Sunday, March 31, 2013

Community Gardens

There are close to 30 Community Gardens located in Washington, DC.  A handful of the gardens are located in S.E.  The gardens range in size, the smallest of the gardens has about .025 acres of land and is located in a small church parking lot, while the largest garden located in Fort Dupont Park has about 3.5 acres of land.  The rules and regulations of each garden vary depending on its location and community participation.  For example, The SEED Community Garden located on 18th & E Street S.E has a President, two required annual workdays for the gardeners, it requires gardeners to submit working hours, and the gardeners are required to use organic gardening methods. Unlike many of the community gardens in DC, The SEED community garden does not require gardeners to pay an initial or annual fee.
*Fort Dupont Park Community Garden*
 The closet community garden to my family happens to be The Fort Dupont Garden.  Fort Dupont is an old Civil War Fort and has been preserved by National PArk Services.    We are currently being assigned a plot for the spring of 2013.  We have been waitlisted for 2 years.  Through my small research I have found that Community Gardens located on land owned by the National Park Services (NPS) are “convenient” for the people who support the idea of community gardens, but who are not financially stable to maintain a garden, and don’t actually have the time to commit or are uneducated about the gardening process. Because the gardens are located on the land of NPS it is their responsibility to maintain the actual garden, and because the land is owned by NPS they are unable to charge the community annual fees to support the garden.  Gardens ran by NPS can only require participants to live in the DC area, they are not allowed to excluded non community members.  I believe this is a major issue.  The DC are includes, Washington, Maryland, and Virginia.  I can only assume that the gardeners from Maryland and Virginia are not feeding the residents of DC.  
DC's Park and Recreation is another government ran organization that has community garden space.  They are allowed to charge annual fees and they are able to restrict garden use to only members of the community.  They are able to do this because each ward has at least 2 recreational centers, and the gardens are located near the centers.  
*LoveJoy Garden is located on E & 12th Street NE*
LoveJoy gardeners are required to pay a key fee because the garden is protected by a  gate.  LoveJoy Garden is a wonderful example of an urban- community garden.  It is located on a paved plot of land with several manmade garden plots.
Having a garden located in the community, but ran by members outside of the community has its pros and cons.  It all depends on how you define Community Garden.  DC’s Field to Fork Network defines a community garden as:
A space that…
·      Encourage the use of underutilized green space within the District for agriculture,
·      Support diversity, abundance, affordability thus, consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables,
·      Expand health and economic benefits by increasing access to fresh produce, and
·      Engage participants and volunteers in outreach and educational opportunities throughout the year.

I have found DC’s Field to Farm Network to be the most up to date, and updated DC community garden blog in DC.  It connects every small urban farming organization in Washington, DC.  On this one site you can find links and information from Arcadia to the Washington Youth Garden.

In the Laura DeLind reading for this week, “Place, Work, and Civic Agriculture: Common Fields for Cultivation”.  Delind discuss the many ideas of Civic Agriculture.  She believes civic agriculture should be used as a tool to connect the community, not only as a source of food.  Using her definition I want to rule out the location aspect of a community garden.  If the garden is located within your community but member outside of your immediate community controls it, it is not supporting the growth of your community.  A community cannot support people passing by.  For example, my family has been waitlisted for our community garden, however there are currently plot holder who do not even live in DC using the land.  This example alone takes away from the idea of community gardens.  The non- Washingtonians are not supporting the community they are just using the land.  And if they are using land located on land owned by NPS, they are using the land for FREE.

Depending on how you define community gardens all of the included examples can be viewed as community gardens.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Breaking The Barrier

The Perfect Location  

FreshFarm Markets has 4 farmer’s markets in the Washington, DC area.  Although their markets are not located in my neighborhood I am still an loyal customer.  The Market close to my community is located on H and 13th Street NE. This is about a 30 minutes bus ride on the X2 bus leaving from Minnesota Avenue Station. This specific FreshFarm’s site SCREAMS farmer market to me.  The location is perfect for any means of transportation.  It is located 3 blocks from Union Station on the Red Line, there are more than 5 metro buses that come within one block of the market, and parking in the area is free on Saturday mornings.  Adding to the transportation perks, Capital Bike Share has a bike parking lot located near the exit of the market. The Capital Bike Share program is a 24hour bike rental service with rates as low as $6.25 a month.

