Person of Interest: Jake Ifshin, Everybody Grows

everybody growsHome gardening has picked up popularity over the last decade with a major influx of interest in local and organically grown food products. Lucky for DC, we have Everybody Grows, a non-profit initiative that makes nutritious food available to residents regardless of their resources. From fire stations to churches to nursing homes, Everybody Grows offers communities the opportunity to work together to reach a sustainable level of home grown food sources.

According to their site, “At Everybody Grows, our mission is to inspire and equip people to grow fresh, healthy food by bringing the home garden to everybody, wherever home may be.

We serve communities across the Washington DC area by making growing food possible regardless of location, age, income or mobility. Our work brings families and communities closer through sharing the life-sustaining joy of growing food.

Inspiration Gardens are built in partnership with the DC Fire Department, local churches and nursing homes. These community-focused gardens provide an opportunity for people from all walks of life to plant together, harvest together and to learn how to grow their own vegetable gardens.”

If you can’t start a garden, you can volunteer your time (and no you don’t need a green thumb) or donate and keep the gardens growing. We were able to catch up with Jake Ifshin, Executive Director of Everybody Grows. Find out what he’s up to in and around the city…

What is a typical day for you (or your team)…?

During growing seasons, my days are centered around our inspiration gardens, which we have established at fire stations, nursing homes, and other community organizations. Much of my time is spent coordinating the learning of community members and volunteer groups, focusing on building our brand awareness and identity through our social media and web presence, and managing the operational and administrative functions of the organization.

Hardest part about running a non-profit?

The hardest part about running a non-profit is not spreading oneself too thin.  There are so many places that would benefit from growing their own food, and so many inspired, beautiful people to work with that it can be hard to turn down new projects. In order to effectively realize our vision and maximize our impact, we are spending the first part of this year refocusing our efforts on our existing projects. We have raised money and increased our capacity to add more on-site support and hands on education.

Best part about running a non-profit?

I love having the opportunity to create meaningful experiences and to share my passion for growing food with so many great people.

Advice for new entrepreneurs?

Do the research to understand how your new venture fits in with the ongoing work of similar organizations. Question and question again your proposed direction and mission.  How will your work build on what already exists?  Actively connect with established ventures and explore collaborations whenever possible.

If you weren’t involved with Everybody Grows what would you be doing with your life?

I would still be growing food, learning and teaching, but perhaps in a different context or country. There are so many exciting projects related to sustainable agriculture and development around the world that I would be happy to work on. The DC area is my home however, and it is important to me to be involved locally.

What/who influences you the most?

My parents, Gail and Steve, are the biggest influence on me. They were my inspiration to start farming, and we work together on Everybody Grows. I have been fortunate to have had many wonderful teachers over the past few years in the areas of agriculture, education, and business. One of our goals at Everybody Grows is to create a framework for great teachers to connect with the diverse populations we serve.

I need to relax. You’ll find me at/doing…

Playing music. I love playing my bass or guitar with friends or on my own, and I have been a member of local bands such as Rich Mahogany. I recently started playing a new instrument, the dulcitar, and it is a perfect instrument to bring to the gardens.  In addition to be very light and portable, it has a happy, twangy sound that fits well in many settings.

What neighborhood do you live in?

I live outside DC in Rockville, Maryland now, but you can regularly find me all over the city at our different projects.

Biggest DC pet peeve?

Life in the DC area can often be too busy and intense. An afternoon working in the garden is the perfect antidote. Getting outside in the sun with friends and family and with your hands in the dirt is such a positive and connective feeling.

Who do you think is the most attractive person to ever live?

Anyone who writes a blog about me and Everybody Grows (volunteering and donating will put you on the list too).

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