“Longtime Grower of Things” Becomes New Executive Director of Common Good City Farm
by Jill Schwartz
Samantha Wetzel’s roots to gardening run deep. As a child, she loved helping her mother pick vegetables from their backyard garden in northern Virginia. She was fascinated with watching things grow. Samantha, who goes by Sam, brought that passion to her own backyard when she grew up, creating gardens at the various places where she lived. And she brought it to Honduras, where she and her husband were Peace Corps volunteers. Under the hot Latin American sun, she grew peppers, garlic, beans and more. She now manages a 400-plus-square-foot fruit and vegetable garden she planted at her current home in the Northeast Washington, DC community of Langdon.
As excited as she is about that garden, she is more excited about the biggest plot of land she’s ever been able to dig into—the half-acre farm we know as Common Good City Farm (CGCF). Sam became the executive director of CGCF in mid-January. The self-described “longtime grower of things” not only brings to the job her passion for and knowledge of planting and harvesting. She also brings experience related to agricultural policy, community engagement, and economic development—all of which are key to fulfilling the CGCF mission. “Urban farming at places like Common Good is about feeding people, but it is also so much more,” Sam said. She first learned about agricultural policy, community engagement, and economic development at The London School of Economics and Political Science, where she did her master’s thesis on the impacts of biointensive mini-farming—such as food security for local communities. She then deepened that knowledge in the Peace Corps, where she, among other things, assisted rural agricultural communities with business development training. Later, at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps program) she did everything from helping to develop regulatory policies to analyzing policy issues. She broadened her knowledge of agriculture even more by getting her Master Gardener Certification last year and her Community Composting Certificate two years earlier.
Sam is not new to CGCF. After coming across the farm in 2014 while on a bike ride in LeDroit Park, she signed up to volunteer and then participated in CGCF’s first herbalist program, led then by Tricia McCauley. Since completing the program, she has volunteered to help manage the herb garden Tricia created. “I am ready to make a hands-on change in my own city,” Sam said. “I know the incredible work Common Good does in serving the community, and I am so excited to be part of it—particularly interacting with people who come to and live near the farm.” To reach Sam, send her a message at Sam (at) Commongoodcityfarm.org. Or stop by our table at Rooting DC!