One step backwards, two steps forward

It's been a busy week for Arcadia, especially when you take into account the fallout from last week's earthquake and hurricane. The winds and rain from Irene were particularly damaging to Arcadia Farms, uprooting plants, turning over row cover (which gave the groundhogs a veritable feast of sweet potato greens and baby lettuces), and toppling the hops tower in the children's garden. Fortunately, you can always reseed new vegetables and rehabilitate damaged plants. Moreover, with a little extra work we've been able to turn these natural disasters into opportunities for growth.

For starters, we were actually pleased to have such a thorough, steady downfall after one of our driest summers on record. As it were, the rain from Irene moistened the ground enough so that the kind folks at Mt. Vernon could plow and till our remaining fields at Woodlawn. Farmer Mo will now have the entire top field as well as a new bottom field for cultivation next year.

Matt of Mt. Vernon masterfully wielding a multi-purpose tractor.

The newly tilled fourth quadrant in our top field.

The inaugural plowing of our bottom field, reserved for supplying Arcadia's Mobile Market with healthy, locally-grown, sustainable food.

Our Mobile Market program has also made some important developments. For instance, we have finally been awarded the necessary permits and licenses by the DC government to operate the bus. This has been a long, difficult process which we are definitely excited to have finally completed!

Meanwhile, the bus itself is nearing completion. The engine has been refurbished and the front tires have been replaced. (The tires will soon be reborn as planters in the children's garden).

In addition to the tires, we've transformed the fallen hops tower into a verdant tepee.

There is still progress to be made in getting the Mobile Market road-ready, but the remaining logistics and cosmetic work is all underway.

Fortunately, there have been a lot of silver linings in light of last week's natural disasters, but that shouldn't come as a surprise since it's nature's way to grow and prosper after a period of destruction. In the same vein, sustainable agriculture seeks to replicate such cycles of nature, so Arcadia is none the poorer from these events.

Personally, I used Irene's destruction as an opportunity to pick the biggest bouquet of flowers ever.


D.C. Farm to School Week - Oct. 3-7, 2011!

What’s a child’s first reaction to a bright orange roasted sweet potato on her cafeteria tray? “Weird!” or “What’s that?!” But take that child to a nearby farm and show her how sweet potatoes are grown; or bring a local chef into her classroom to make a delicious sweet potato dish. Then what? That sweet potato in her school meal is gone before you know it!

We are pleased to announce that the third annual D.C. Farm to School Week will take place October 3-7, 2011 in schools across Washington, DC! The week will get students excited about local food and where it comes from. Schools will feature seasonal, local foods in their school meals, and engage students in hands-on food education. 

Get your school involved! Learn how at www.dcfarmtoschoolweek.org, where you’ll find tools, resources and instructions for registering your school. The D.C. Farm to School Network at Arcadia will help every step of the way.

Sponsor the event! We're looking for organizations and individuals interested to help make D.C. Farm to School Week a success. Read our Sponsor Packet to learn more.

The event will kick-off the first ever National Farm to School Month in October, celebrated by schools all over the country. Last year, over 150 schools served up seasonal specialties such as honey-braised local apple and collard green salad, and Asian slaw with local cabbage during D.C. Farm to School Week. And dozens of schools coordinated farm field trips and chef demonstrations to engage students in the farm-to-table process. Let’s make this year’s event even better

For more information, visit www.dcfarmtoschoolweek.org or email Andrea Northup, D.C. Farm to School Network Manager at the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture, at andrea[at]dcfarmtoschool[dot]org. And remember, D.C. School Garden Week will take place Sept. 26 - Oct. 1!


Our Growing Farm

Check out our new space! I am so excited!

Update from the Farm

Hi farm friends,
After a week of earthquakes and hurricanes, I'm happy to say the farm is still standing and growing (although a little beat up from the heavy winds and rain!). We're cleaning up and recovering and loving the little bit of chill in the early morning air.

