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7-years in the Making
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A cruel irony about growing your own vegetables is that when your spring mix salad greens are ready in early June, your tomatoes are still 2-months away from being ripe.  By the time cool season crops, like lettuce and arugula, are in season again the tomatoes are no longer at their abundant peak.


It was Saturday morning, I was standing in the rain.  The temperature was in the low 40’s.  The key to my happiness was a salad, and once again I was contemplating whether all of the hard work growing my own food was really worth it. 


I was eaves dropping on an herb workshop at the Common Good City Farm in Washington, DC where I’m on staff.  I love cooking with herbs but don’t really buy much of the herbal remedy mumbo-jumbo. 


From my position halfway under the tent, every time the wind blew hard, a sheet of rain water slid off the tent roof right on my head.  Thank God my windbreaker really turned out to be “waterproof.”


Despite it all, I had to admit that the class was truly fascinating.  The herb-infused teas turned out to be a perfect remedy for the damp chill for those taking the workshop.  Moreover, I was ecstatic about the fact that eight people - one with a baby! – had come to the farm even with the weather.

My mind wandered to what I would be doing at the end of my shift.  Usually, I don’t take a lot of food from Common Good. But I had been trying to eat seasonally for over a month, and I was very late in planting my fall season crops at my own plot at Lederer Youth Garden across town - so I hadn't had a salad in what seemed like eons. Our lettuce at Common Good, on the other hand was doing great.  I had decided to pick some.

Along with some arugula from the kids’ garden, some mustard greens, a couple of purple basil leaves and some Russian Red Kale it would go well with the balsamic vinaigrette I had at home in the fridge with the toasted sesame seed oil.  Quite frankly, I figured I owed it to myself.

As my hands began to get numb, it was these simple thoughts that kept me going.  For most of my life, volunteering on a day off in the rain while dreaming of a salad would have been the farthest thing from my mind.

This day and the meal that I was contemplating were part of a journey that began 7-years earlier.  I had decided to change to a healthier lifestyle by eating less meat, more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; and by quitting smoking and doing drugs.  I also began taking my responsibility to be a good steward of the environment seriously.  I learned that locally-produced organic food is low cost and burns fewer fossil fuels to get to my table. 


My role volunteering at Common Good is just a natural extension of these first embryonic steps. 


We have a program called “Green Tomorrows.”  If you make less than a “living wage” and help out on the farm for a couple of hours a week you take home a share of the harvest.  We have youth education, where kids come out for lessons, stay to help out on the farm, and take home veggies too.


I began with the intention of just growing vegetables, but now see the importance of “growing” gardeners first.   I figure if I share my enthusiasm for this work with others—young and old—maybe they will want to do it as well. 

The more people who grow fruits and vegetables in the city, the more leverage we can have in forcing our political leaders to provide more land and more funding for more gardens.  And the diverse, multi-ethnic group of eight people huddled in the rain last Saturday was proof that the small steps we have taken are working. 

Making it a full-time crusade as I have; riding a bike almost exclusively, and carrying around food scraps in your backpack to compost elsewhere may not be for everyone.  But we can all begin to take small steps. 


The salad I had for lunch that day was the best salad I ever had; not because it tasted so good (which it did even though I forgot the tomatoes) but because of what it represented.