Read about DCUG's MLK Jr. Service Day, Washington City's Paper's article featuring our organization, and our operations during the winter.Read More
What a whirlwind summer 2016 has been! DC UrbanGreens has now expanded to running three (four if you count our satellite location in MD) production farms. This time last year we couldn’t have imagined the expansion we now have.
As we began to gear up for our summer crops, our region was hit with a cold front that killed a lot of our newly planted seedlings. Several farmers in the area had a delayed summer start due to harsh spring temperatures. With new expansion came a lot of surprises and an even larger learning curve. In one hoop house a few planted beds died due to freeze while in the same house, plants burned up because of the extra sunlight reflecting off the plastic. Down the street at our newest farm, Fort Stanton, our newly planted beds were drowning in a half a foot of water. In spring it felt we just couldn’t win. I don’t know if this was due to the mood swings of Mother Nature, poor planning or infrastructure, or the battle of being a perfectionist who is also a farmer. Anyway you look at it spring definitely brought its challenges.
Food production is a balancing act between optimism and anxiety. But being anxious wastes time so around here we favor optimism. Like Will Rogers so truthfully spoke, if we didn’t stay optimistic we wouldn’t farm. Coming off a harsh spring the only thing we could do was start more seeds, prepare the ground (again), and work to rebuild our soaked soil. We remained hopeful that each of our farm sites would flourish.
Hard work pays off! DC UrbanGreens currently has 3 flourishing farms. Our market stands have been thriving with the help of our market manager, Suliman and our newest staff member, Ashleigh. The market has been able to ramp up due to this year's Produce Plus Program in conjunction with the increase of food produced. DC Greens, another local farm has worked alongside local government to enact a program that directly addresses the need for food access. "The Produce Plus Program is a farmers market nutrition incentive program designed to connect DC residents with healthy food. Through the program, DC residents who receive: Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, TANF, SSI Disability, or Senior Grocery Plus can visit any of the District’s 53 farmers markets and automatically get $10 per week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables on a first come, first served basis." The program has given our farm stand at DC UrbanGreens more awareness and clientele, allowing the food grown in the neighborhood to be served directly to the surrounding residents.
Summer is not yet over but man are we having fun! Our field staff has been wonderful and dedicated to food production for our neighbors.
There is so much we learned from this summer that will make us even more efficient and productive farmers for this fall and heading into 2017.
Doesn't it just feel great to donate!
The scent of evergreen is ever-present as people travel back to their Christmas cozy apartments and homes, to daily routines . With remnants of sugar on their lips, sanguine lists are being made: "The year of change", "Shed 10 lbs.", "Pay off credit card." 2016 is just a few days away and optimism coats the air. However, for a gardener the year doesn't start with January 1. The year "starts" when the first spring planting is nestled in the buttery prepared soil bed. This doesn't mean we don't have exciting goals to be reached or orders to fill. It just means for now, we work to prepare for our "New Year" by scribbling in our planting calendar, maintaining our ever present vegetables in the field, and reflecting on what a great month December was!
Did you say work conference?
My mistake, what you described sounded like a vacation!
Gifts came early this December as the field staff made their way to The Virginia Farm to Table Conference. An adventure it was to bring two city natives along for a very rural weekend! Once in a while it is advantageous to clean off the boots and step into a classroom setting. The field staff was able to glean knowledge from urban activists, long term organic farmers, and agricultural extension agents. We were challenged to enhance our community presence and practical ways to accelerate our production rates. The break out session that hit home for our team was conducted by Karen Washington. She taught with enthusiasm about Food Justice and how "healthy food is a right for all." Her passion encouraged our team to look into the deeper root of the food injustice in our own community. The team left the open horizons for the city feeling refreshed and motivated to continue the work of DC UrbanGreens.
A peak into the beauty that abounds
DC UrbanGreens' produce has never been better! Our goal is to make it as a four season farm and by the looks of it, that goal is close to being accomplished! To those of you who have volunteered your time or financially supported us, our gardens wouldn't grow without you! Check out a few of our featured vegetables from this week. From left to right: Spinach, cabbage, mustard, the first true leaf of a carrot.
Amazing process of growth
Mike Pappas is a retired organic farmer of 20 years and now works with one of our partners, DC Central Kitchen. Mike comes every Tuesday at 11a.m to pick up a bag of freshly harvested gourmet lettuce mix. He then prepares the lettuce in lunch packs and places it in corner stores; this is apart of their program called "The Healthy Corners Program." We look forward to our Tuesday time with Mike not only because he is an avenue for our food to get into the community but also because he has a lot of farming experience *cough, cough* he gets asked a lot of questions *cough, cough*. We are thankful for the partnership with DC Central Kitchen and the wisdom from Mike!
These tiny seeds transform into the beautiful lettuce you see on the right! These seeds produce food to feed those in need. WOW!
It is never a bad time to click the donate button :)
DC weather may have been putting a damper on your days but here at DC UrbanGreens we have had nothing but rays of encouragement to brightened the mood!
What's the latest?
When the weather has you down walking into hoop house full of vibrant new life will surely liven your mood! The field staff at DC UrbanGreens has been taking advantage of the cooler weather (despite the odd heat wave of a stifling 86 degrees day on Friday) to prepare our garden beds for Fall planting! We are now in full swing with our Autumn crops.
Below is Suliman, our Market Director, preparing a bed for Romaine Lettuce transplants. He is normally so busy selling and networking with community members that he rarely gets time in the dirt. We gave him the treat last week of planting a few of our newest beds. Way to go Suliman! A jack of all trades!
In this hoop house alone we have lettuce mix, mustard greens, spinach, collards, carrots, and strawberries. At our Fort Dupont location we have a total of three houses identical in size and varying in produce. Just think, our newest site (Fort Stanton) will have double the amount of hoop houses which means double the amount of food being provided to food desert neighborhoods. Here at DC UrbanGreens, we stand in awe of how land is becoming available to further our mission.
Nearing Completion on our "Under Cover" Mission
Marvin Gaye Greening Center received a face lift this past week! With this site being our newest (we broke ground in April) our first goal was to start planting food. Now that cold temperatures are right around the corner it became necessary to install plastic on the hoop houses. With the help from EdOps they were able to almost complete the whole site. We loved their high energy, enthusiasm, and incredible teamwork; DC UrbanGreens benefited greatly. Thank you EdOps for your bright spirits and hard work!!
We are growing more than food but relationships too!
Just in the past month DC UrbanGreens has been able to expand our food distribution to the Woodbridge neighborhood in NE D.C by way of Good Food Markets. Philip came to have a tour of one of our farms and it was an immediate connection. The vision of Good Food Markets is to provide the community with fresh, quality produce, essential grocery items, and healthy, delicious prepared grab-and-go meals. Our thought exactly :) So, what does this mean for DC UrbanGreens? We have started small with sample produce for their staff as well as dedicating a few of the garden beds solely for Good Food Markets. We are thrilled with this new partnership and the new connection to increase local, fresh food to more areas in need. First on the list, parsley and spinach! YUM!