Community work day at Wangari Gardens

29 Mar

I’ve never really had a green thumb. In college they gave each incoming freshman a plant to care for. I showed up late to pick mine up and ended up with a wilted fern, already not long for this world. Needless to say, it was dead by October break.

So, it is a little strange that, of all of the possible hobbies to pick up, gardening became one of them. On the surface it seems to combine everything that I hate (insects, being outside in the heat) with everything that I am terrible at (following through with things, manual labor). But, this weekend I found myself back in the garden, this time working with Wangari Gardens here in D.C.

One of our three TSP teams has taken on Wangari Gardens as their project for the spring, and they kindly invited the rest of the cohort along for the first work day. I was really excited to be involved, both so that I could get my hands dirty, and because of the fantastic mission that drives Wangari Gardens.

The project is a tribute to Wangari Maathai, an inspirational Kenyan Nobel Laureate, Professor, and founder of the Green Belt Movement. In 1977 Maathai began encouraging women to plant trees in response to a lack of firewood. This seemingly simple act not only gave the women a degree of financial independence, but also addressed some of the challenges of deforestation, soil erosion, and water scarcity. They became stewards of their own natural environment and began to work outside of the western-dominated system that had been oppressing them financially and ecologically.

Wangari Gardens has a similar goal — offering an alternative to a largely corrupt and unsustainable food system by allowing residents to plant and maintain their own garden plots. Growing your own food is such a tangible and effective way to control what you put into your body. To paraphrase Michael Pollan, we vote on what kind of food we want to eat three times a day. If, instead of eating heavily processed food, we choose a locally grown, fresh, organic option, we are demonstrating our awareness of the ecological pitfalls of factory farms, the socioeconomic drawbacks of an agricultural industry built on corn subsidies, and the public health risks associated with a diet rich in processed food. But that will have to be fodder for another blog entry.

I will say that the workday on Sunday went really well, with huge turnout from the surrounding community, and an astounding amount of work getting done. If you are in the D.C. area, I’d encourage you to check Wangari Gardens out to see how you can get involved. If you are not in the area, I’d still encourage you to check out the project and some of the information on Wangari Maathai. She is truly an inspirational woman, and her work is not often recognized in America. And to see how much work we did in one day, check out before and after photos below, courtesy of my fellow ally Kate Stritzinger.

Taken at 10:30 AM

Taken at 4:50 PM


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