Mbazang is part of a swelling group of Washingtonians who grow produce in the city’s 68 community gardens, which offer free plots of fertile land. Many gardens have years-long waitlists and have become even more in-demand during the pandemic, as people are stuck at home, and many are looking for new, healthy hobbies.
Jeff McQueen, 63, hadn’t gardened in many years but started growing squash and cabbage in May near Mbazang’s plot at Blair.
“After the novelty of being in quarantine wore off and the pandemic wore on, I started to look for something to fill the isolated life,” McQueen said. “It felt good to be around people. I soon found out gardeners are very friendly folk.”
The gardening market has been experiencing a boom from new gardeners such as McQueen.
“It’s been a landslide compared with past years,” said Niraj Ray, 34, founder and CEO of Cultivate the City, a company that promotes urban farming in D.C. “In previous years, it usually took us to July 4 to break even. This year it was April.”
Tommy Wells, director of the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment, said the city is constantly looking for new places to expand urban agriculture to meet demand, which has jumped markedly in the pandemic.