April 15, 2011

Bringing our community to the next level: the roof!

—George Jones, Executive Director

It's springtime, and we're gardening -- on our roof. You may find that announcement to be strange, even surprising; but it's true. And I think it's awesome.

Above our Southeast Center (below, left), we've already installed rain barrels; a proud little village of pots, tires and other containers; even a repurposed kitchen sink that's currently sprouting a cabbage plant. And our newly-expanded Northwest Center (right) will soon feature the largest rooftop agriculture site in the DC area -- built and maintained with direction from dc greenworks -- with thirty raised beds growing as many as a thousand vegetable plants.

Will you help us build these gardens? We're looking for volunteers to get to work, and donors to make it all possible. The garden installation will take about 200 hours of volunteer labor, and cost $50,000. Help us make this vision a reality.

Of course, the yield from these gardens will be just a drop in the bucket compared to all of the food that passes through our pantries. But the true value of these spaces will be more than just the weight of the vegetables that grow there. Already, we've seen how fertile the sites will be: more than a hundred Bread for the City clients have signed up to help build and maintain these gardens, and participate in workshops about healthy eating and living.

Just this past Saturday, a small team of clients and staff worked together to prepare the Northwest site for the upcoming construction. One woman, Mrs. Jones (no relation), told us stories about her upbringing on a farm in North Carolina. She listed in detail all the ingredients of a hearty, healthy meal that could be found on her family's property.

That way of life is long gone. Mrs. Jones is now a grandmother of four, and still spry--but she relies on our pantry to make ends meet month-to-month. It's been many years since she's had space of her own in which she can engage with the earth, let alone grow food that would sustain a nutritious diet.

As we worked together on the roof, laying out plots for the raised beds to come, we talked about what kinds of vegetables we should grow in the garden, and how that food could be prepared and shared with clients in the pantry below. Mrs. Jones talked about bringing her grandchildren to this space so that they, too, could have the experience of growing with a community. Together, we could see glimmers of something new and exciting. A space that will nourish bodies, minds, and souls.

That's what I love about this project: it won't just be vegetables that we grow here, but relationships that lead us all down a path toward a community rich with dignity and shared responsibility.

We'll need help to make it happen, of course. We've had an inspiring outpouring of offers to volunteer in the garden building (and you can still sign up for a volunteer shift). Please note that tomorrow's scheduled build-day is about to be rained out -- but we'll be making up the lost time with big build days on Saturday April 23rd and Sunday May 1st (in two shifts each, 8am to noon and noon to 4pm). RSVP here.

And we're also calling on our community of supporters to sponsor those volunteer efforts. Match these 200 garden-building hours with garden-building dollars -- at a rate of $20 per hour. (And please note: Any gift to the green roof of $500 or more will be recognized on the primary honor wall of our Northwest Center.) You can become a member of this Community Supported Agriculture project here.

Can't wait to share this great green space with you all.

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