A Real Sense of Community--Reston
gallery of deserving targets, one often forgets the very good people around us engaged every day in doing good deeds right here in Reston.
I have to watch my tendency to slip into cynical mode, especially when discussing
politics. Fair game for me includes Fairfax County, the so-called Commonwealth of Virginia, and, heaven help us, our dismal U.S. Congress with entirely too many right-wingers and tea merchants spewing bile and negativity. Given this endless
One recent, modest example of a caring community at work involves a suggested community garden for residents of the affordable Cedar Ridge Apartments. Cedar Ridge Apartments on Becontree Lane rent subsidized units with social services provided by Reston Interfaith.
Over the years, these apartments have been well maintained and serve a diverse, changing population. The demographics have shifted reflecting new waves of immigrants. Initially, residents were majority African-American who were followed by Latin American, Middle Eastern, and more recently, North African and southwest Asian.
A few months ago, one of Reston’s newer nonprofits, the Fairfax Coalition for Smarter Growth’s Sustainable Reston initiative, which promotes local food production among other things, approached Reston Interfaith with a proposal to create a pilot community garden with the residents of Cedar Ridge. Reston Interfaith (RI) was immediately receptive. It turns out that many Cedar Ridge residents come from farming backgrounds—although in very different,
subsistence farming. Kerrie Wilson, RI's CEO, agreed and thought self-help growing of nutritious foods to supplement family diets made sense from more than one point of view.
As it happens, Cedar Ridge is adjacent to the natural gas pipeline right-of-way which runs through Reston. The right-of-way is a broad expanse of good quality land, some of which is already a large community garden on Wiehle Drive. All
one needs to use it is to have an agreement with the pipeline owners not to dig
deep holes or plant trees that threaten their line. The pipeline owners were cooperative and the project quickly began to come together.
Reston Association, the nonprofit Friends of Reston, and the Reston Community Center all stepped up to back the pilot project with the modest financial and in-kind support needed, including deer-proof fencing, top soil, hoses and a rain barrel. Donations of tools, plant seedlings and seeds came from Sustainable Reston volunteers. And, Reston Interfaith, which works on a daily basis with Cedar Ridge families, had no trouble identifying interested gardeners—including several older Sudanese residents among others.
Once a ten-foot tall chain link fence was installed to keep the deer from devouring
the veggies in the modest thirty feet square enclosure, all was ready for the
gardeners and volunteers to clean pathways between individual plots, till the
soil, fill the rain barrel and plant and water the first plantings.
Early on June 6, the Cedar Ridge gardeners, 10 in all, appeared bright and early and literally dug in. It is an interesting group—consisting of six men and four women, most in their 50s and above. Eight of the 10 were originally from the northern Sudan, with some experience in farming back home. Their experience and love of the soil and working it was apparent immediately.
Each gardener works a small, four by thirteen feet, planting bed approached from newly dug, tiny pathways covered now with newspapers under a layer of wood chips to keep out weeds and keep down the mud. Plantings include a dozen varieties of tomato seedlings, egg plant, okra, basil, peppers, squash and cucumbers. And, the gardeners are deciding what additional seeds they need to fill their beds from border stake to border stake.
The preparation of the soil and paths, and the planting and water is hard work by itself. But, a lot more hard work and perseverance, along with a good bit of luck with weather and pests, will be needed over the next two to three months to yield the fresh, nutritious veggies and fruits the growers envision. And, I should note
they will do it without the aid of chemicals--this is an organic garden!
It has been very satisfying for me, a member of Sustainable Reston, to watch this pilot project come together thanks to Sustainable Reston, Reston Association, Friends of Reston, the Reston Community Center and the wonderful folks at Reston Interfaith.
Notice the feature they all have in common? The word Reston
in their names! They are RESTON coming together to make a real difference in people’s lives. Furthermore, if this pilot initiative is successful, these same organizations are ready to look at expanding it in years to come to serve additional families in need.