It's been awhile since I've updated and I've been busy digging in the dirt, harvesting, going to the SW waterfront market, planting fall seedlings, and having a great time with volunteers! The summer is wrapping up and I am happy to report we have produced hundreds of pounds of tomatoes and what feels like a billion pounds of summer squash. We've been at war with the groundhogs all summer (thanks, Benjamin!) and I have welcomed back our resident family of foxes. We are preparing to welcome DC Farm to School field trips and have recently built our on-site salad bar! Fall is on the way and I am looking forward to having greens--kale, collards, lettuces-- back on the farm.

The big news at Arcadia Farms is our new front field! We are taking over another 1 1/2 acre in the front of the property right on Rt. 1. With the help from the amazing team at Mount Vernon, we will be plowing the brush in the new field and putting down cover crop for the winter. Cover cropping helps add organic material back in to the soil, reduces erosion, smothers weeds and provides habitat for beneficial insects. (For more on cover crops, see this article from Virginia Tech).

Wow, we're busy out at the farm. More updates soon and I hope to see you out in the fields soon!

-Farmer Mo


Arcadia Farm Field Trips launch this fall!

The D.C. Farm to School Network at Arcadia is looking for Washington, DC school groups to sign up for field trips to Arcadia Farm this fall!  Our field trips are designed to connect students with where food comes from, while developing critical skills and meeting age-appropriate curriculum standards.

Field trips include a hands-on farm experience and an optional interactive chef demonstration.  Students will make the connection that healthy, fresh food comes from the earth, and will understand the process of growing food sustainably.  After an interactive tour of the farm, they'll become farmers for the day and learn about soil health, caring for plants and identifying farm wildlife.  The session will end with a harvest and taste test, so students will become familiar with specific fruits and vegetables and will be more likely to eat those foods when they see them in the cafeteria or at home.

Arcadia Farm field trips in the fall of 2011 will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Click here for a general overview of the Arcadia Farm field trip program, and contact Sarah at SarahB@dcfarmtoschool.org for more information!


Garden Party At Whole Foods on P Street

We want to thank Whole Foods on P Street in Washington, DC for hosting the Community Garden Days this past Saturday, which included Arcadia and five other organizations. It's important for the community to know about the many wonderful projects related to food and agriculture in and around Washington, DC.

Community Garden Days is a gathering of local community gardens and farms at the P Street Whole Foods, where representatives of the gardens and farms engage the community by displaying information, pictures and snacks. Even though we did get rained out in the afternoon, the Arcadia staff and volunteers had a great time meeting and sharing Arcadia's mission with the folks that stopped by the table. We also treated them to some delicious pesto made with basil from our farm. Thank you again Whole Foods and thank you to our superb volunteers Eden, Rachel, and Patrick for taking time out of their weekend to help us out. We look forward to next year's event!


Volunteer with Arcadia Farm Field Trips!

We're gearing up for fall farm field trips and we need your help!

Starting in September, we're connecting students with where their food comes from by hosting school groups at Arcadia Farms. They'll learn about growing food sustainably, eating healthfully, and they'll get their hands dirty, too.

In order to create a hands-on experience, we're looking for a few Volunteer Field Trip Assistants to help out.

See the full volunteer job description below. Thanks!

Program Description
Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture is a new non-profit organization serving the Washington, DC area. We raise awareness about healthy food and its sources, and establish innovative connections between sustainable local farms and consumers. Our farm, located on the historic Woodlawn estate in Alexandria, VA, aims to demonstrate environmentally and economically sustainable growing practices through community engagement.

This fall, we will host groups of up to 30 students from Washington, DC schools on our farm two days a week for hands-on educational programming.

We’re looking for Volunteer Field Trip Assistants to help make field trips to Arcadia Farm safe, educational and fun. Field Trip Assistants will help monitor the space, provide instruction and supervision, and assist with general garden maintenance.

Volunteers must attend a 1 hour on-site volunteer training session on August 30.

