By Coy McKinney

Emma West harvesting a big sweet potato; Courtesy of SW Community Gardens

At 6 p.m. on Oct. 27, the garden closed for the remainder of 2019. The closing of the gates represented the sixth year of crop cultivation at Southwest Community Gardens. Like every year we’ve had so far, 2019 was unique and full of lessons learned, new and familiar faces, and plenty of fresh produce to share.

The growing season started with our annual spring kick-off. This year’s kick-off consisted of planting the communal beds, processing our 24-7-365 compost system, and gathering ideas and designs for our new garden flag.

The new garden flag made its debut a few months later in June. The flag was the culmination of ideas and preferences of volunteer farmhands and the careful curation of two SW residents and artists, Chris Williams and Sergio Jimenez. The end product represents popular crops that are grown in the garden (tomatoes, carrots, figs, and peanuts), and acts as a beacon for visitors to locate the garden from afar.

The success of our spring planting came to full fruition right before the official start of summer. In mid-June, we were able to set up a little garden stand in front of Safeway and Waterfront metro station to distribute 30 pounds of produce to our SW neighbors for free. Farmhand volunteers, along with members of the DC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, harvested collard greens, kale, beans, and swiss chard to supply the stand.

A few more highlights from inside the garden included our annual peanut, sweet potato, blackberry, and corn harvests. These crops are a staple at the garden and are grown every year. Volunteers were also able to experience a native treat: a ripe pawpaw from one of the trees growing around the garden. Sunflower Alley, a patch of dirt along the sidewalk outside the garden full of sunflowers, was more exuberant than ever!

The final two highlights of 2019 came from outside the garden. In September, at the DC State Fair, the garden obtained first place in the compost competition for best compost in the city! The second highlight came from a partnership with the band, the California Honeydrops, through their Spreading Honey project. In each city the Honeydrops tour in, they partner with a non-profit to help the organization raise money and share their story. The McKinney Farmhands have been fans of their music for years, so when this opportunity presented itself, they made sure it would happen!

A walk through sunflower alley with Caroline
Waddell Koehler; Courtesy of SW Community Gardens

In conclusion, 2019 has been another great year of growing produce, connecting with neighbors, and trying to make our community better. We recognize that fresh produce is just one part of making our community better. We strive to be more than just a garden, but a network of neighbors who organize and advocate for other forms of justice and a higher quality of living for all our neighbors. 

If you’re passionate about these same issues, then join us! Check out our website to get connected!

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