After Etta Klosi moved to Washington, she looked for a way to recapture her childhood memories of summer days in Albania.
So Klosi sought out a plot at Pomegranate Alley Community Garden.
Located on Capitol Hill, Klosi’s space is featured in a new documentary on local community gardens.
Filmmaker Cintia Cabib’s newest work, “A Community of Gardeners,” recently premiered at the Environmental Film Festival and will likely be shown on public television sometime this year. The film focuses on seven local gardens and follows a diverse mix of gardeners through several seasons.
“I was interested in really showing the gardens and what they offered people through the personal stories of the gardeners themselves,” Cabib said.
Klosi’s parents, Bajram and Ronja Cala, are also featured in the film because of their fanatical interest in her piece of greenery.
“When they come to visit, there’s a total restructuring of the garden,” Klosi says in the documentary.
Washington Youth Garden, which hosts the “Growing Food ... Growing Together” program at the National Arboretum, is also featured in the documentary. The garden allows parents and their children to adopt a plot and grow food in the district. Program participant Pat Ragland said the experience offered her a refuge from city life.
“Being in Washington, D.C., and being here, you wouldn’t know that just a few hundred yards on the other side there’s murder and crime and everything,” Ragland says in the film. “It’s just so quiet and peaceful back here, so that’s what I like about being in the garden.”
The film also showcases Maria Barrera, who is involved in the 7th Street Garden’s “Green Tomorrows” program for low-income D.C. residents. For Barrera, her time working in the garden meant she could put food on the table.
“The garden plays a big role in my life because it feeds me,” Barrera says in the documentary. “I live out of this garden, whatever I get every Wednesday that’s what feeds me for the whole week. I live Wednesday to Wednesday. You know, without the garden, I wouldn’t have any food.”
Cabib’s film documents the garden’s move to a new location at the site of a closed school on V Street NW, between 2nd and 4th Streets. The new garden, renamed Common Good City Farm, continues to offer the “Green Tomorrows” program for D.C. residents in need.
One of Cabib’s favorite stories, however, is the Pomegranate Alley Community Garden. A group of Hill residents who were fed up with crime in the area created the green space as a way to reclaim the neighborhood.
“It was a place, as one of the gardeners described it, with prostitution and drug activity going on there,” Cabib said. “The people in the area decided they wanted to make it a community garden, so gardeners went there to clean it up and converted it to a woodland oasis.”
Once the gardeners pulled the weeds and took out the trash, Cabib said, the Capitol Hill alley didn’t just look nicer, it also became less dangerous.
“They have a pomegranate tree there in the alley and after the gardeners cleaned up the place, it finally started to flower,” Cabib said.
For more information on “A Community of Gardeners” and future screenings, visit the film’s website at www.communityofgardeners.com.