Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on D.C. Gardeners are Growing Food to Combat Climate Change

By: Julia John

Nine-and-a-half years ago, lifelong gardener Kathy Jentz pushed to convert a brownfield site by her Silver Spring home into a community garden to expand sunny growing space for nearby urban residents. Today, with the removal of several inches of gravel, the addition of several tons of topsoil, and the dedication of dozens of local gardeners, the Fenton Community Garden is a productive Climate Victory Garden mere steps past the Washington, D.C. border. It’s one of hundreds in the D.C. metro area that not only offers fresh produce but also offsets greenhouse gas emissions.

““The more we can do it [offset carbon], the better,”

—Kathy Jentz
Photo Credit: Kathy Jentz

“The more we can do it [offset carbon], the better,” said Washington Gardener Magazine editor Jentz. She plants lettuce, radish, asparagus, strawberry, and thornless blackberry for publication research alongside her interns on one of the garden’s 44 plots.

Launched in D.C. in 2018, Green America’s Climate Victory Gardens campaign encourages gardeners of all levels worldwide to mitigate climate impacts by planting gardens, restoring soil health, and sequestering atmospheric carbon. The nonprofit modeled the effort on the world-wars-era victory gardening movement, when 20 million gardeners, united by the urgent cause of supporting the troops, grew two-fifths of the United States’ fruits and vegetables.

Now, across the D.C. region, households, community gardens, urban farms, schools, businesses, and other organizations tend to over 400 Climate Victory Gardens.

“Together, they span nearly 14 acres and draw down approximately 35 tons of carbon per year—equivalent to offsetting roughly 284,000 miles driven.”

—Julia john

“Garden activism is real and powerful,” said Carissa Tirado-Marks, school garden and sustainability coordinator at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in D.C.

A Climate Victory Garden can be just a couple square feet or even a few indoor pots. With the right methods, any garden can enhance soil, capture carbon, and produce healthy food.

Climate Victory Gardening follows ten practices that protect the soil, store carbon in it, and cut emissions from garden inputs. Basic steps involve covering soils with organic matter, composting, avoiding chemicals, and promoting biodiversity. Additional tips include incorporating perennial and native plants.

Photo Credit: Kathy Jentz

“Gardens have a special place in urban settings,” said Jes Walton, Food Campaigns Director at Green America. “They’re a way for folks to connect to the land. They provide an opportunity for community building. In D.C., gardens have played an important role in human and ecological health and increasing food security, from World-War-I Victory Gardens to today’s Climate Victory Gardens.”

The 2.7-acre Glover Park Community Garden is the District’s largest Climate Victory Garden. Situated within Rock Creek Park, it actually began as a Victory Garden that tackled World-War-II food shortages. Today, its 150 plots supply organic vegetables and herbs for household, charitable, and instructional use. 

Many smaller D.C. gardens joined the Climate Victory Gardens campaign through Love & Carrots, a woman-owned company that has installed organic vegetable and flower gardens around the city since 2011. The landscapers also help clients care for gardens via coaching and maintenance programs.

Photo Credit: Carissa Tirado-Marks

Schools are popular locations for Climate Victory Gardens. In 2014, Mundo Verde’s Truxton Circle campus transformed 700 square feet of asphalt into a bounty of greens, peas, turnips, sunchokes, squashes, cabbages, celery, peppers, tomatoes, berries, figs, watermelons, herbs, and native species.

“A lot of people walk by during the day…ask about what is growing in the garden and leave with their arms full of greens and herbs,” Tirado-Marks said.

The space commemorates the land’s indigenous roots and grows food for students, their families, and the afterschool garden market by harnessing soil-building techniques, she said. These include rotating crops, leaving soils undisturbed, using cover crops in the cold season, and applying compost from the garden’s compost system and from its hens and worm bins.

Through engaging with this outdoor classroom and urban wildlife habitat, Tirado-Marks said, “students learn that natural, social, and economic systems are linked and interdependent. They build a foundation for understanding and treasuring ecological systems and begin to understand intergenerational responsibility and act with this mindset.” 

