Monday, August 31, 2009

where did August go?!

They say time flies when you are having fun, but geez, we can't believe how quickly these summer days have zoomed past. It's really hard to believe that it's already September and both of our summer programs have finished. The youth garden will be a much quieter place now that we won't have 25 children and a dozen DC families weeding, singing, harvesting, sharing, and getting dirty almost every day of the week.

However, we are still available for school groups visits throughout the fall. For more info, go to our website and read about our SPROUT (Science Program Reaching Out) program (

The last week of both of our summer programs focused around one of our favorite things to do and the best rewards intrinsic to gardening: eating! Below are some pictures of youth garden style cooking (fresh, colorful, full of garlic) and some other pictures from our last couple weeks of the Seed to Supper program.

Jonathan, our summer youth intern brought to us thanks to the Kaiser Permanente Foundation, helps a camper season with fresh herbs from the garden. Lucky for us that Jonathan was not only a great worker out in the garden, but is also enrolled in a culinary training program at his high school in Bladensburg, MD. Just look at how professional he looks in his chef jacket!

The run and scream: a game introduced to us by education intern Lindsay Sumner. It's literally just that: run and scream until your breath runs out. We enjoy the simple things here at the youth garden.

Besides running and screaming, we all really enjoyed singing together this summer. Michael Jackson songs were quite popular, but we also had a context-appropriate song about gardening that we sang every morning. The song of choice is "Garden Song" by Pete Seeger (inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow, all we need is a rake and a hoe and a piece of fertile ground...). One of our dedicated volunteers, Becca, taught us all sign language to go along with the song as well. Our summer interns were also musically talented, so we brought out the guitar every morning too. Now if I could only get that song out of my head...

We are often blessed with the presence of Damali, Program Director Kaifa Anderson-Hall's daughter. Damali isn't the biggest fan of soil or bugs, but we're working on her.

Garden Coordinator Chris Turse gets in on the cooking. Chris sure does love his veggies.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Wrapping up our family program

Growing Food ... Growing Together is our fifteen week gardening program for DC families. Families come together in the youth garden every Saturday morning to tend communal vegetable growing areas and take home a share of the harvest, CSA style. Throughout the course of the program, we've also had visits from health counselors, beekeepers, chefs, food historians, and local gardening experts (see past blog posts).

As is tradition (this program is 7 years old), GFGT ends with a big harvest festival and cook-off. Each family acts as a team, having to cook a delicious dish out of what we harvest from the garden. We bring brown rice, couscous, quinoa, and pasta as a base. There's also a secret ingredient that is unveiled right before the start that each family has to incorporate into their dish. Our garlic crop was so great that we decided to make garlic the ingredient this year (and everything tastes better with garlic anyways!).

We had an impressive array of dishes: stuffed peppers, pasta ratatouille, spinach and veggie stir fry, savory veggie couscous, brucshetta, cucumber and tomato salad, etc. But our winner, decided by voting, was Pat and CJ's curry okra. This makes the Ragland family the youth garden cook-off winners two years in a row!

Last days are always sad, but we had a great celebration before parting ways till next summer. Thank you to all of the families who participated in the program this year. We hope to see you again soon!

new additions to the garden: veggie art!

This summer, we had two amazing interns: Nadia Mercer and Lindsay Sumner. Although Nadia was focused on the garden and Sumner on education, the two decided to work together to create a joint project over the course of the nine weeks they were with us this season. The result of this collaboration is these giant vegetable and bug cutouts you see below.
We wanted more art out in the garden to make the place feel warm and welcoming. Art is also a way to celebrate your surroundings and share this feeling with others. As well as looking so fun out in the garden, these giant cutouts also tell information about the vegetable or insect they represent: informational sheets are attached that include the plant's scientific name, plant family, where it is native to, and a fun fact.

The children in our summer camp program, Seed to Supper, even got to help Nadia and Sumner paint these cutouts (after they used a band saw to cut out the shapes from wood - talented people, huh?).

Thank you, Nadia and Sumner, for helping to make the youth garden and our programs better and better. And for sharing your summer with us! We will miss you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

From the garden...

Marigolds in our cut flower beds near the garden entrance. Notice the small grape plant trellising up the deer fence too.
Beets, carrots, and cucumbers in our Seed to Supper plot. The children in our summer camp program plant and maintain three 20 foot long rows of mixed vegetables.

Yarrow, a medicinal plant, in the herb garden.

Different varieties of basil in the herb garden.

Our tomato area. We use intercropping, or companion planting, throughout the garden to protect against pests and contribute to the health of our plants and soil. Here, we plant basil with our tomatoes, which is supposed to add to the flavor of both plants as well.

A honeybee going about her work.

Squash blossoms opening up to the morning sunshine.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail drinking nectar from a silphium plant.

Gardening with History

On the last Saturday in July, we had special guest Michael Twitty visit the garden and share an engaging history lesson with our Growing Food, Growing Together families. Mr. Twitty is a "culinary historian" whose focus is on the agricultural history and food cultures of African Americans.
Our discussion with Mr. Twitty ranged from the history of enslavement in the United States to crop origins and the heritage varieties of vegetables and livestock that are in danger of becoming extinct.

Mr. Twitty did a wonderful job of keeping the children in the group included and engaged in the conversation and helped them connect what they have learned and experienced in the garden this summer to American history. Everybody thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, including a number of garden volunteers who paused to listen in from time to time.

The day's perhaps most valuable lesson to the children was that they should not regard ancestors who were enslaved with shame, but that their accomplishments in the face of enslavement can become a source of pride. Mr. Twitty's message encourages open conversations about race and American history and both the past, present and future of agriculture in the U.S. We look forward to future conversations with Mr. Twitty and new ways to connect the garden to African American culinary histories!

You can find out more about Michael Twitty's work on his website,

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Operation Frontline at the youth garden

Operation Frontline is a partnership program between the Capital Area Food Bank and Share Our Strength, two wonderful organizations working towards ending hunger. With the help of volunteer chefs and nutrition educators, Operation Frontline visits various sites throughout the DC community, teaching teaching nutrition and cooking skills. (for more info, see their website:

We were lucky to have two staff from the CAFB, Angela and Andrea, as well as a volunteer chef, Monica, come out to do such a presentation with our Growing Food...Growing Together families. They guided us through the creation of two yummy yogurt dips, one flavored with honey and cinnamon and another flavored with dill and carrot harvested from the garden. Chef Monica then prepared a corn and black eyed pea salad, getting everyone involved in the preparation along the way.

If you would like the recipes for any of these dishes, leave a comment here or email us at

Thanks again to Angela, Andrea, and Monica for coming out to share with our families!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

a trip back in time...

Our Seed to Supper youth campers recently went back in time to see what life was like on a colonial farm in 1775. We visited the Accokeek Foundation, a conserved national park located in Maryland, right across from Mount Vernon.

On our tour of Accokeek's colonial farm, we met costumed interpreters who told us about living conditions at the time and showed us around a replica farmhouse. We also got to help out with some farm chores like brushing sheared wool. Seeing the house's vegetable garden was nothing knew since we have our own garden, but getting to meet and learn about all the farm animals was a new experience for most of us.

Next time we get tired in the youth garden, we're going to think back to the 1775 colonial farm - we do have to do some weeding, but at least we don't have to gather all of our water from the river or muck out animal stalls!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

More pictures from cooking with Carla Hall

Here's also a link to our Education Intern Sumner Mcrae's blog on sustainable living in which she writes a post about her experiences working at the youth garden this summer...