Faces of the Farm

Meet JaQuan JaQuan felt lucky to live across the street from a baseball field when he was growing up in public housing in a struggling pocket of Washington DC. It’s where he spent a lot of time playing ball or hanging out with friends after school. It was a surprise the day the field was fenced off and equipment started digging up the only patch of green for blocks around. And JaQuan was even more surprised – and confused – when he saw the field becoming a farm. A farm in LeDroit Park: it was something he had never heard of and could not fathom.

Even though working outside in the dirt wasn’t cool and the people farming were strangers, JaQuan’s curiosity got the best of him. He wandered over to see what was going on. Sensing his intrigue, farm workers asked JaQuan if he wanted to help paint and build beds for growing vegetables. He did. Now, two years later, urban farming is a part of his life. He was a Summer Youth Program participant harvesting (his favorite task is pulling up carrots,) building beds, and sifting compost. The 16 year old even weeded energetically—something he hates—because he understands its importance. He went to the library to teach kids half his age about farming. He showed them what he had grown from seed in small paper cups and sent them home with flower seeds they could plant, the way Common Good City Farm volunteers did with him when he was younger. When the six-week summer program ended, JaQuan came back for more. As a paid intern this fall, he’s getting his hands dirty and helping in the community. He staffed a table at Patagonia in Georgetown where he talked to customers about the farm and its upcoming events. He is sharing his knowledge with groups that volunteer on the farm. He does all of this while going to school, studying, running track and playing in a marching band. “It’s good to have something like this to do when I am not in school,” JaQuan said. “And it teaches me that I can do something with myself.” Growing vegetables is far different than playing ball with friends, some of whom still feel farming is boring. But, given his new love for urban farming and community engagement, JaQuan feels that he has hit a home run with this one.