Photo Credit: Carissa Tirado-Marks

“They build a foundation for understanding and treasuring ecological systems and begin to understand intergenerational responsibility and act with this mindset.”

—Carissa Tirado-Marks

As an educator, she believes that “growing hyper-locally and keeping healthy food in communities should not be revolutionary.” And she hopes that “society will recognize the value of gardens—for learning, for healing, and for survival—and that eventually, gardens will be supported and evenly distributed throughout D.C. and beyond.”

***

Julia John is a former Green America food campaigns intern. She received a Masters in Environmental Sciences and Policy from Johns Hopkins University in 2020 and currently writes about sustainable agriculture for Food Tank.

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By Denali Sai

We tend to shape our worldview with clear notions of good and bad. This grants us clarity of mind and groundedness in an otherwise volatile world. However, when we adhere to a binary, we restrict ourselves from thinking about many others’ experiences and needs, too often those of marginalized and BIPOC communities. When we see the world as us vs. them, as good vs evil, we lose sight of swaths of people, without whose voices a vision of a better world is not possible.

As a climate communicator, I am often troubled by the framing of the climate crisis as good vs. evil. In reality, the exponentially increasing and intensifying natural disasters of our changing climate are not disasters in themselves. Rather, they are naturally occurring hazards with disastrous impacts on human and physical capital.

Likewise the palm oil industry in itself is not an evil scheme that should be destroyed overnight. It took moving to the island of Borneo and living in a community of palm oil plantation workers for me to see past this Western misconception. In reality, the industry supports plantation workers who deserve a just transition towards sustainable cultivation practices.

Recently, I’ve been mulling over this conundrum in my garden. As the pandemic limits my movement outside my home, I’ve been spending more time tending to my garden. My most arduous and time-consuming task has been weeding.

Weeding is ultimately an effort to maintain equilibrium and peace in my garden. As I begin to pull out the dandelions, crabgrass, and carpetweed, my hands develop a rhythm, quickly guiding the plot back to equilibrium so that one hungry plant does not sap nutrition and space from the others.

As I do so, I resist the suburban notion that I am rooting evil from my garden. This is an active effort as frustration at their stubbornness and resilience is unrelenting. However, I am mindful of the fact that weeds are only bad in some contexts. The gardener ultimately determines where they are welcome and where they must be cut back.

For example, dandelions belong in lawns, fields, and forests. They are nutritious and contain healing properties. However, in my garden, they compete for the same resources as other, often less hardy, plants.

The value of weeding out some plants is to let others thrive. Maintaining balance is key to protecting the collective spirit of my garden.

In harrowing times like this, it is understandable to cling to binary thinking. As mortal creatures living in a chaotic world, we often use categories to cope with uncertainty. However, when we restrict ourselves in this way, we forget the humanness of every individual on this Earth. We forget that in order to enact change, we need to appeal to many different people, not just people to whom we intuitively prescribe value: Those who look, talk, and live like us. In order to build a better world, we need to build an inclusive world.

As is true in my garden, enacting change involves careful attention to nature’s balance and our collective strength. To emerge stronger from this crisis and beyond, we must listen to one another and actively stand up together to demand a radical transition away from unsustainable, harmful modes of development. We must elevate voices that complicate our current climate narrative, which tends toward sensationalized, Western-centric, sometimes blatantly unscientific stories.

Indeed, with our tender hands rooting blankets of weeds from the soil and planting new growth, we must care for one another and work collectively to nurture a more inclusive world.

Denali Sai is a climate communicator based out of Washington, D.C. She currently works in communications at the World Resources Institute, where she focuses on the economic benefits of global climate action. She co-founded and writes for Entropy Inherited, a climate newsletter that centers BIPOC and marginalized voices.

posted by | on , , , | Comments Off on Cooped up at home? Make eco-friendly choices.

By: Skylar Petrik

COVID-19 is impacting all of us. If, like many people, you’re cooped up at home, you may find yourself dreaming of park days or beachside hangs with friends. But just because you may be spending less time in nature, doesn’t mean you’re less likely to make eco-friendly life choices. And, while more of us at home means less greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, there are additional ways you can do more for the environment. Following are a few, simple eco-friendly choices you can make while being cooped up at home. 

