It’s 2022 and you have plenty of New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you want give back to your community, live more sustainably, or just learn to cook a few good meals that are slightly more nutritious than buttered noodles. Changing your life overnight can be overwhelming — and is probably impossible. But there is one resolution that has the potential to positively impact every aspect of your year: growing your own food.
In Washington D.C, Love & Carrots has helped thousands of residents across the city do just that. We spoke to them about their mission, why growing your own food can help yourself and the planet, and their tips for getting started no matter your space.
Can you tell us more about Love & Carrots? Why did you see the need for this type of service, and how has the business grown?
Our founder, Meredith Sheperd, spent several years working on small organic farms in the D.C. area where she was introduced to the local food movement. She was struck by how much our daily decisions about what to eat impact the environment. From plastic packaging to pesticides and fossil fuels used to transport food from all over the world, the consequences of our choices are direct and collectively make a HUGE difference. Love & Carrots was born out of the idea that eating fresh, local food can be expanded beyond shopping at the farmers market and into our own backyards.
The business has grown pretty organically over the last decade – no pun intended! What started with one woman and a truck in 2011 has turned into a 19-employee operation that maintains over 125 individual gardens each season. We are also proud to offer competitive salaries and health benefits to our crew in the hopes to create more sustainable careers in urban agriculture. As we grow as a company, we strive to create new, collaborative relationships with individuals, schools, and local businesses!
A lot of people are excited about the idea of growing their own garden, but have limited space. What tips do you have for someone who has access to:
A windowsill in their kitchen? Try growing herbs, specifically basil. Basil is a great plant to dip your toes.
A balcony? Stick to crops that don’t need a ton of sun and will produce a lot in a small space: leafy greens, herbs, and anything you can eat the leaf of (kale, collards, mustards, scallions), also snacking peppers and climbing crops like cucumbers!
A small backyard patio? Raised beds are easier to grow in than a cluster of a bunch of pots. The larger the plant, the larger the pot needs to be for success. We like to use galvanized water troughs!
What are the easiest plants, fruits, and vegetables to grow if you’re new to urban gardening?
Herbs like basil, oregano, chives and rosemary are pretty forgiving. Radishes, hot peppers, lettuce and asian eggplants too. If you’re new, try sungold or another cherry tomato for tomatoes as opposed to an obscure heirloom.
In NYC, many people join community gardens or volunteer with local organizations to have access to green-space and the joy of planting. Is this the same case in D.C, and if so, what gardens or orgs would you recommend people explore?
D.C. has a large network of community gardens spread throughout the city! While these are incredible resources for people to access growing space in the city, these gardens often have long wait lists. Luckily there are many local farms and organizations that are usually seeking volunteers, or offer informative classes: Common Good City Farm, Cultivate the City, DC Urban Garden Network, and the Washington Youth Garden are great places to start!
What do you love about working in D.C. and with the D.C. community?
D.C. is an incredible city, both to live in and to grow food. It is largely composed of row houses, and there is a law that restricts the height of building construction. Because there are few excessively tall buildings, there is ample space and sunlight at the ground level for vegetable growing. It is also very common for D.C. residents to have a small front or backyard – perfect for raised beds!
Any other advice (or warnings!) you want to share?
Raised beds are a great way to start. Make sure you place whatever you are growing in the maximum amount of sunlight hours. Setting up a simple irrigation system is worth the trouble!