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.