Hopkins Apartments residents have a new way to thrive and grow with the start of an urban garden.

Volunteers and residents broke ground, moved dirt, and constructed raised plots all day on May 5 to create the Bridge Park Plot. The new gardens were built in partnership with the 11th Street Bridge Park and University of the District of Columbia. The Hopkins site includes 40 raised beds and 20 fruit trees.

“This wonderful partnership between DCHA, the 11th Street Bridge Park—project of the Ward 8 non-profit Building Bridges Across the River, and UDC will bring fresh fruits and vegetables to Hopkins residents, but also grow their skills and knowledge in a variety of areas including gardening, nutrition, and entrepreneurship,” said DCHA Executive Director Tyrone Garrett. “The larger community fellowship will also nourish and grow along with these gardens.”

“We’ve had four meetings with the community to gauge and create interest. We want to see who wants to volunteer, what should be planted, and what kind of security we should set up,” said Abena “Miss Abby” Disroe, president of the Hopkins Apartments Resident Council. “We bring the added strength of Mr. Scott Kratz of the 11th Street Bridge Park, the University of the District of Columbia, and the rest of the team and are ready to move forward allowing greater empowerment, opportunities, and inspiration to this community.”

The Hopkins Apartments plots, located at 1000 12th Street, S.E., are an extension of six established plots in Wards 6 and 8 that were a result of community requests for more urban agriculture during public meetings to shape the 11th Street Bridge Park project, said Kratz. Scott Kratz is vice president of Building Bridges Across the River and director of the 11th Street Bridge Park, both of which are housed at THEARC. These garden plots provide test areas for future programming at the park and they help local residents build their skill sets, he said. 

“We want to make this a place of wellness and a communal space. As this garden is successful, we will use it as a model for other DCHA properties in wards 6 and 8,” he said.

All of the Bridge Park Plots are shared. The people who work and maintain the crops are the ones who decide how to use the food they have grown, Kratz said. For example, at Union Temple Baptist Church the congregation decided to use the food to feed the homeless and create Community Supported Agriculture opportunities and a market. Other locations that have been operating for three years are looking to start small businesses.

“These plots are food and economic incubators,” Kratz said. “The most important thing is that it needs to be residents that drive those goals.”

To help educate gardeners, UDC is serving as a technical partner by offering classes directly onsite with gardeners, and at various locations throughout the city, to help foster long-term sustainability for the plots, said UDC Project Specialist in Environmental and Public Health Ashley Milton. Classes include bio-intensive vegetable production, basic introduction to nutrition, measuring salt and water intakes, and food handlers licensing.

“We do all of the engagement throughout the season and we do layer on educational training in agriculture, understanding storm water and solar power at some sites, teaching various aspects of environmental sustainability so we have an all-inclusive system,” Milton said. “People may not be interested in being a farmer, but I have seen in the past the various levels of engagement. For instance, we are creating art installations on site to get people get more involved.”

Milton and her team have been working with the community during the initial engagement meetings and will be at the event on May 5 to assist in the building and plantings. They plan on having summer garden parties to highlight what vegetables and fruits are growing in the garden, she said. There also will be health and wellness lessons worked into the garden maintenance, such as turning beds for the end of the growing season, and taste testing throughout the season.

Taste of the Harvest is an annual celebration at the end of growing season for all of the Bridge Park Plots. Each site submits recipes that get refined with help from UDC and then the dishes are recreated during the festival, Milton said.  

“Everyone breaks bread together, sharing food, and talking about their recipes,” Milton said of the festival. “These sites are more than growing food. They are growing a collective, a community asset that deals with finances and fun and fitness and faith and food.”

The Hopkins plots will be connected to the other plots, and hopefully to the larger Ward 6 community, organizers said.

But it is still the start of the season at Hopkins. Disroe is eager to have an art installation as the second phase. She wants to create community hours so that young people can work in the garden and use those hours to graduate. She said she is thinking about the possibility of the garden leading to part-time income for residents, a market to generate income for the resident council, or youth programs.

One resident, Linda Cunningham, said she is excited to get to work as a form of therapy for recent health issues. She used to have a plot near the fence at Hopkins some 28 years ago, she said. 

“There is a lot of opportunity,” Disroe said.

Many thanks to all of the volunteers including community members, Urban Land Institute, Pioneer Building Services, HOK Architects, LSG Landscape Company, Street Sense, and DCHA staff. 



Last modified: 5/8/2018 2:21:35 PM