*The market's location makes it accessible for many customers, by foot, bike, or car*

Community Supported because they SUPPORT THEIR COMMUNITY 

            The FreshFarm market brings locally grown and fresh fruits, and vegetables into the NE community.  Speaking from experience and the statistics on their website, Their Saturday Market is never empty.

            FreshFarm offers nutrition assistance programs.  This is the number one reason I believe FreshFarm supports the community in which it is located.  They pay attention to the community as a whole, not just the select few who are financially stable.

There SNAP program allows individuals who are receiving EBT (Electronic Benefit Trust a welfare program that allocates funds to families, and individual who are living under the poverty line or just above it) to use the funds at the market. Funds are transformed into tokens of the same monetary value.

There MATCHING DOLLAR PROGRAM allows SNAP customers to double, or match up to $15 dollars of their EBT funds.  For example, if a customer uses $5 of EBT funds, FreshFarm gives them an additional $5 dollars. The maximum dollars matched each visited is $15, but the tokens never expire, and they can be used at any of the 6 DC or Maryland locations.

Such programs erase the barrier that block many people who are unable to buy healthier foods due to financial situations. 

H Street market is fairly new to the DC area compared to Eastern Market and the Florida Avenue Farmer Market (Union Market).  Eastern Market and Union Market both opened in 1871. However, a market wide fire caused Union Market to shut down, and Giving Eastern Market the title of, “DC’s  Oldest Continually Operated Fresh Food Public Market”.  
*A Sketch of Eastern Market from 1875* 

Eastern Market is open 6 days out of the week, and it is closed on Mondays.  Eastern Market is not my favorite place to go because it is a large indoor and outdoor (in the spring & summer) market.  I tend to become over whelmed in over crowed, and loud situations.  Eastern Market is the Farmer’s market for dedicated customers.  If you do not know how to properly blend in, remember prices, and navigate through large crowds stick to smaller markets such as H Street Market. 
*Modern day Eastern Market*

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Healthy Corners

I recently became aware of DC Central Kitchen’s “Healthier Corners” program while walking to my community’s corner store. One Sunday evening, I was responsible for making the dessert for Sunday dinner.  My dessert of choice… banana pudding.  I spice up my recipe by adding walnuts, vanilla wafers and banana slices. However, I forgot to add the actual bananas to my father’s list.  I asked my mom for her car keys in order to drive to our “local grocery store”, when she told me, “Angel, you don’t need to waste gas on  3 bananas, walk down to the corner store and get them.”  I burst into laughter, “Since when do WE have fresh fruits?”  The corner store my mother was referring to was Jones’ Deli (technically it isn’t located on the corner… lol).  Jones’ Deli has been apart of my community forever.  As a child, I remember taking at least 3- 4 trips in a summer’s day for snow cones, juice, and chips.  Even though the word ‘deli’, is apart of the stores name, the owners did not sell meat or your regular groceries… the only thing available was junk food, liquor and lottery tickets.  Buying fresh fruits AND vegetables from the corner store was unheard of 5 years ago.  Now, thanks to DC Central Kitchen, fresh fruits and vegetables are only a 5 min walk away from my home.   

In high school I completed the majority of my required community service hours at DC Central Kitchen ( DC Central Kitchen’s mission statement is simple: “[They] use food as a tool to strengthen our community.”  They offer jobs, food prep training, and most importantly, they offer healthier choice to many communities that are located in Washington, DC’s food deserts.  Before completing my community service there I thought that DC Central Kitchen was a soup kitchen for the homeless, I was unaware of the many opportunities that they offer to the residents of DC.

Outside of delivering healthier foods to corner stores, DC Central Kitchen works closely with DC Public Schools.  During the school year, they employ kitchen staff at several public schools , and during the summer time DC Central Kitchen offers free meals (breakfast & lunch) to children living in the DC area.  Two sites are located in my area: One summer feeding site is located directly across the street from my house, my elementary school, Plummer Elementary school, and the other site  is located at Thomas ES.  Although I attended Plummer ES for the majority of my elementary years, I am connected to Thomas ES through Arcadia, my younger sister attends this school, and my mother teaches at Thomas ES.

*The sites are located in DCs poorest neighborhoods, “East of The River, in Ward 7 & 8”*

DC Central Kitchen is saving DC from food deserts one meal at a time, and I appreciate their presence in my neighborhood. 

To learn more about DC Central Kitchen Healthy Corners Program click here.
To learn more about DC Central Kitchen click here.