October 17, 2022
The mission here at DHIC is about so much more than providing affordable housing options to local residents. We also aim to provide a sense of community in which our residents can thrive. That starts by getting feedback from the people who live in our different developments about what matters most to them.
During the redevelopment of the Village at Washington Terrace, residents specifically asked for a community garden, as a tribute to Mr. Willie Edwards Jeffreys (1962-2012). In the 1970s, Mr. Edwards lived at Washington Terrace and distributed food throughout the community from his own garden.
The residents liked the idea of creating a space that everyone could contribute to and benefit from, so we made it our mission to cultivate an intentional garden with artwork, vibrant imagery, and delicious produce. Mr. Edwards had a famous quote related to the garden he often said: “Plant some, eat some, share some, all are welcome.”
During the height of the COVID pandemic, many residents didn’t feel comfortable being out working on the garden, but as things started to open up in 2022, it became more of a priority. Around that same time, Jean-Luc Duvall, a local volunteer and activist for food insecurity and food justice, learned about the community garden at Washington Terrace through his girlfriend.
He explains, “I started a personal garden during the pandemic and it brought me a lot of joy. I wanted to help spread that joy throughout the community as well. In February 2022, I started volunteering at the Village of Washington Terrace, clearing out the existing garden, putting out new soil, and planting a variety of produce.”
Beyond that, Jean-Luc started forming connections with the residents. As he was out working in the garden, he’d start conversations with people passing by, telling them about the goal for the garden and encouraging them to get involved. Now, just eight months later, there are about 15 residents who work with Jean-Luc at the garden each week. This “Gathering for Growth” program even has t-shirts that the residents wear with a special logo designed by one of the children in the community.
In fact, many of the kids living at the Village at Washington Terrace, ranging from ages 2-12, enjoy getting involved in the garden. When Jean-Luc volunteers at the garden on Wednesdays, it overlaps with Homework Haven, an after-school program. When the kids finish up, they often go out and work in the garden. “The kids have really enjoyed getting involved and learning about how to grow food. When their parents come to pick them up, they usually stop by the garden as well. It’s really a central hub for the community,” Jean-Luc explains.
Since starting in February, the garden has produced between 200 and 300 pounds of food, which residents can come pick at any time. Once food is harvested, it’s taken to a food pantry in the resident’s center, and Jean-Luc sends out weekly texts to the community, letting them know about upcoming produce.
Best of all, residents can request different foods they’re interested in trying and help plant it themselves. Over the months, the garden has produced:
Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, turnips, tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, herbs, green beans, collard greens, spinach, lettuce, and sunflowers.
And, there are no signs of slowing down! Next, our Family Services Coordinator, Bridgette Lynn, and Jean-Luc hope to hold some events at the community with recipe ideas for the different crops and samples the residents can try so they stay inspired in their own kitchens.