  1. Pot a Plant

Add a dose of greenery to your home by potting one or more plants. Pick from easy-to-maintain indoor plants that can enhance your décor and also purify the air, or put them outside where they can get ample sunlight. Don’t forget to water regularly.

2. Opt for Natural Ventilation 

With the hot air that comes with summer in the D.C. area, many of us are likely beginning to turn on the air conditioning. This not only results in a higher electricity bill, but it’s also bad for the environment. Instead, open those windows and doors, and let natural air in. Keep your home naturally ventilated in the morning and evening, and restrict your AC usage to a few hours at noon and night.

3. Switch Off Lights When Not in Use

Every time you leave the room, even if it is for five minutes, switch the lights and fans off. Doing this five times a day will do the Earth some good. Smart bulbs and lights let you control the intensity and on/off features from your smartphone. During the day, let natural light in instead of switching on your room’s light. 

4. Backyard Gardening

Backyard gardening is a great way to grow your own fruits and vegetables and get rid of carbon dioxide in the air to keep your family healthy. Gardening is also a great way to relieve stress. And, a backyard garden reduces food costs and food packaging. 

5. Reuse glass jars

You’ve reached the bottom of a pot of jam, mayonnaise or pickles. Now what do you do with the jar? Reuse it for other food storage, such as wholesale nuts, dried cranberries, or seeds. Or, use it to make crafts. These are great ways to reduce the amount that goes in your recycling and garbage cans each week.

Skylar Petrik is a Community Impact Intern at the United Way of Frederick County. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from University of Maryland. She enjoys cardio kickboxing, running, making art and crafts, cooking healthy food, spending time with her family and friends and traveling.

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By DC EcoWomen Board Member Lisa Ramirez

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, or better known as its acronym WWOOF, is a service work exchange program on organic farms with host farms crossing the globe.

Here’s how it works: WWOOFers purchase a membership to the country of interest and in return receive lists of host farms that have been pre-approved by WWOOF to host workers. The approved WWOOF farms provide meals and accommodations in exchange for hours worked. WWOOFers contact the farms of interest, work out arrangement details with the farms and once the farm agrees to host the WWOOFer, all the WWOOFer has to do is prepare travel arrangements and be ready for work. For more information, check out the official WWOOF website: www.wwoof.org

Not Just Travel

WWOOFing is truly a great travel experience, not as a tourist, but as a genuine immersion into local life and culture. Non-working hours are allotted to personal free time – allowing for opportunities to pick up a new language, catch-up on overdue reading lists, learn to cook ethnic dishes, and explore the world off  its beaten path. Loving organically grown food, the great outdoors, travel and culture, I knew as soon as I read the article about WWOOFing in my local co-op’s newsletter, that WWOOF was destine to make its way to the top of my bucket list.

In September 2010, with my hiking pack filled with rugged wear, cameras, journals and travel books, I commenced my three month journey in the rolling hills of the Chianti region of Tuscany to try my hand at Italian homesteading. My first farm experience led to daily work duties such as: harvesting and pruning grape vines, watering herbs and flowers around the house, ironing linens for the agrotourism on rainy days, raking almonds off their branches, and harvesting wild Macrelepiota Procera (HUGE parasol mushrooms) from the woods. Daily duties were always broken up into morning and afternoon shifts. Morning duties were halted by a grand family-style, outdoor lunch consisting of multi-courses of delicacies harvested straight from the garden, prepared by all family members, served on lots of plates, washed down with red wine and completed with espresso and a siesta. Dusk brought closure to the afternoon work upon which it was back to the house to water the vegetable garden, harvest more from the garden’s bounty, and to once again cook together and enjoy a family-style, multi-course dinner that concluded with dunking biscotti in red wine.

My first farm introduced me to Sangiovese vines, the harvest festival (festa vendemmia), the cellar and the wine making process as well as Tuscan cooking and family traditions. There is nothing more amazing than picking food from its source and eating it! Not to mention, eating it when it is ready to be eaten – not picked weeks in advance, shipped on trucks and ripened on kitchen counters.

