three people on the waiting list.
“Whatever reason people chose to garden, I think that it is a great tool to stay healthy, bring some beauty to a place, and build community. A beautiful garden is good for your soul and makes people happy. I mean, who is not happy when they see beautiful flowers growing? Some mornings, I just come up here to water and weed before work and I will just end up sitting here and hanging out for a while. This place is so beautiful and peaceful. You can just sit and admire what is coming from the seeds you planted. Plus, you also get to see all of the little creatures that live in the garden. We have lots of different kind of bugs, and we even have a wood chuck, which is like a ground hog. I call him Rock Creek Ricardo. He is the Columbia Heights version of Punxsutawney Phil. He’s cool, but he does eat a lot of our stuff.
“My hope for gardening here, and around the country, is that it stops being trendy and returns to being a fabric of our society. It used to be that everyone had a garden. If you had dirt, you were growing something. At a certain point, that changed. I think that everyone should go back to gardening because it just feels good and makes you happy. I can’t think of a better reason to do something than that.”
Read more about the Twin Oaks Cummnity garden here. See a map of all of D.C.’s community gardens here. Kate also co-coordinates Rooting DC, which is a free urban gardening forum that will be held on February 19.