Everybody Grows 2017 End of Year Report
2017 was a year of significant progress for Everybody Grows. We expanded our reach by helping a group of neighbors living on 31st Street NE to start and maintain their own personal vegetable gardens. We significantly increased the learning opportunities for the children in the Scotland community through our Scotland Recreation Center garden program. We established new gardens at both the Fort Stanton Recreation Center and Dorothy Day Place. Through our successful partnership with DC Fire and EMS, we taught gardening skills to numerous volunteers, and demonstrated how to grow and eat a variety of fresh produce throughout the spring, summer and fall.
With your assistance, we hope to continue our success in 2018. If you feel inspired to donate to support our work, please click here.
We invite you to read this brief report on each of our activities in 2017 below.
1. Individual Gardens
It has long been our goal to connect our knowledge of gardening with individuals interested in growing something to eat for themselves. Through our friendship with Janie Boyd, a long term food advocate in DC, we were able to help individuals living on 31st Street NE, to plant and maintain their own personal gardens. These individuals grew tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs for their own personal consumption, and ornamental flowers that beautified their yards. There is a high demand for gardens. We are raising funds and hope to expand our presence in this neighborhood in 2018.
2. Scotland Recreation Center
2017 marked our second year of programming at the Scotland Recreation Center, located in the Scotland subsidized housing community in Montgomery County, Maryland. Our first year was supported by a grant from the Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation. Our activities complement a dynamic after school program at the center that takes place mostly indoors.
This fall, we continued gardening with the children and also added the new elements of nature awareness and woods exploration, with great success. We had a long growing season due to a warm early fall, and were able to continue harvesting peppers, tomatoes, marigolds, and squash into November. The children especially loved finding the giant squash hidden among its leaves, tasting the hot peppers, watering the garden, and picking flowers to decorate the community center. We also taught some awareness games to play by the garden, and brought the “nature museum” – a box with bones, antlers, feathers, and other cool nature objects – which was a huge hit. Once the plants began to die back for the winter, we pulled everything out together and planted garlic in one bed and cover crops in the other. The children were able to see and experience a full cycle of the garden.
We also created a space in the woods behind the community center for nature programs. Over the course of several weeks, Everybody Grows staff cleared a circle in the forest. We cut down trees, built a rock fire pit, and raked a path with the kids. Every time we showed up at Scotland, they were so excited to go into the woods. Once gardening was done for the season, we journeyed back to our circle and began building a shelter, climbed trees, and wove a grass mat together to go inside of a shelter. We also demonstrated fire-by-friction, and let the children have a try on a bow drill kit. It was amazing to see them so excited to get their hands dirty and engage with the natural world.
With the help of a generous donation from Christopher and Lauren Mead, who introduced Everybody Grows to Scotland, we will continue growing edibles and exploring nature with our Scotland gardeners in 2018.
3. Fort Stanton Recreation Center
We began our work in the Fort Stanton community by gardening with the Ladies Auxiliary at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. Unable to sustain that garden in 2017, we ventured down the street to the Fort Stanton Recreation Center, where Mr. Louis Jones, who runs a variety of programs for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), was interested in reviving a defunct garden. Everybody Grows, with the help of volunteers, cleared the site that was overgrown with weeds, and enriched the soil with Bloom, a soil amendment produced, and offered free-of-charge, by the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant. The garden was a tremendous success. It provided hundreds of pounds of produce for use by community members attending learning and health-related programs at the recreation center. We hope not only to repeat our success in 2018, but to involve many more people who use the services provided by the center.
4. Dorothy Day Place
Dorothy Day Place is a single adult transitional shelter that functions as a crucial bridge between homelessness and permanent housing for both men and women. In 2017, Everybody Grows planted a vegetable garden in eight large garden pouches located just outside the front door of the Dorothy Day Place building on Marinelli Road in Rockville, Md. We were not sure who would actually benefit from the lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, and variety of herbs that we planted – the geese nesting nearby, the pedestrians walking up the street, or the residents (or all of the above). As it turns out, with the help of several residents including one experienced gardener, the garden thrived and the residents were able to supplement their diet with food they grew for themselves. Everybody Grows plans to double the size of the garden and to expand the variety of produce grown in 2018.
5. The DC Fire and EMS partnership
We continued our fruitful partnership with DC Fire and Emergency Services (DCFEMS) by focusing on our largest fire station inspiration garden at Engine House 26 (E26). In 2017 at E26, we expanded food production, worked with a diverse set of volunteer groups, and started an onsite compost cooperative in partnership with DC Parks and Recreation. We began the year by constructing, filling, and planting three new raised beds with volunteer groups from Howard University and Sidwell Friends Middle School. Everybody Grows staff installed a new irrigation system that watered all eight beds automatically. The garden was highly productive, yielding an abundance of sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, greens, cucumbers, strawberries, culinary herbs, and other crops that we harvested with the firefighters, children from the neighborhood, and volunteer groups including the DCJCC. The produce was consumed primarily by the firefighters at E26 as part of our efforts to improve firefighter health, with portions of the yield also returned to volunteers and community groups. Our new compost system and cooperative began operation, with firefighters and a handful of engaged community members adding food and garden waste to the bin in order to grow soil for next year’s garden.