Rooting DC: A Forum for Growing Urban Food Systems


By Lizzy Gendell, special to Edible DC

Rooting DC’s tagline is “An annual conference. A perennial event”. Last weekend’s forum was a true happening—I was one of the more than 1200 attendees from across the city, including dozens of nonprofits and urban farmers who came together to network, learn and create shared agendas for urban food production, sustainability and improved nutritional health. Rooting DC is a day well spent.

When you stepped through the doors of Wilson High School, you saw how the rich community of our city’s growers, composters, seed savers, social justice activists, teachers, students, friends, and neighbors work together. Similar to the complexity and interdependency of the ecosystems that work together throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it seems that Rooting DC’s community members find ways to mirror that interconnectedness.

The day began with meandering through different organizations’ booths and talking to innovators and entrepreneurs of all kinds: vertical gardeners to sauerkraut makers who are sampling from Sweet Farm. After that, everyone dispersed into classrooms where many workshops were offered.IMG_3442

My first workshop was “Talking Race, Class, Workers’ Rights & Food” workshop, where we split into teams and acted out different scenarios of potential conflicts in community garden and farm environments. Notable takeaways were the reminder that in the community of food production, we spend a lot of time growing food and plants, but not as much time growing relationships. It is often assumed that community gardens are beneficial to and wanted by a community, but it is important to ask the community what they want, and build & sustain relationships before taking action. The workshop leaders, both representing DC Fair Food, suggested that we can get more involved in this topic through campaigns such as “Pay Family Leave” and DC Fair Food.

The day would not be complete without the series of food trucks waiting for all the Rooting DC goers at lunch (all of whom are probably foodies at heart). Lemongrass Food truck filled with delicious Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwiches was there to feed us, wholesome and nutritious bowls from Beefsteak and many more.

Ultimately, Rooting DC begs the interest of all who are thinking about where their food comes from: whether they are home gardeners, small farmers, urban herbalists, food justice activists, chefs, or students. This amazingly informative event highlights the interconnectedness and interdependency of our local food system: from the soil we plant in to the food on our plate.



Chicago-native Lizzy Gendell is a spring semester intern at Edible DC, and a junior at George Washington University where she is majoring in American Studies and minoring in Sustainability. @romainecalmandcarroton