Guest Blogger Queen Richardson
August 11th, 2020
If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life
It Starts with a Seed
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always been fascinated by plants. My interest grew during my senior year of high school when I was working for a homeless prevention organization called Sasha Bruce Youthwork as a youth leader, advocating for various community issues. In that role I began volunteering with one of their grant recipient organizations called Beet Street Gardens.
I learned a variety of gardening skills while maintaining three community gardens with Beet Street. These were skills that I was then able to share with others when teaching gardening workshops for the youth at Sasha Bruce’s emergency shelters. I truly loved being in the garden and working with the young people. For me, planting a seed, and watching it grow and blossom, made me feel proud. Being able to take home as many greens, peaches and apples as I could handle was just a plus!
This pride increased as I noticed many of the youth participants returning regularly for my workshops, especially when cooking was involved! I taught students how to gather herbs and veggies and make a variety of dishes like quesadillas, eggplant parmesan, and sweet potato fries. My workshops encouraged them to host an end of summer cookout for Sasha Bruce staff to share some of the dishes they made.
My background is in baking, having working in bakeries for a few years and always cooking up a storm for my family. Adding home grown fruits and veggies to my recipes makes them all that more delicious. And passing on these experiences to the youth of my hometown brings me so much joy. My four year old daughter, Jasmine, loves eating up all the goodies I bring home. Now she loves being in the garden just as much as me. Finding worms and other bugs fascinates her, making Mom so happy!
Many of my youth participants enjoyed learning about gardening methods like composting and companion planting. During one of my workshops, we made compost tea with the youth and made games out of the tedious work. They were all very eager to see who could spray the most plants first. This work encouraged me to expand my gardening skills and knowledge. I began looking for programs and opportunities that matched my gardening interest and goals.
Little did I know where it would lead!
My interest in gardening shifted to green infrastructure practices after participating in field activities with the Department of Energy and Environment’s Green Zone Environmental Program (GZEP). I assisted with photo monitoring, stream and habitat restoration projects, and inspecting practices installed through the District’s RiverSmart program.
I immersed myself in learning about green infrastructure, climate change, and more in-depth examinations of stormwater issues. I especially enjoyed putting on waders and using panorama photos to conduct stream monitoring. But I also found it quite inspirational to see others in my community getting excited about this work as well. The youth would be thrilled learning about native plants and species; I can remember them being amazed by the beautiful monarch butterflies eating the milkweed plants in the butterfly garden.
Seeing native wildlife return to the local streams in the District thanks to my work really made me feel like I was contributing to the greater good of the environment and my city. I heard participants express how much fun it was to get out and explore the Anacostia River and learn about its history. It is thanks to these experiences offered to me, and which I then shared with others, that inspire DC youth to return to their communities and encourage other residents to do more to help clean up our waterways.
It also helped me realize that I want to do this work for a living!
Let It Grow
When I got my first job in green infrastructure with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, I felt well-prepared to flourish in the environmental field. I had nurtured a love for gardening from a young age, helped others create strong connections with the natural world, and now felt like I could expand my understanding and impact even further.
My work consists of completing permeable paver, rain garden, and conservation landscaping (BayScaping) inspections, assisting with contractor trainings and outreach events, assisting with the coordination of the rain barrel program, and other tasks in support of the RiverSmart homeowner incentive program.
While I know this work is all making a fantastic positive impact on our local and watershed-wide water and soil quality, it is also having a strong impact on Jasmine.
When she isn’t pick strawberries, helping me make strawberry jam or cheesecake (if there are enough left that she hasn’t eaten!!!), or playing in the garden, she is seeing her mom make a difference. Looking back on the progress I’ve made, I can say that I did not expect to be doing this type of work, but I am so happy that I am.
It gives me the opportunity to continue improving the environment and ensure a healthy future for my daughter.
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
Queen Richardson is a Projects Assistant with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s DC office. She helps to administer the RiverSmart Homes program’s installation of rain barrels, rain gardens, BayScapes, and permeable pavers throughout the District of Columbia through inspections and coordination with contractors and other partners.
Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program