Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Community gardens in DC

When my wife and I first moved to DC about five years ago, we lived in Northwest near the Cathedral. We had a 10x10 community garden plot about a block away in a garden site that was about 2 acres. Apart from the plague of deer, it was a fun place to spend my evenings weeding, drinking beer, etc. For those of you familiar with DC, you probably won't be surprised that I was surrounded by white yuppies pretty much doing the exact same thing. Though I didn't think much of it at the time, most of those yuppies were planting stuff like herbs and flowers. There were some vegetables, but clearly these were hobby gardens more than anything else.

Fast forward five years.

I now live on Capitol Hill. There's one community garden in my neighborhood as well as a second down on Independence Ave. across from the Air and Space Museum (cool location!). These, too, seem to be gardened primarily by yuppies and they, too, seem to have more than their fair share of flowers and herbs. Things change, however, when you move into lower income neighborhoods in this city. Far up on my commute, I pass through a series of primarily working-class black neighborhoods along Georgia Avenue. At around 8th and Peabody NW there are two very large (perhaps 4 acres each) community gardens which, judging from the folks working them, are used primarily by local people. I stopped by one the other day, just to see what's being planted and, let me tell you, there's not much in the line of herbs and flowers. There's lots of greens: mustard, collard and kale in particular. There's also plenty of tomatoes, lettuce, some corn, and lots of different types of melons and squash.

Why is this important? It's not really, but I do wonder whether it's cultural, class, or merely financial differences that determine what people plant in their garden plots?