Our latest civic story comes from Bass Circle Apartments in southeast Washington DC, where Maureen Leak shares her memories of farm life and her thoughts on how gardening can grow vegetables, neighborliness, and Public Kinship. Nick Drozdiak, NAC Green Living Associate, coordinated this story.
Bass Circle, which was named Best Large Affordable Housing Project by the Housing Association of Nonprofit Developers (HAND) in 2015, is a pioneering community in our allied network in terms of public gardening, and features 6 raised beds, a water pump, and 5 hydroponic towers containing 20 plants each.
What was your experience like with gardening as you were growing up, and what have you grown in the past? What topics would you like to learn more about as your gardening experience grows?
I lived on a farm in Texas. My father, who was born farming, taught us about gardening, and my mother had a house full of beautiful plants. I learned about vegetables I had never seen, and am now trying to grow them in DC. I have grown kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichokes, and different kinds of beets and kale.
I’d like to gain an understanding of those plants which we call weeds that are actually edible or medicinal, and would like to grow more edible and medicinal flowers and wild plants. I’d also like to learn more about the makeup of “good soil.”
How have gardening and interacting with the natural environment affected you? Are there ways that communities can benefit from gardening, health education, and environmental stewardship?
Gardening is part of my sacred space. It supplies clean and healthy food choices for me and my neighbors because there is always enough to share. It gives us knowledge about what our food should look like in the supermarkets.
Gardening opens up the door for conversations with neighbors, allows me to pull in the children with taste tests and explain how food grows, and gives us knowledge to feed ourselves even if we had nothing. We begin to show respect for our environment because we have understanding and knowledge.