Everybody Grows Highlights 2019

This year, Everybody Grows continued to invest in our core community projects. We deepened our relationships with partners and participants and improved our growing methods. We are deeply excited to build on these projects as well as expand in the coming year! Please enjoy these highlights and pictures.

Scotland Recreation: Garden and (new!) Nature Trail  In 2019, we continued to develop our vegetable garden adjacent to the Scotland Recreation Center. We hosted children of all ages on a weekly basis in programs designed to teach them about the joys of vegetable gardening and eating freshly picked foods. We also continued our successful nature and foraging youth program. In the spring, we partnered with Montgomery County Parks and Recreation to open a new nature trail for the community to use, giving them easy access to Cabin John Park. The trail has allowed our expert naturalist Andrew Shofer to lead the weekly programs for the community, surrounded by trees and fresh air.

Engine 26: Feeding our Firefighters  We had a productive season at our fire station farm! We produced an abundance of food for firefighters and created an inspiring outdoor classroom to share with school groups and organizations about urban growing. We now have a dozen raised beds at the fire station. We grew a significant variety of produce, including summer vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, eggplants, radishes, herbs, zucchinis, green beans and fall vegetables such as cabbage, snap peas, lettuce, beets, herbs and radishes. The produce is used primarily by the firefighters and emergency personnel who live and work out of this busy station and the garden space has been shared this year with groups including Sidwell Friends Middle School. There is a productive three-bin compost system which we have used to enrich the beds.  

Fort Stanton: Growing with the Community The garden at the Fort Stanton Recreation Center in Ward 8 really took off this summer! What started several years ago as an abandoned plot with depleted soil has now became an engine of productive gardening. This summer, the garden space in the rear of the facility featured vegetables and herbs used by a group of older adult patrons of the Recreation Center, primarily through the Chat & Chew program. The spring crop of potatoes and greens was followed by a cornucopia of summer vegetables, including yellow squash, zucchini, cucumbers, peppers, okra, and tomatoes. Notable successes included a fall planting of garlic, harvested in June, along with beautiful eggplants harvested in August and September.

Backyard Garden Initiative Everybody Grows dedicated a day this past summer for building raised garden beds for community members in SE, DC for their backyard gardens. These community members, primarily from the Fort Stanton Rec Center, enjoyed being able to grow food right in their backyards for themselves and their families.  

We look forward to another great year working with communities across D.C. to grow food together. Stay tuned for more information about future programming and ways that you can volunteer and support Everybody Grows in 2020! 

Getting wild with the kids at Scotland Recreation Center

My name is Tori Heller, and this past fall I had the pleasure of playing, working, and learning with kids at the Scotland Community Center in Potomac.  I am one of the naturalist educators that works with Everybody Grows, and together with Andrew Shofer, a fellow naturalist, we have begun to explore wild nature with the kids! The Scotland neighborhood is directly adjacent to Cabin John Park, and yet many of the children have never spent time in the woods and creeks right in their community. We wanted to help them increase their sense of responsibility and relationship to the local forest by building an outdoor classroom with them and providing a space to play and explore. The kids were really excited every time we came to “go into the woods!”

One particular hit was the “nature museum” – a box of feathers, bones, rocks, and other cool nature objects. Kids walking by couldn’t help be drawn in to touching a snakeskin or checking out a pair of antlers:

Together, we asked each other questions like “what animal did this fur come from? How old do you think this bone is? Is this a shell or a stone? What part of a bird’s body was this feather on, and how did it help the bird fly?” Asking and answering questions like this stokes curiosity, and helps the kids realize how much they know already about the natural world.

We also started clearing out a small space in the nearby woods of Cabin John Park for an outdoor classroom. With the children, we raked a path, cleared saplings, and built a rock circle with rocks harvested from the creek. Later in the fall, once the garden was done for the season, we started working a couple of projects to make the space awesome to hang out in. We built a primitive “loom” to weave grass mats, which provide insulation and coziness. Weaving took focus and work, but once we were done, the mats made some nice seats!

We also started constructing a shelter called a wikiup, breaking long poles and lashing them together to build a frame where we could stack sticks and debris. We practiced different methods of breaking sticks: in pairs, in between a forked tree, and against a downed log. Even the half-finished shelter was fun to climb inside of:

Of course, our trips to the woods also included climbing trees, exploring, and even some coyote howling to the early-rising moon… We had some pure wild fun.

We can’t wait to come back to Scotland in this spring and continue the nature program. The kids have said they are most excited about playing in the creek, continuing to work on shelter building, and playing woods games. It has been amazing to watch their excitement for spending time in the forest grow these last few months. Our hope is that they hang out in the woods when we’re not around, and share stories with us when we return in the spring!