Nourishing Families and Food Imaginations

Collaboration Plants Woodland Terrace Peace Garden
Trayon White, in green Beautiful U Yes U t-shirt, with District Running Collective and other volunteers building Woodland Terrace Peace Garden, May 30, 2015. Credit: Tre'ona Kelty-Jacobs

Woodland Terrace Peace Garden, launched on May 30, is growing a wide range of seeds: chocolate mint and self-sufficiency … tomatoes, watermelons, and healing … lavender and food awareness … curiosity. “We decided to start the garden because we have a lot of instances where our families are left without food, especially at the end of the month,” says Tre'ona Kelty-Jacobs, known as Miss Tree, founder of the youth group Beautiful U Yes U (BUYU). 

The garden is also intended as a symbol of peace and healing for “youth ravaged by recurrent violent crime,” Miss Tree adds. Several of the BUYU youth have lost friends or family to gun violence, and the garden includes a flower section dedicated to the memories of youth who have been murdered. The garden itself “spells love” with innovative planting boxes shaped L-O-V-E. 

In addition the garden is an opportunity to help youth explore new ways of eating. And that, according to vegan soul-food chef Velvet Kelty-Jacobs, is a step toward food choices that promote health. “There are so many diseases that are treatable,” at least in part through nutrition, she says, “especially in the black community.” Chef V's project Vegan in the Hood helps youth gardeners, as well as adults in the community, learn to cook with produce they grow.

Wide-Ranging Collaboration

The primary movers behind the Woodland Terrace Peace Garden are Vegan in the Hood and BUYU. BUYU was established in 2007 “to empower and guide women and girls through the healing process from abuse, unhealthy relationships and self-hate.” Programs are offered at both Benning Terrace and Woodland Terrace in cooperation with Brown Boys Village, led by former State Board of Education member and Ward 8 Council candidate Trayon White. 

To help launch the garden, funds and volunteer time were donated by District Running Collective, an urban movement to promote culture, community, and diversity through running and healthy living. Xavier Brown and Green Scheme helped with planting and continue to provide gardening support. Green Scheme is a nonprofit that works to end food deserts, promoting environmental sustainability, health awareness, and social justice. 

The new garden is also supported by Dawn Moncrief, founding director of A Well-Fed World, an international organization dedicated to hunger relief and animal protection, and Sekisha Brown, creator of Heal'n Hoop, a handmade water-weighted hula hoop designed for adult exercise. 

Many others planted and participated in the ribbon-cutting festivities, including Markus Batchelor of the Mayor's office, Aquarius Vann-Ghasri of the DCHA Commission, Ward 8 Councilmember LaRuby May, representatives of Rocketship Education, which is building a new facility nearby, and Assistant Police Chief Diane Groomes.

Curiosity and Growth

Chocolate mint and tomatoes appeared in the garden's first three weeks. More produce will come later in the summer. “Whatever we harvest will go back to the families of the girls,” Miss Tree explains. “We started small. But the plan is to start gardens in other communities.”

Although the harvest is just beginning, Chef V is already working to expand food horizons for youth and their families. This is especially important in a food desert, she says, where residents are used to limited food options. She's excited to see “inner city kids try dishes like 'vegan mac & cheese' and 'vegan chicken nuggets.'” It helps, adds Chef V, that some celebrities – like Beyonce, Common, and Erika Badu – are vegan. “This causes curiosity, and so the kids are willing to at least taste something new.” But not too new. “It's not that 'vegan chicken nuggets' taste like chicken. It's the spices and sauce. You want your taste buds to identify with something familiar.”

So far about 30 young people, for whom gardening and vegan cooking are new experiences, have been involved. Throughout the summer BUYU summer camp participants, girls ages 6-12, will explore both gardening and vegan cooking. Older youth assist with the camp and the garden through the Summer Youth Employment Program

Get Involved

Additional community support is welcome including donations of seedlings, other supplies, and books on gardening as well as volunteers to help with gardening and community members willing to share health-related activities like yoga. A drum circle is also forming in the garden. Visit the garden at 2361 Ainger Place SE. Follow its growth virtually via hashtag #WoodlandTerracePeaceGarden. For more on the camp and Vegan in the Hood visit VsVegan.com. Find Beautiful U Yes U on Facebook, email treona.kelty@gmail.com, or call 202-413-4083.

Virginia Spatz is feature reporter on We Act Radio's “Education Town Hall” and blogs at songeveryday.wordpress.com.