What is your professional background/expertise?
I am a program coordinator for the Maryland Small Business Development Center affiliated with University of Maryland at College Park. I began working with Kelley during my tenure overseeing “Branch Avenue In Bloom” a program to address the needs of a commercial corridor in an underserved community in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
How did you come to know/work with Kelley Oklesson?
The area I was assigned had an abandoned street scape that had become a forty year dumping ground. With Kelley’s assistance we turned it into a functional green space. An Urban Farm.
Though Branch Avenue In Bloom a program of the Maryland Small Business Development Center with community partners, an Urban Farm is scheduled to break ground in the Summer of 2015. The project addresses Urban Plight to Agricultural Delight though State, County and Community partnerships.
Were there any challenges or changes in plans and how did Kelley handle it?
We had no funding for this project. As I identified grant opportunities Kelley assisted with obtaining supportive materials and information needed to submit the grant applications. Kelley also selected the appropriate plants and other vegetations. She identified opportunities to address stormwater runoff on site. This was very important since the storm water from Route 4 could potentially contaminate the edible plantings in the garden.
What did you enjoy about working with Kelley and how did she compare to working with other design professionals?
Through Kelley’s leadership she was able to identify volunteers to help with the labor needed to develop the garden and create a sustainable green space; that provide fresh produce in a designated food desert.
How did working with a designer impact the outcome of your project?
The transformation was so impressive; a community member wrote the White House. We were honored by being invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to the White House for a tour her garden.
What does the world need more of? Less of?
The Branch Avenue In Bloom Urban Farm provided me the opportunity to work beside Kelley. The skills and experiences I learned are ones that highlight my professional career. Together we created a touchable legacy.