About a month ago, I had the pleasure of volunteering at Rooting DC. Unsure of what to expect, I arrived at 8:30 and made my way to the volunteer check in. There I met Brittany Stewart, volunteer coordinator for Rooting DC and my point person for CSLP. She signed me in and I headed up front to help check in attendees. I spent the first half of the day, from 8:30 to 12:30, greeting people from all over the DMV and the greater mid-Atlantic. I was pleased to see such a diverse group of people attending the event! The crowd was composed of people with diverse economic, racial, educational, and professional backgrounds. I was particularly excited to see such a wide range of age among the attendees. Families with small children, college students, young professionals, and senior citizens all flocked to Woodrow Wilson High School that morning to explore our local sustainable agriculture movement.
Once I finished checking people in, I took a short lunch break and perused the many tables set up in the atrium of Woodrow Wilson High School. I stopped by the Love and Carrots table to visit the people I worked with over the summer, learned about Compost Cab (the convenient compost service for busy city dwellers), and spent some time at the DC Food Policy Council stand. I was struck by the tight-knit feeling of the local sustainable agriculture community here in DC. It seemed like everyone knew each other and was happy and eager to learn from one another. As lunch drew to a close, I was tasked with helping presenters set up their rooms and take attendance. Fortunately I was able to attend some workshops myself. The first workshop I went to was the one that stuck out to me most. It was comprised of seven short presentations from a variety of community members. I was especially struck by the presentation given by two men who run Dix Street Garden, and the Dix Street Garden slogan “Turning Hustlers into Harvesters.” They told the story of how Dix Street Garden came to be, detailing the struggle they had with the city to acquire the abandoned land, and taking us through the process of how their marginalized community used their agency to reclaim space. One of the men told us that he was a returning citizen and said that he likely would have ended up back in jail had it not been for this project. The story of the Dix Street Garden reminded me of our class discussions about land tenure, private property, and the value of communal living. I am eager to learn more about the impact of community garden projects in DC, particularly those in DC’s marginalized communities. Urban agriculture appears to be growing throughout the city, and it has the potential to positively impact areas that are food insecure. That being said, I am curious as to how urban farms function differently when they are imposed from an external group, such as Love and Carrots, compared to projects that emerge from the grassroots of a community, e.g. Dix Street Garden.
Volunteering for DC Greens at Rooting DC was a truly immersive experience that helped my link many of the concepts discussed in our Political Ecology of Food and Agriculture class together. It gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the region who are engaging with sustainable agriculture, and it opened my eyes to the bounty of work that needs to be done. From composting to labor policy, Rooting DC displayed the robust community that is working towards a more just and delicious food system! In the next few weeks I am very much looking forward to working with DC Greens at the K Street farm and getting my hands in the soil.