WASHINGTON, D.C. — Every morning, rain or shine, Taboris Robinson tends to the myriad of crops on his farm.
“We do collards, kale, arugula, cabbage,” he said. “As you can see, we got sage and rosemary over there. I’m doing broccoli this year, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, squash, onions, garlic, herbs.”
However, Robinson isn’t any ordinary farmer.
“I'm actually a carpenter and a cook,” he said. “I'm not, I was not, a farmer. Let's get that clear. I had no clue I'd be farming.”
This isn’t any ordinary farm, either. Its odd, one-acre shape is carved out of small growing patches next to a baseball diamond in the middle of America’s capital city.
“The food goes back to the community,” Robinson said.
The farm is part of the nonprofit DMV Urban Greens, located in the southeast section of Washington, D.C. It’s a place known as a food desert because residents there struggle to access fresh produce and even more so during a pandemic.
“One Safeway in like a 5-mile radius, serving over 100,000 something people,” Robinson said.
This farm seeks to help with that need. In the last year, it gave away 20,000 pounds of fresh produce.
In the past three decades, the number of urban farms in the U.S. has grown more than 30 percent. Because the pandemic showed how fragile the food distribution system can be, even for big supermarket chains, urban farming has become a fresh food lifeline in some places.
It’s a growth that adds up to thousands of small urban farms around the country in cities from Detroit to Phoenix to Tampa, that is now home to dozens of them. They range from small plots, known as microgardens, to several acres in size.
Robinson felt the impact of that urban farming trend when he recently tried buying crop seeds.
“Now, everything is sold out,” he said. “Like, everybody's farming now.”
To help keep things going on the farm, volunteers like Gloria Anthony step in.
“In here, last week, we planted some lettuce,” she said, pointing to one section of the farm. “I just love to see the hard work going in to see the harvest and know that the vegetables are going to people that really need, and so, that's very rewarding.”
Like all farms everywhere, though, it has its challenges.
“We got animals around here: a groundhog that just keep eating me down,” Robinson said while casting a wary eye the area to see if he spotted the groundhog. “I mean, he eats me down good. I mean, dude is off the chain! Yeah, he’s now somewhere waiting for me to plant something.”
People are waiting for him to plant something, too, as they are now counting on this growing bounty in the middle of the concrete jungle.