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Victory Gardens: Sowing Community Involvement On The Hill

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[Photo courtesy of Victory Gardens]

Hill East isn't exactly a fresh food desert, but it's also doesn't have the farmers market and grocery options that much of Northwest D.C. does. One couple has decided to amend that with the first of what they hope will be several gardens to both engage and serve the community. Victory Gardens' site on 15th Street SE will hold about 20 beds of vegetables that will go directly to the community around them.

If the name Victory Gardens recalls the staple of World War II era homes, that's not an accident. Co-Founder Julia Shek came up with the name and her husband and partner Alex Shek liked the feeling that it evoked, "It's something positive that people remember," saying that the ideal of the victory gardens of the 1940s was to provide for those around them.

Both Sheks have a long history of volunteering so it's no surprise that outreach was on their brain when they saw a large piece of unused property by the house they bought in Capitol Hill two and a half years ago.

"The alleyways are too small so they can't get zoning. And we thought, 'That's a really big space.'"

The idea for Victory Gardens emerged a year ago. Their plan for twenty raised beds for growing vegetables has received support from their neighbors, many of whom have had families in the neighborhood for decades. They've also raised over half the money necessary for kickstarting the project in their Indiegogo campaign. Ultimately, they plan to deliver care packages to neighbors, partner with an urban ministry called Simple House and deliver any remaining produce to a local food bank. They've even brought on one part-time employee to tend to the garden whose family stays at the D.C. General homeless shelter.

Shek says he hopes to bring on more part time employees and teach them entrepreneurship as well as farm hand skills. He also says that they've identified sites in Anacostia for a potential second garden.

"The city's changing so much," says Shek, "And this can definitely impact and help both sides relate to one another."
· Victory Gardens [Official Site]
· Victory Gardens DC [Indiegogo]