Pashon Murray: Saving the World By Getting Your Hands Dirty

January 27 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: Women Getting Their Hands Dirty

It seems that every reality-based competition on TV, like Survivor, requires some activity that totally creeps me out. Would you squat on the ground and have tarantulas crawl all over you? Nope! Would you stick your hand into an ominous container with no idea what creepy-crawly, icky-sticky thing is in it? Heck no! But there are a few brave women out there who do.

Today, let’s thank the ladies who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty—literally—those who aren’t on some reality show or television segment. These are women who happily tackle dirty jobs day in and day out, often with valiant causes in mind and remarkably positive attitudes.


Lots of women love getting their hands dirty through gardening. Take Puerto Rican community activist Carmen Pabon, who, in the late 1970s, founded a lovely community garden in the East Village in New York City. It remained a pillar of the local community for 22 years until it was bulldozed in 2000 to erect an apartment building.

But thanks to neighborhood protestors and Carmen’s daughter, who fought diligently for the developer to create a new garden space, now, after 17 years, a new permanent community garden named after Carmen has been unveiled.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Pashon Murray, Founder of Detroit Dirt

Another way to get your hands dirty is to, well, be in the business of dirt. The founder of Detroit Dirt, Pashon Murray, knows more than you could ever imagine about the business of soil, mud and compost. And she’s putting that knowledge to good work to feed and revitalize her community.

When Pashon was growing up, her dad owned a waste-management company, and she’d often make trips with him to the local landfill. Very early on, she was baffled by the amount of stuff people threw away and thought there had to be a better way to get rid of waste than burying it.

After college, rather than shying away from dirt, Pashon dove in. She developed a simple yet formidable plan to compost. Pashon collected food scraps from eateries throughout Detroit, placed them in huge piles and let worms and insects get to business. Nature, as it turns out, knows what to do. This process creates dirt that sustains and promotes healthy plants, which can then be sold to urban gardeners, who adore such nutrient-rich soil. These days, Detroit Dirt collects waste from some seriously big-name companies, like General Motors, as well as from other sources, including old manure from the zoo.

In 2013, waste that could be composted accounted for 61 percent of trash in the U.S., which amounts to more than 155 million tons of waste that was dumped into landfills instead of compost piles. And that leads to loads of environmental problems.

But for Pashon, composting is just the beginning. Detroit Dirt works to turn land in Detroit into farms that help feed the community. When urban farms are created, transportation costs are reduced and the environmental footprint is lessened. These gardening areas also become community destinations of sorts, which help revitalize worn-down neighborhoods.

Pashon recognizes that her plan to revitalize the community and save the planet is a slow journey. It takes time for waste to turn into nutrient-dense soil. It takes time to build these farms. But she sees the big picture, and she knows that patience is indeed a virtue, especially when you’re turning something that would have been wasted into new life.


A few years ago, Pashon Murray starred in a catchy commercial for Ford, in which she explains she spends her days with dirt because she’s trying to make the world a better place. Like acclaimed novelist Jane Austen said:

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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