  • Experience working with youth
  • General knowledge and interest in organic gardening, child nutrition and food security (or similar issues)
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Commitment and reliability
  • Leadership experience helpful, but not required
  • First Aid/CPR certification is a plus
  • Must be able to work outdoors in various weather conditions and lift 50 lbs

Time Commitment
We’re looking for volunteers who can commit to one Tuesday or Thursday from 9:30am to 1:30pm per week for the duration of the program, which runs from September 1 to October 20. Preferably volunteers can commit to the same day/time for the entire fall. The volunteer shift will take place at Arcadia Farm, 9000 Richmond Highway in Alexandria, VA. Volunteers must provide their own transportation to/from the farm.

This is a voluntary position. School internship credit can be arranged for a minimum commitment of 10 hours per week (2 days/week).

Contact Information
Please send your resume plus a note describing your interest and relevant experience with organic gardening and/or working with youth to Farm to School Program Assistant Liz Whitehurst at liz@arcadiafood.org by August 26.


Arcadia Says Goodbye to our Mini Me's

Anna has been an invaluable D.C. Farm to School Network intern - how could I have managed the summer without her? As the D.C. Farm to School Network has transitioned to Arcadia and taken on new projects, Anna has spearheaded a lot of projects - a farm to school field trip to Delaware, getting our Farm-Fresh Feature initiative, our monthly newsletters (sign up here if you're not on it), and so much more! It's been such a pleasure to work with a dedicated, self-starter like Anna. All ll I have to do is describe the project, and before I can blink, it's done with efficiency and enthusiasm. Plus, she's my mini-me and my right-hand-girl, and I'm going to miss her soooo much!

I can't believe how fast this summer has flown by and that it is already time to say goodbye to my amazing intern, Beverly. None of the growth we have seen this summer would have been possible without her and I feel privileged to have gotten to know such and amazing and driven woman. Beverly is an expert squash-bug killer, a badass digger and one of the most smiling and positive ladies I have ever known. She also makes a mean zucchini bread, certainly knows how to get down at a dance party and devises amazingly creative ways to pay for cabs. Beverly is going to make a great farmer and I wish her all the best in her last semester in college!!! I'll miss you, Bev!
-Farmer Mo


Guest Post: Eating the Rainbow!

This blog is cross-posted from http://www.sweetgreen.com/blog/2011/07/25/sweetgreen-schools/ and written by Pheobe, a Sweetgreen intern. Sweetgreen in Schools is a program created in partnership between Sweetgreen and Arcadia's D.C. Farm to School Network.

Although the academic year has ended, Sweetgreen in Schools is in full force at two new locations: Ketcham Elementary School and Kenilworth Elementary School. For those unfamiliar with the program, Sweetgreen in Schools is our community outreach initiative made possible through a partnership with Arcadia’s D.C. Farm to School Network. The program seeks to teach children about fun ways to eat fruits and vegetables, the health benefits of farm-fresh foods and “where food comes from.” The series culminates with a salad-making competition in which the students use their creativity and fruit and veggie knowledge to impress the judges with their unique salad.

For this week’s lesson, students served as taste-testers for Sweetgreen’s “new” Rainbow Salad. Most students have never heard of Sweetgreen, but they were very excited to put their taste buds to the test. The classes prepared the rainbow salad using red strawberries, blue blueberries, green cucumbers, orange carrots, purple beets, and yellow corn. These delicious ingredients were served on a bed of green spinach and dressed with honey dijon, champagne vinaigrette, or a mixture of both! As the students munched on the salad, we talked about the health benefits of eating a rainbow-colored diet. They were surprised to learn that the Vitamin C from beets helps heal cuts and antioxidants from blueberries gives us a memory boost for studying. After everyone’s plates were emptied and appetites were satisfied (some students came up for fourth servings!), students used the describing words we came up with as a class in their letters to the Sweetgreen chefs. They wrote about the most exciting parts of the rainbow salad, what their favorite fruit or vegetable was whether or not it should be added to the menu. The overall verdict: a definite YES!

Next week, we are going to do some detective work with a Mystery Fruits and Veggies game. Then the classes will taste test a salad with ingredients from a different plant parts. Yum!