WWOOFing,  then Hoofing It

Between farms, I headed to the west coast to hike Cinque Terre, The Five Lands, which are composed of five villages (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) all built into the rugged cliffs overlooking the sea. Alone, with only the wall of vineyards and cliffs to my left and the beautiful panoramic view of the sea to my right, every step I took brought another awe to my senses. I had no idea what time it was, how long I had been hiking or even how much further I had to go. There were no plans, no commitments. Just to be in the moment.The towns’ delis provided the pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella and wood-fired bread for the finest picnic sandwiches in all of Cinque Terre that I devoured on rocky overhangs all while listening to the sea crash below me.
From the seaside villages, I made my way south to the coastal region of San Vincenzo to pass my days climbing all over olive trees combing the branches of their plump olives, which pop off like popcorn and bounce to the ground below lined with netting. It was here that I learned the brining and preparation process for the perfect table olives as well as experienced the vivid green glow and the sweetness of just pressed organic extra virgin olive oil, which we sampled drizzled over fresh egg pasta. My neighborhood was lined with pomegranate, persimmon, lime, orange, and fig trees and bountiful backyard gardens cared for by tiny elderly Italian ladies wrapped in shawls and little old Italian men in trousers puttering about the yard or chatting with their fellow little old Italian gents. Our interactions led to me smiling and nodding, them smiling and nodding making our broken languages one big friendly encounter. It was incredibly endearing.

I finished out my last remaining days in Tuscany visiting medieval hill-top towns bearing spirits of times long past, and ancient Roman baths with steam rising up to meet the falling cold rains. I was given tours of underground cellars smelling of musk and wood barrels and was invited into homes and embraced like famiglia, sharing stories of life and laughter. The experience truly was life changing and has cemented the building blocks of which my family traditions will be based.

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Country Meet City: Urban Farming at Walker Jones

By Jamillah Muhammad

Welcome to the Farm at Walker JonesI recently attended the second EcoWomen urban farming event at the Walker Jones Educational Center. Located in the heart of Washington, DC’s ward 6, it’s the last place you’d expect to see an open plot of land with rows of crops, bee hives, compost piles and pumpkin patches. With busy New Jersey Ave on one side, K Street on another, and a basketball court that sits between the farm and the public housing complexes on 1st St., the farm is like an oasis…albeit surrounded by chain link fencing, but an oasis nonetheless. I’ve done a fair amount of volunteering, but this was my first time on a farm. What I enjoyed the most was learning the science behind all of the decisions that are made, which techniques are used and why, and the challenges that accompany introducing an alternative learning project to a school system not typically open to change.

Once a lot with a dilapidated building on it, it is now home to bees, butterflies, marigolds, corn, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli and numerous other staples for the children to cultivate and eat. Creating a new educational tool, David Himly (a teacher at Walker Jones and a tropical biologist) runs the farm and has fought to add it to the school’s curriculum. The children get a hands-on outdoor escape from the conventional elementary/middle school learning environment, as the farm sits adjacent to the school.

The children learn to cultivate plants and crops, but also learn the science behind farming. Why lavender plants are set next to the beehives, or why the black fly larvae is used for the compost instead of just worms. They learn what a cistern is, how a rain garden works, all while learning to work together and to communicate effectively outside of the classroom.

We worked to clean up, weed, sow seeds and add compost freshly sifted from a large pile at the far end of the lot. It was surprisingly easy to tune out the police cars, fire trucks and other city sounds wailing the background and focus on the experience. Luckily for us the sky stayed overcast for most of the day, keeping the sun out of our eyes as we weeded the rows.

When I think of farming, I used to imagine of acres and acres of land with rows and rows of crops, but now I have a much better understanding of how urban farming works and how a small plot of land can not only feed children physically, but also mentally and emotionally. I look forward to doing it again soon!

Related Resources:

Remember our last trip to Walker Jones?
Have ideas for volunteer opportunities you’d like to get involved with? Let us know, email Jen Howard >>