US (DC): Keeping kids off the streets through hydroponic education

When Xavier Brown got a job as an environmental liaison between the University of the District of Columbia and Anacostia High School in Southeast Washington, he was ecstatic.

“Helping young people learn about the natural world, how it sustains us, and what will happen if we don’t sustain it — that’s my wheelhouse,” Brown said. At 37, he is a master gardener and founder of Soilful City, a D.C.-based organization that promotes sustainable urban farming and advocates using agriculture “to heal and organize stressed communities.”

Anacostia High is in a part of the city that suffers from the highest poverty and violent crime. Trauma is common, maybe an epidemic. More meditative gardening will certainly help. But there is still far more heartbreak than healing east of the Anacostia River these days.

Enter gardener Brown, seeding young minds at Anacostia High for a harvest of academic excellence and, hopefully, a timely bounty of love for the earth. During the summer, he led a six-week internship for 12 Anacostia students who had expressed interest in hydroponic gardening. A vacant classroom in the school basement was outfitted with hydroponic equipment, made available through a partnership that UDC has with Ponix Systems of Austria. Brown has many partnerships in the endeavor, both in federal and local governments and in a plethora of nonprofit organizations.

“We live in a resource-rich region, but the challenge is getting those resources down to the ground level,” Brown said. He is tenacious, driven by an unshakable belief in his cause and his students. The students know it.

Read the entire article in the Washington Post

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