Fall field trips in full swing

Arcadia Farm has been abuzz with activity over the past few weeks. As about 200 energetic, enthusiastic DC students have visited the farm, we've been busy talking and learning about where our food comes from.

We've been harvesting (beans, greens, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, beets and more), digging (so many worms!), tending our bees (did you know that workers in a hive fly 55,000 miles and tap two million flowers to make one pound of honey?), of course, eating good food from the farm. The photos below can tell you more.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Extra special thanks go out to Chef Robert Weidmaier and Chef Michael Bonk for teaching us their tricks, plus all the teachers, chaperones, and volunteers who've made it all work.

We're heading into the home stretch! After our field trips next week, we'll close down the Groundhog Garden and start planning for spring.

This weekend, we're building a brand-new shed that will help make field trips even better. Want to help? We can certainly use it! More info is here.


Farming Fun(ctionality)

Over the last few weeks of my internship I've had the opportunity to do a little bit of everything, from weeding to fundraising. I've even gotten to take part in the D.C. Farm-to-School Week festivities and do some teaching with students during our ongoing field trips at the farm.

All of which has been fairly new to me. But nothing more so than what I got to do on Friday. Behold, the hand tractor.

Complete with pull-start, clutch, gear shift, and kill-switch. (No cup-holder though.) I'm told these run in the thousands of dollars. If you're like me you're thinking, "I can do triple-digit speeds on a motorcycle for that price. What can this thing do?"

Here's what it can do.

It tilled those rows in a fraction of the time it would have taken us without it. We rarely use machines at the farm, but some larger tasks require it. With that task complete, we were able to plant some oats to occupy that space for the winter.

We also used it to clear a patch of grass in the Groundhog Garden. This gives an even better idea of its usefulness.

Believe it or not this simple task was actually much harder, for the hand tractor and its operators alike. Soil under grass is denser and more compact without the aeration that tilling affords it. It is easy to think of a healthy lawn as a blank slate for agriculture. Actually, it can be a hindrance, albeit a remediable one.

What you see in this picture is also a microcosm of what we are doing at Arcadia. That is, turning unused spaces into productive ones. With conscientious soil improvement efforts, a few common tools and a little elbow grease, these neglected spaces can help create a more sustainable local food system.


D.C. Farm to School Week Recap!

The students at Cleveland Elementary with Chef Lauren say it loud and clear - third annual D.C. Farm to School Week was a huge success!  About 5,000 students engaged in farm-to-table activities and over 200 school cafeterias featured seasonal, local food. Farmers, chefs, food service staff, parents, teachers, and volunteers came together to connect students with where food comes from. October 3-7, 2011 was a week full of excitement, fun, and discovery!

The week began with a kick-off event, which also marked the start of National Farm to School Month in October. Four local chefs and their student assistants competed to make the tastiest seasonal salads for a panel of judges. Using only school garden produce and healthy ingredients from Whole Foods, chef Lauren Von Der Pool won the judges over with her tangy kale salad. White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh, State Superintendent of Education Hosanna Mahaley, and other V.I.P.’s and community members joined in the celebration at Thurgood Marshall Academy.

During the week, schools in all 8 wards of the District featured seasonal, local produce in their school meals. Just a few examples - Chartwells served roasted local butternut squash and local bok choi in a vegetable stir fry. D.C. Central Kitchen’s Fresh Start Catering cooked up roasted local broccoli and baked local sweet potato fries. Revolution Foods served fresh local pears and braised local collard greens with their BBQ chicken. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!

45 schools engaged approximately 5,000 children in hands-on food, farm and nutrition education during the week. 41 schools were visited by local chefs from around the area for interactive cooking demonstrations. For example, Thomas Marr from Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza made roasted squash and grilled apple salad with 5th graders at Janney Elementary. 19 schools were visited by local farmers, who taught students about what it’s like to work on a farm. Polly from the Acokeek Foundation even brought chickens in to visit Garfield Elementary students! 10 schools went on field trips to nearby farms. For example, Cleveland Elementary’s 3rd graders planted garlic, weeded the herbs, and made morning glory crowns at Common Good City Farm. A handful of other schools coordinated activities such as farmers’ market visits, film screenings with families of “What’s On Your Plate” for parents and families, and veggie taste tests. We even sent volunteers into school cafeterias dressed as giant carrots and peapods to encourage kids to eat their veggies.

