Common Good City Farm Helps D.C. Residents Grow, Learn, and Eat Well

It’s hard to find something to not like about urban agriculture. In D.C., Common Good City Farm leads the way in bringing a community together for fun and healthy growing, cooking, eating, collaborating, and learning experiences.

Common Good City Farm is a sustainable urban farm in LeDroit Park that encompasses about half an acre. They have farmed in what was once an abandoned baseball field at the closed Gage-Eckington Elementary School since 2008. They offer many community programs and initiatives to engage and support residents by involving them in urban agriculture. Their site explains that they hope to serve as “a replicable model of a community-based urban food system” and that their mission is, “to grow food, educate, and help low-income DC community members meet their food needs.”

Farm History and Inspiration:

Shaw EcoVillage (SEV) ran youth programs including an EcoDesign Corps and urban food garden between 1998 and 2006. Before closing in 2007 and along with Bread for the City, SEV “gave Common Good City Farm permission” to lead garden programs at a 7th Street Garden. The garden was lead between 2007 and 2009 by Co-Directors Elizabeth Gabriel and Susan Ellsworth.

Elizabeth Gabriel has a dual master’s in Natural Resources and Sustainable Development and has worked on organic farms around the world. Susan Ellsworth has a BA from Colby College and an MS in Community Development from UC Davis. She is currently working in urban edge planning agriculture in California. They attribute much of the garden’s success to their partnerships with local residents, non-profits, associations, and businesses. These successful relationships, especially with the LeDroit Park Civic Associations and residents, led to the garden being invited to move to its current LeDroit Park location.

Common Good City Farm explains on their site that they were formed and exist in an effort to respond to the crisis of “unhealthy eating habits and lack of access to fresh food,” that many Americans and D.C. residents struggle with. They explain that one-third of the residents In LeDroit Park are living in poverty and that many have diet and weight-related health concerns. Common Good City Farm works to address these concerns through offering fresh produce and a safe, educational and community-building space for people of diverse races, ages, and classes.

Each year they grow over 5,000 pounds of food for and with the local LeDroit community. They grow many vegetables and herbs and also have fruit trees, beehives, and composting systems. They grow many crops (a full list is on their “What We Grow” page) and here are just a few: arugula, turnips, and carrots (in spring), basil, beans, and eggplant (in summer), and apples, baby lettuce, and beets (in fall).

Farm Programs:

Common Good City Farm keeps very busy, as do their volunteers, guests, and participants. They offer two types of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). The first is a traditional CSA in which member receive produce weekly after signing up (reduced income-qualifying prices are offered). The second, which I have never heard of before and think is brilliant, offers members a more flexible option. They can buy credit and then use it throughout the season at the Common Good City Farm Stand.

Speaking of the Farm Stand, it is open on the farm every Thursday from three to six. Common Good City Farm wants you to know that “SNAP, WIC, Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition Program checks, and Produce Plus” are accepted at the Farm Stand. They also offer a program called “Green Tomorrows” that provides fresh, healthy food access, farming, and cooking experiences to low-income individuals and families.

Common Good City Farm views their farm as an outdoor learning space and offers many educational programs. Their youth programs include after-school, field trips, in-class learning, and a high school Youth Employment Program.

They provide Seed to Table Workshops that are open to all and free for low-income residents. Locals who want to learn about growing and using culinary and medicinal herbs (they grow about 50 on the farm) can participate in the Herbal Apprenticeship Program. They also share a selection of their goods to food producers and restaurants in the area in their Small Enterprise Program.

Volunteer and Visit:

If you would like to volunteer with Common Good City Farm, they would be happy to have you and offer several volunteer avenues and opportunities. If you are a member of a volunteer group who would like to schedule a group participatory farm visit or if you would like to visit solo on a weekend work day, that works for them. If you are interested in a more consistent and on-going volunteer experience, that is also possible in the City Farmers Volunteer Program. This program offers hands-on farming work as well and an opportunity to be involved with “the running of the farm and to learn about sustainable agriculture and community engagement.”

In 2016, they are open on Wednesdays from three to six, Thursdays from four to seven, Saturdays from 9:30-12:30 and Sundays from three to six (drop-in volunteers are welcome on the weekends).

They will be hosting their October Little Farmers Fall Programs on October 10th and 24th. These are fun farm programs designed for toddlers from 18 months to 3 years (with an adult guardian).

Now sold out is their 2016 Night on the Farm event. On October 6th they will hold this annual cocktail party fundraiser with “farm-fresh” food as well as drinks, tours, music, and a raffle.

I am a big fan of urban agriculture and hope to visit Common Good City Farm soon!

Julia Travers

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