3-Minute Interview: Vertical gardening advocate Ben Friton

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Local,People,3-Minute Interview,April Burbank

Friton leads gardening seminars in D.C. and around the world through his organization, Can YA Love. The group teaches people how to grow gardens in small spaces, which become a source of income in places like the Kawangware slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Friton is also working on a vertical garden at Wangari Gardens in Northwest D.C. that will be accessible to seniors and people with disabilities.

Why did you start Can YA Love?

I started to study the famines that were hitting the Horn of Africa, and I was really inspired by what, in particular, the women living in the slums of Kenya were doing to alleviate massive food shortages. ... I decided to start using agriculture as a means to have consistent funding for all kinds of what I see as the most important things happening in community -- whether it be orphanages, schools, youth groups [or] women's groups.

Why do you focus specifically on urban gardening?

I'd say that that's going to be a focus for the foreseeable future, only because the human population, for the first time in our history, has now more people living in urban areas. ... We have to figure out ways for people to buy food right where people live.

What does your work look like when you come into a community?

We hold a seminar with leaders from all of these [community] groups. ... We teach them not only how to grow using these [garden] systems, but also we teach them the basics, really simple concepts around soil microbiology.

Closer to home, are space-saving gardens like your Wangari Gardens project common in D.C.?

Can YA Love is not solely a space-saving mechanism. It's also remarkably simple for people with physical disabilities. So what we're doing at Wangari Gardens is building an accessibility garden. ... Growing food, not only for the nutritional aspect, is quite therapeutic.

- April Burbank

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April Burbank

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