-Phoebe K, Sweetgreen Intern

Student insights:
  • “I think you should put rainbow salad on the menu because it is sweet, awesome, righteous, fantastic, crunchy and delicious.” -Mekhi
  • “I tasted your salad and I think is very wonderful. And when I took one bite and it felt like I took a thousand bites. It was out of this world. And I will ask my mom can she put your logo on Facebook so the people can go to your store.” -Kailya
  • “Your salad was great and your slogan should be ‘Rainbow Salad: tasty and good’ and you should keep making Rainbow Salad and I think it will be wonderful to others. My favorite fruit and vegetable was strawberries and cucumbers and I love your salad.” -Khalyl


Eastern Shore Farm to School Field Trip

How does a Delaware watermelon travel from a field to a school cafeteria? On our field trip to the Eastern Shore we saw the process firsthand, in addition to meeting all sorts of local food growers, processors and distributors. In fact, midway through the trip, Chartwells’ Dietician for DCPS Whitney Bateson just couldn’t help exclaiming, “I’m learning so much about agriculture!”

On Tuesday July 26th the D.C. Farm to School Network organized a group of D.C. and Maryland school food stakeholders on a field trip to Delaware and Maryland to explore large scale local food resources. David Marvel of Marvel Farms was our trusted guide and expert farmer.

In case you were wondering, Mar-Del watermelons are painstakingly grown on viney bushes in sandy fields. At harvest time, skilled “cutters” comb the field for ripe melons and turn them belly up (so that the lighter side is facing up). Watermelon vehicles, which are recycled school buses with the seats and windows taken out, drive up and down the rows as harvesters load the ripe melons in. Then, each school bus transports about 18,000 pounds of melons to local packaging houses. The watermelons are sent along a long conveyor belt, smacked with a sticker, and are sorted into different grades based on size. They’re packed into the big boxes you see in supermarkets, and are loaded into tractor trailer trucks for distribution.

Coastal Growers watermelon operation was only one of our many stops on our tour - we started the day at SEW Friel, a sweet corn processing facility. Enormous truckloads of corn pulled up to be canned while we chatted with the owner, Jay Friel, about the operation. Did you know that canning only occurs during a few months in the summer to ensure that the corn is canned when it’s fresh? Farmers stagger their plantings to extend the season, but during the rest of the year the cannery focuses on other tasks, like applying labels to the cans.

Next we visited FoodSwing, a company that specializes in making boxed products - like the chicken soup broth in a box you see at the grocery store. We learned that packaging food in this way makes shipping about 20% more efficient since the packages fit together perfectly, and it preserves the nutritional value of the product inside. FoodSwing’s modern machinery was in full swing when we walked through, popping out hundreds boxes of turkey gravy by the minute!

We also visited a packing house at Vincent Farms where they sorted and packed tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, sweet corn, and more. They had a special tool to sort watermelons by weight - as melons came down the conveyor belt, a computer registered their weight and kicked them off the belt at the right station to be packed into boxes.

We picked apples, peaches, and nectarines straight from the orchards at T.S. Smith and Sons farm, and got a personal tour. Although T.S. Smith and Sons is a family farm started in 1907, they are constantly innovating. They recently installed an efficient drip irrigation system for their asparagus field, and power their cooling facilities with solar panels!

Finally, we swung by Kenny Brothers Produce to tour the cucumber sorting and grading facility. The cucumbers are washed from the back of eighteen-wheelers onto sophisticated machinery that prepares the cukes for shipment to pickling companies like Vlasic and Mt. Olive. They have a special supercooling station where sorted cucumbers are brought down to about 40 degrees before they leave the premises.

We couldn’t leave Delaware without visiting the state fair! It was “healthy kids day,” but we were so exhausted by the time we got there, it was all we could do to just eat our peach ice cream (made with T.S. Smith and Sons peaches) and head home.

The result of our trip? We learned that there are many large, family farms close to D.C. with the capacity to feed our schools, and facilities that can preserve local food to help extend the growing season.

View more photos from the trip here.