I've watched gardening organizations form, then create a project or two with modest success, but I've never seen one have the impact that Grow Annapolis has in its two short years. It broke ground on its first garden - the Annapolis City Dock Community Garden (and the only community garden in Annapolis) - in mid-summer of 2010 and that garden now serves 20+ local gardeners and passersby who partake of its gleaning opportunities (it's not stealing; it's encouraged!) The Grow Annapolis team is now working hard to start a second, much larger community garden at Bywater Park.
Just last spring the group made its first school garden happen - at the Annapolis Elementary School. It's a sustainable, organic food garden right there on the school grounds, with the enthusiastic participation and support of its principal, Susan Myers, who'd been interested in green schools and outdoor education for a long time. She told a local magazine, “I don’t know if children today appreciate their environment as much as they should; maybe they don’t have the resources to do that. They’re in a city where there isn’t too much green. I wanted to bring an outdoor environment to the students.” PTA president Heather Macintosh was also very involved, both in the planning and getting her hands dirty to help build the garden over the course of a cold, wet weekend.
Next, Grow Annapolis started the Cool HAT (Healthy and Tasty) Garden at Shady Side Elementary School for the children of South County. And they've partnered with Annapolis High School and their Summer Bridge Program in an effort to build a sustainable school garden program and introduce students to growing and eating healthy foods. The held their first "garden work party" yesterday.
What's happening here? Anne Heiser Buzelli, of the Anne Arundel County Health Department, told What's Up Magazine that she thinks the school gardens are evidence that the tradition of growing food is re-emerging. “Gardening used to be the norm, and its coming back around. I think Anne Arundel County is going to benefit tremendously from this local food movement…it’s all really falling together.” And Heather Macintosh surmised that “it’s not impossible to think every public school in Annapolis could have a garden.”
It's wonderful to see so much enthusiasm for gardens - from school administrators, parents, and local volunteers. Grow Annapolis itself is a terrific collaboration of people from all walks of the Annapolis community, led by its dynamic executive director, Joel Bunker. Joel grew up growing food and has a background in promoting sustainable buildings, affordable housing, and open space.
Oh, and Grow Annapolis's panel of advisors includes Homestead's own perennials and events manager Lisa Winters. Lisa also volunteers as the Grow It Eat It coordinator for the University of Maryland Extension.
Want to get your hands dirty for a great cause? Contact Grow Annapolis.