This Spring, I received a phone call from my long time friends Sidra and John telling me about a potential urban farm. Collaborating partners included the Walker Jones Education Campus and Seedling Projects.
I knew John and Sidra had planted a pumpkin patch at Scott Montgomery Elementary School the previous fall working with Frances, the librarian and Melissa, the principal. When Frances, Melissa and others at Scott Montgomery moved to Walker Jones, an opportunity to start a new project evolved, a 3/4 acre urban farm next to the school at the corner of New Jersey Avenue and K Street. The farm has only been growing food for a month, but the potential it has to be a part of the school is promising.
As a DC native and long-time urban farmer, the chance to join this collaboration was in my roots. At the age of five, my mom signed me up for the Twin Oaks Youth Garden at Taylor and 14th Street. Two older men and a diverse mixture of DC young people taught me how to grow collards, tomatoes, hot peppers, lettuces, kale and onions. At the age of 14, I started gardening on the corner of 3rd Street and M Northwest (just up the hill from the farm!) with John and Sidra, while learning to cook with several other District students in their restaurant.
The Farm at Walker Jones presented me with the privilege to be involved with a great (and growing!) group of people dedicated to creating a rich learning environment for District students. It was also a way for me to continue to evolve the gardening and food practice that started at 14th and Taylor Streets when I was five. There is massive potential for the Farm at Walker Jones to cause similar evolutions among young people in the District for years to come. Through farming with young people we can continue to provide more food for ourselves and each other, and learn along the way.
As someone who started my urban gardening education 23 years ago with DC Parks and Recreation, the site of a 3/4 acre farm on public school property brings me hope that more students can have the opportunities to grow and learn that I had. The Farm at Walker Jones is less a part of any recent national urban gardening revolution and more of an ongoing evolution of District gardeners and garden programs.
While I joined this group for just a handful of weeks this summer, I will never forget the opportunity to be involved in a project that hopefully will gather even more people to want to grow and learn in the District.
Almost every day that we were at the farm, we met people who were excited to see the school growing food. Every week more and more people are volunteering to farm at Walker Jones to make it a solid component of the school’s campus.
Although I had to leave Walker Jones on Wednesday for Arizona, it was great to hear that this Saturday (which is becoming our volunteer day) had a great turnout of repeat and new volunteers. One friend of the farm showed up with 2 big boxes of herb plants and two 7 year-old helpers.
The Farm at Walker Jones is a new project just in it’s infancy, but it has unlimited potential. Much of this lies in its ability to bring more Districts residents together to grow and farm, whether they have been farming in DC for years or if tomorrow is their first time.
(This post was written by Braden Kay, one of the driving forces behind the farm and a gift to everyone at Walker Jones. Braden’s combination of heart, intellect and energy touched and inspired us all this summer, and while we knew that he would return to his PhD program in Arizona come fall, a part of all of us involved wished that this very special man could have stayed with us for just a while longer. But we still see him every day. In spirit, out on the farm.)