On a clear Sunday in March, Josh Singer and Sarah McLaughlin stood before a bowl-shaped, 2.7-acre lot in Washington, D.C.’s Park View neighborhood, wondering whether their vision for a community garden would ever really come to pass. The lot had been tied up in red tape for months, and no city agency even had record of the land. “I didn't think we'd ever get permission to use it,” admits McLaughlin.
The organizers also needed to raise $700 for a water meter, and though they had been canvassing, flyering, and blogging for some time, they didn't know if anyone would claim the garden beds they were planning, let alone volunteer to build them.
That day, more than 100 sets of hands showed up ready to dig, haul, and hammer. They built two dozen raised beds, a compost bin, and a fence made of wood pallets. The bloc of volunteers was so vast and their buy-in so fierce that soon the garden expanded from the initial planned 25 beds to 60. Soon, the area was studded with fruit trees, a berry garden, colorful hand-painted signs, and a public plot that can be collectively maintained and harvested.
Now, as it completes its first growing season, Wangari Gardens, named for the late Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai, is a good example of the kinds of roller coasters scrappy new community gardens often face -- and the power of persistence.