by Elle Gitlin
I remember reading a story in the Herald-Leader that talked about how with the recession on, donations to God's Pantry and the like were down.
So while the recent CentrePointe kickball game was amusing, I think the community can make a huge, visible statement of reclamation and renewal by asking the Webb brothers to donate the CentrePointe land as a community garden for 2009.
Let's face it--it's not being used for anything now, and it's not going to be used for anything any time soon.
Our new home in DC is mere blocks from the site of the Gage-Eckington Middle School, which the DC public school system deemed too expensive to upgrade for continued use. It's not old/handsome enough to be turned into condos. The plan was to tear it down and build affordable housing, but again--the recession means that there's not enough tax revenue to fund that plan immediately. The surrounding neighborhoods of Bloomingdale and LeDroit Park proposed that instead of having big, empty buildings that would be used for crime and other nefarious purposes, the city go ahead and raze the buildings.
The resulting land would be turned into a park for the time being, and the land shared with the Common Good City Farm. Just check out their great mission statement:
"Common Good City Farm (formerly called the 7th Street Garden) is an urban farm and education center growing food for low-income residents in Washington, DC and providing educational opportunities for all people that help increase food security, improved health, and environmental sustainability. Urban community agriculture can be found in cities across the country and the world. These farms and gardens not only directly provide fresh food to people, but also provide a safe outdoor setting to learn, grow and nourish. This relationship ultimately leads to the development of strong communities. Since January 2007, Common Good City Farm has provided over 150 bags of fresh produce to low-income DC families, taught over 200 DC residents in workshops, engaged over 250 DC school children, and hosted over 400 volunteers."
Wouldn't it be great if instead of walking or driving past a dead plot of land square in the middle of Lexington, people could instead see raised beds growing vegetables and fruit for Lexington's families and food banks? What if the fencing supported pea and bean vines instead of "Keep Out" signs? If schoolkids could grow and eat tomatoes fresh off the vine, and if folks of all ages and social classes could work together and learn how to keep themselves and their neighbors fed, wouldn't that be a way for New Lexington to reclaim a huge bit of Old Lexington that was pulled down?
Jonathan and I have attended a container gardening workshop and will be going to another workshop on seasonal planting, and we are encouraged to grow a little extra to share or donate. Armed with the knowledge that gardening workshops can offer, folks who might have extra space in their backyards can plant an extra row to share.
Coming back to DC's long-term plan for the Gage-Eckington School, the land that the Common Good City Farm is on can be easily reclaimed, although they have been fortunate enough to get a long-term lease for the land from the city. Should the Webbs be ready to sink footers and foundations into the land, then it's easy enough to till the earth over.
But maybe--just maybe--the garden will be ready to move on to something more rooted.