First held in 2008, Rooting DC has rapidly become one of the most important conference about sustainability and urban agriculture in the Greater Capitol Region thanks to its grassroots outreach effort. Hosted annually in Northeast DC's Deanwood neighborhood, the one-day conference is a unifying force for local residents, farmers, schools, nonprofits, public agencies, and green businesses.
The 2020 Rooting DC Conference on brought particularly high interest with Mayor Muriel Bowser's recent announcement to create an Office of Urban Agriculture within Washington DC's Department of Energy and Environment. Nearly 2,000 conference goers gathered to learn more about food systems, environmental protection, cultivating health, and community building on a crisp Saturday, February 29th.
This year, Neighborhood Associates staff, members of the Paradise at Parkside Apartments Gardening Club, and the Paradise at Parkside Girl Scout troop attended Rooting DC together and drew inspiration from the numerous workshops, panel discussions, cooking demonstrations, open forums and networking opportunities the conference offered.
Our team joined workshops on choosing crops that thrive in DC's humid summers, environmentally friendly pest control, and growing vegetables in challenging urban locations that are small or have limited sunlight. We also shared our story of growth and best practices for utilizing hydroponic growing towers in a community garden setting with fellow nonprofits and growers.
The insight and skills we gained at Rooting DC is timely. With recent grant awards from the Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Foods Market, we plan to add a second plot to the Paradise at Parkside Community Garden this summer. The expansion plot will have a hoop house and double our number of hydroponic growing towers. Additionally, we are launching summer classes that offer children at Paradise at Parkside gardening lessons developed by the Whole Kids Foundation and American Heart Associations.
One of the main goals of Rooting DC is to empower engagement with healthy food production, environmental mindfulness, and sustainability which will ultimately strengthen the resilience of our local food system.
Neighborhood Associates and the Paradise Gardening Club will continue to work together this summer to do the same through our community gardens. Next year, we look forward to returning to Rooting DC to connect and strategize with public officials on issues near and dear to Northeast DC, including access to fresh produce, environmental stewardship, and new opportunities for children of all ages to learn about and practice urban agriculture in their community.