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Conversation in Paradise Garden

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

By Nick Drozdiak | Washington, DC | Jan 24, 2020

The Paradise Community Garden and Garden Club welcomes 2020 and looks forward to growth in the Spring! As always, the garden’s beauty, bounty, and sustainability will flow from the cooperative work of many people, including longtime Kenilworth-Parkside resident and ice cream truck vendor Kofi, who serves as the garden's operations manager.

Kofi, a former Paradise at Parkside resident, ensures that the Garden’s hydroponic tower system is well-supplied with the water and electricity it requires and helps with harvesting the fruits and vegetables. We wanted to know more about Kofi and get his views on the importance of local agriculture for health and neighborliness.

Kofi spoke with Nick Drozdiak, Paradise Community Garden Project Manager, at Paradise at Parkside Apartments in September 2019.

Q. Kofi, you are originally from Ghana. Tell us about your gardening background.

A. Our family grew lots of local plants — whatever fruits we could access easily — onions, tomatoes, bananas, eggplants. We used to plant them like this [points to raised vegetable garden beds] and they would each be organized with a path in between like so. This is the time we plant, what we call the rainy season, starting from June to July to August, then in August we harvest the crops. So in August, there is food everywhere! We don’t have much rain in November and December: it’s the dry season. That’s why we need things like this [points to hydroponic towers and irrigation system].

Q. Do you think hydroponics would work well in Ghana?

A. Kofi: I haven’t been there in a long time. I’m not sure if they have it there yet. But with this, we don’t need a big irrigation system. It’s more efficient and will work throughout the year. We don’t need to wait for the rainy season.

Q. What else did you grow? What was this experience like for you?

A. We grew all kind of flowers, like roses. And we can’t consume all the food, so we put lots of food in boxes and give it away to the neighbors, to our people for free.

Q. Food is a great way to help uplift communities. We’d love to do that here.

A. We can, we can. Food is the lifeblood of the community!

Q. You are what you eat.

A. We can’t do without food, and the body needs food to give you energy. And if you want to stay healthy, know what you are putting in the soil. No chemicals! Back home, the tomatoes we cut are ripe on the outside but green inside, because they are all natural. The fertilizers and chemicals we put in lots of food here do us and the soil more harm than good. There’s lots of good bacteria in the soil, but once you spray everything, all those good things die out. So we need to put the right things in the soil.

Q. You’re right: we can all become healthier people just by gardening and growing our own food. And it can help us to learn important lessons of life.

A. Gardening can go a long way to help the community. And they will soon embrace the idea! Some people still think that health is easy and just want to do their own thing. But we’re going to let them know that something big is going on here.

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