Connecting Roots DC: Community Gardens/Community Health

Over the past few years, William Penn Quaker Workcamps has become involved in the urban garden movement, with a commitment to do what we can to remove economic barriers to healthy food. Starting with gleaning and then community gardens, this year we have started installing raised gardens in the yards and on porches of DC residents. Many of these residents live in underserved communities, often in "food deserts".

Our goal for this first year was to install 25 such gardens. The response for these, however, has been fantastic and we have installed over 50, with a growing waiting list. But this work is not just about installing a garden. It is about building bridges and building relationships. People from as far as Burma and Germany have helped in this work, thus seeing parts of the nation's capital that few people see. As importantly, DC residents are getting to know each other as we break down the geographical and economic barriers that divide this city. And we are transforming our relationship to the ground around us. As one long-time DC resident and garden recipient said, "I now look at my whole yard differently because of this garden."

As we turn to another growing season, we are entering into an exciting collaboration with two DC-area organizations involved in farming and food-justice. DC Urban Greens and Everybody Grows DC are helping us bring sustainability, increased community engagement, education and innovation to our shared vision of healthy foods and healthy communities. 

We invite you to follow along on our Community Gardens facebook page. We also welcome you to join us installing the gardens or helping us to check in with recipients to see how things are growing. We will also have community events to celebrate what is happening and the relationships that are growing.


How we got started

In January, 4th grade students from Sidwell Friends School spent a few hours at William Penn House starting to cut wood and put together shelves for plant seedlings. As the winter wore on, some seedlings - primarily collard greens and kale - were planted and nurtured. Then, in early April, students from Burke School helped us to get organized for our first day of garden installation.


The first day in the community, we were joined by a church group from Pennsylvania. We installed 3 gardens, learning and creating as we went. What quickly started happening was neighbors saw what we were doing and aksed for their own garden. Since then, word-of-mouth has been the primary means of advertizing.


We will continue to install gardens as we can while making sure to go back and see how what has been planted is doing. As much as possible we will be utilizing Quaker Workcamp groups but we are also counting on the energetic efforts of young adults who are spending the summer with us as they learn more about DC, organization and leadership.

Meeting for Worship: Daily at 7:30 AM.
515 East Capitol Street, SE Washington, D.C. 20003   •   (202) 543-5560   •   info@williampennhouse.org