Sitting at a shaded picnic table at The Well at Oxon Run in the southeast, Jaren Hill Lockridge animatedly questioned her 13-year-old son. Meanwhile, Stefan Lockridge II, an Ambassador for Ward 8 Water Watchers and a regular gardener at the newly opened City Farm, goes through her Q&A.
“What is that body of water that The Well stands on?” She replied, “Oxon Run Creek.”
“And how big is it?” She replied, “8.4 miles.”
“And where does Oxon Run Creek flow into?” She replied, “It flows into Oxon Cove.”
The fast-paced conversation continued, demonstrating not only the memory of the younger Lockridge, but also many of the values his mother, the director of The Well, wants to embody on the farm: family and multigenerational togetherness; understanding and appreciation for the country; and a commitment to sharing community knowledge.
“There’s physical well-being, there’s environmental well-being, and the last is financial well-being,” said Hill Lockridge, describing the three “pillars” that make up the farm’s mission.
“So we make sure our community has access to the things that we have access to,” she said. “It’s not just us, it’s not just my kids, it’s not just her kids. They are the children of our community. It is our village, our tribe, all of us together.”
The Well, which lies on Valley Road between 4th and Atlantic Roads, opened for its first growing season earlier this month. Mayor Muriel Bowser, Councilor Trayon White, Sr. and Chairman Phil Mendelson joined hundreds of community members for the official opening on June 4, when the farm opened its doors to the public for the first time.
The 50,000-square-foot space, operated by DC Greens, remains open Tuesday through Saturday. Rows of spinach, kale, lettuce, squash, corn and beans, flower beds full of colorful zinnias and an enclosed grove of fruit trees are set on 20,000 square feet of land.
“The food that goes into my body – where is it coming from? And is it good for me? This is an opportunity for me to really know,” said Hill Lockridge. “So that I can grow my own food, so my kids know how to grow their own food, so our community grows their own food. So I can feed the community that has fed me for so long.”
In an area with few grocery stores and healthy food options, urban farms offer residents affordable ways to get their hands on fresh produce. Food from the harvest will be available for free at The Well.
Liz Jones, a farm assistant at The Well who specializes in food efficiency and cookery, envisions putting up labels with nutritional information and recipe cards along the rows of produce.
“It is no coincidence that this community is built the way it is. We all understand how a major democratic city in America works,” she said. “But everyone deserves access to real food. The fact that you have to do all this advocacy to get a space like this is insane. But I’m just glad it’s here. It’s incredible.”
The benefits of urban farming and green space go beyond food production. Farm manager Kenneth Bridgers described a more intangible benefit he hopes to foster: a sense of connection with the soil and the healthy rhythm of the natural world.
“When you grow, you’re not only making a commitment to creating an ecosystem, you’re doing it [also] becoming a part of the ecosystem that surrounds you,” he said.
“I’m not going to say that’s enough to feed the entire South Side,” Hill Lockridge said. “But if we can sow seeds here, it will help change the mindset from consumers to producers. Imagine our District 8 tomatoes that were sold to our District 8 stores, which were the places where we buy our groceries and eat from.”
In addition to the land covered in crops, The Well houses areas dedicated to other types of growth, including a courtyard with benches for people to gather and an outdoor classroom.
“The Well is a part production, part education farm,” Bridgers explained in an online video tour of the space.
The program for people of all ages will begin later this summer, with yoga, tai chi and hip hop classes sharing a schedule with courses focused on financial literacy and access to academic careers for youth .
DC Greens built the farm in partnership with several community organizations: The Green Scheme, The Friends of Oxon Run and Soul of the City along with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation. As the DC Greens began discussions about opening a new farm in Ward 8, they held a series of meetings to gather input from the community and coordinate with other organizations. This is how Hill Lockridge first came into play.
In November 2020, as organizations struggled to continue their work as the world responded to COVID-19, Hill Lockridge was offered the position of Director of The Well.
“When the pandemic hit, we really saw the importance of a built, healthy outdoor space,” she said.
She said The Well’s growth is just beginning – the next addition to the farm will be a brood of chickens. Further ahead, Hill Lockridge envisions a massive covered porch for storytelling and companionship.
“Often people talk about our communities as the least, the last, the forgotten,” she said. “I say our greatest resource is people. I try to remind people that we’re great at every opportunity. So I call us the big station 8.”