2018 has been another fruitful year for us at Everybody Grows! We have continued to focus on our most successful inspiration gardens, while also developing and refining how we perform community outreach and organizing. In this report we will look back on our progress in 2018 with each of our active projects.
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ST. GABRIEL’S CATHOLIC CHURCH
Everybody Grows started a new collaboration during the Spring of 2018 with the Green Team at St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church in the Petworth neighborhood of Northwest DC. The Green Team, many of whom live in the neighborhood, sought assistance from Everybody Grows in turning a vacant area behind the church into a thriving community garden for church members. With our help, more than a dozen parishioners built seven large raised bed gardens in the spring and thereafter, with a little coaching, successfully grew a variety of vegetables and herbs. With our assistance, the Green Team hopes to expand the garden in 2019 and to inspire members of their ethnically and age diverse community to grow something at their homes.
FORT STANTON RECREATION CENTER
For the second year, Everybody Grows has supported a vegetable garden at the Fort Stanton Recreation Center on Erie Street in Southeast, DC. The garden is enthusiastically led by Louis Jones, an employee of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation. He is assisted by seniors who live in the neighborhood and regularly attend programs at the recreation center. The garden successfully produced a variety of vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, potatoes, kale, chard, greens) and herbs that are primarily used by the seniors attending a lunch program at the recreation center.
Late this past summer, Everybody Grows expanded our relationship with the Fort Stanton community by holding garden-related activities for groups of younger children attending summer camp at the recreation center. These learning experiences took place both in the garden and in the classroom, where the children were exposed, some for the first time, to the joy of growing their own food. Everybody Grows hopes to establish a weekly garden learning activity with the summer camp participants in 2019, thereby expanding its commitment to this neighborhood.
SCOTLAND RECREATION CENTER
2018 marked the third year we have been working with the children and staff at Scotland Recreation Center. The recreation center is located in a low income apartment complex in Potomac, Maryland. We have continued to work with this community every other Friday afternoon through the growing season, to tend their garden together and to foster a stronger connection to nature and to healthy, fresh food.
We made significant improvements in the garden’s infrastructure this year. We build a third raised bed with the children. We created a durable, tall fence to protect the garden from deer. We led an art project where children painted CD’s and hung them on the fence to deter birds and beautify the space. We also mulched the paths, to suppress the grass growing around the beds and created more of a garden classroom environment.
Harvesting food for cooking projects continued to be a regular feature of our programs. We harvested basil that we turned into pesto, rainbow chard that we stir fried, greens for a salad, and steamed string beans. The garlic we harvested from this garden in the early summer was a key ingredient to many of these recipes.
This fall we have refocused on our nature program. Our naturalist Andrew Shofer led a half-day nature program for Scotland children in neighboring Cabin John Park on November 6th. During the program we explored the stream and and shared about wild plants, primitive skills, and practices for observing and interacting with more wild environments. We ended by making a fire together in one of the park’s fire pits and roasting apples.
DC FIRE STATION ENGINE 26
Our partnership with DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services continued in 2018 and was centered around our garden at fire station Engine 26 at 1340 Rhode Island Ave, NE. We continued to expand our garden at this fire station in 2018, as well as growing our outreach to firefighters and the wider community. We made notable infrastructure improvements by replacing three aging beds and constructing two additional new beds, bringing the total number of garden beds to ten. This work was undertaken with us by volunteers from Sidwell Friends Middle School. The new beds and our drip irrigation system contributed to make this the most productive year of this garden. This fall we are planning to mulch all the pathways with volunteers to improve aesthetics and prevent weeds.
In order to make use of the large yield of produce, we harvested with firefighters, shared recipes, and checked in regularly on how they were using the food. We led projects indoors with them including pickling cucumbers and peppers as well as braiding garlic from the large garlic harvest this site produced.
While the main intention of this garden in past years has been to make a meaningful contribution to improving firefighter health, we learned that the yield is often larger than the firefighters can use in any given day. We will be seeking a community partner such as a food bank in 2019 to make use of the extra food.
The compost system has seen light usage in processing food waste from the fire station and the neighbors, and we are currently using it to process garden waste and produce compost for next year. We recently added upgraded signage that we hope will become an invitation for more firefighters to successfully use it.
In early October we worked with Edmund Burke Middle School to clear the summer crops and are in the process of planting winter vegetables in beds and winterizing others with cover crops.
Backyard Garden Initiative
In 2018, Everybody Grows expanded its small initiative to help individuals grow veggies in their yards or on their apartment balconies. As the result of an introduction made by Thorne Rankin of DC Natives, we were able to assist 12 women, all of whom live in Ward 7 and most of whom attend a program at the Therapeutic Recreation Center on G Street S.E. We helped some participants by constructing raised bed gardens in their yards, others by providing and helping them plant organic seeds and seedlings, and we provided all participants with feedback on how to best reach their individual gardening goals. We were aided in this effort by Jamila Stone, a student at UDC with gardening experience, who we hired to provide support for those participants who are elderly or infirm. By also adding a raised bed for vegetables to the existing pollinator gardens previously constructed by DC Natives at the Therapeutic Recreation Center, we hope to continue our collaboration with the gardening community in that neighborhood next summer.