Moments of life in a dead city, 2

"My best friends are from the garden"

Over the next few weeks, I visited often. I learned that the garden was run by volunteers, working mostly on Saturdays, from 10 to 2. I got to know some, who were mostly millennials. Many worked for such nonprofits as AmeriCorps. One gardener in his sixties, who lived nearby, I was told, volunteered in the garden as well as cultivated one near his house.

Kate Tully, 38, and Chris Wingate, 40, call themselves the “aunt and uncle” for the volunteers who work in the garden. Kate is in charge, known as the farm manager. She is professor of agriculture who teaches a class in agro-ecology at the University of Maryland. At one point, she combined a winterizing session at the garden with her class instruction for her students, who attended. They built the green house and created the butterfly garden. On Saturdays, Kate lists a chore signup sheet on a picnic table for the volunteers, who work wherever needed. On Tuesday mornings, Juliana and Tali donate the produce to Martha’s Table.

Working in the garden, 1

Workers in the garden

Working in the garden, 2

Workers in the garden

Working in the garden, 3

Workers in the garden

Katie and Chris do many tasks.

Katie and Chris in the garden

Kate has been associated with the garden since 2014. Raised in California, she became interested in plants because her father had a green thumb. She used to live in the vicinity of the garden and connected in 2014 with the nonprofit Parks and People, which supports the garden financially.

“My best friends are from the garden, “she notes. “This is a great place. It is my community. I feel a great sense of giving back.” She notes that before COVID, the garden was visited in one day by as many as 30 volunteers. “No one came in the spring because people were scared.” She said of some of the gardeners at a recent Saturday, who totaled 30, “No one’s taught them how food is produced. A lot of the volunteers do not have much experience in when to plant, fertilize, and how to maintain plants.”

Chris Wingate, 40, has been gardening for 10 years. He joined the garden last March 2019, when he moved to the District from Virginia for a job. He’d had a plot in Virginia and also started a container garden in his patio. “I loved working outside and getting my hands dirty,” he notes. He now lives 8 minutes from the garden. “I love the variety of peppers we have in the garden, “he notes. He wants to try to grow avocadoes and citrus plants there.