The D.C. Farm to School Network at Arcadia and the Office of the State Superintendent of Education coordinated D.C. Farm to School Week, in conjunction with the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, Chipotle, Whole Foods, USDA Forest Service, Lululemon, the Capital Area Food Bank, school partners, farmers, chefs, school food service professionals and tons of dedicated volunteers. We send a HUGE thank you to all who were so critical at making D.C. Farm to School Week a success! We also thank our sponsors DC Hunger Solutions, Dan Schiff, and WGirls DC for their contributions.

This quote from a DCPS teacher sums up how the week's activities complemented her classroom instruction:

 "I really appreciate...the experience! It's so great when I am in the middle of a lesson and my scholars make a connection from their experience with D.C. Farm to School Week ('like when Chef Jerry did...' or 'when Farmer Mary Ellen did...') with a new lesson that I am teaching them. What a great feeling for a teacher; not only does it show that the students were well engaged in the previous lesson activity but it shows they are engaged in the new lesson when they make that connection... a priceless moment in teaching!"


Heritage Garden Project

The formal gardens at Arcadia have always gotten my brain wheeling with ideas and with the help of an amazing landscape architect (a HUGE thanks to Ann!), we are finally going to make the Heritage Gardens a reality! The goal is to trace the history of Woodlawn through edible gardens--highlight the rich agricultural history of the place and show how generations of people cared for themselves, their families and their communities through this land. If you want more information or wish to sponsor a plot, please contact Farmer Mo at maureen@arcadiafood.org. Read more about the plan below:


The idea. Let the garden’s geometry tell the story.

Within the triangular planting beds along a

clockwise path, discover 17th century plants

foraged and cultivated by the Dogue Indians. The

herbs Nelly Custis Lewis used to flavor stews,

pickle vegetables and treat a feverish child. Plants

that enslaved Africans grew to recall their native

lands. Vegetables raised by the Quakers before the

Civil War. Crops and gardens kept by the Masons,

the family who lived together longest at

Woodlawn. Plants that reveal the 20th-century

transition from food crops to flower gardens.

Heritage you can see, touch, smell and taste.

We invite you to support Arcadia Heritage

Gardens. Each triangle can be sponsored for $250.

We also welcome volunteers to help build this

piece of living history!

I am really excited about the project and can't wait for next spring to get started! Hope to see you in the garden!

-Farmer Mo


Help us build a shed!

Arcadia Farm needs your help! To make our youth education space at Arcadia Farm more fun and inviting, we are building a shed! The shed will be used for storage, and will serve as an outdoor classroom for our farm field trips. We are looking for a few volunteers with some building experience to help in the construction process. We plan to have a big building day on Sunday, October 30 any time between  and we'll schedule a few more times through the first week of November.  The farm is at 9000 Richmond Hwy (Route 1) in Alexandria, VA.

If you are willing to come out and help, please contact Maureen Moodie, Arcadia Farm Manager, at maureen[at]arcadoafood[dot]org.  Please tell anyone else who may be interested!

Chipotle burritos and adult beverages will be provided and, of course, a HUGE thank you from the Arcadia team.
8' by 8' shed design

Arcadia Farm in summer


Arcadia Farm hosts first field trips of the fall season

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

"Look!" she yelled. "It's a worm!" Before I knew it, ten other kindergarteners gathered, squealing and shrieking, as they passed the small, slimy creature around. One pulled the worm around her finger and held her hand out to me: "It's a wedding ring!" she said.

Put DC kids and a patch of soil together and what do you get? Curiosity, creativity, disgust, and lots of excitement. At our first field trips of the season, students from Washington Middle School for Girls and Ross Elementary School got the full farm experience, complete with compost, bees, and planting seeds.

Ross Elementary School students were even treated to a special chef demonstration by Chef Alison Reed of Cafe St Ex. The apple carrot salad was a hit! Our very own Chef Benjamin showed Washington Middle School for Girls how to make green bean salad. DC Farm to School's Andrea also made a guest appearance in a carrot costume and was bombarded by kids within seconds - "I'm going to eat you!" they screamed.

What a way to celebrate DC Farm to School week! We're definitely looking forward to hosting more and more school visits in the coming weeks. A big thank you goes out to our volunteer field trip assistants Laurel, Sheri, Lara, and Cat for all their help.


D.C. Farm to School Week Kick-off Event!

Beets, carrots, kale and apples - those were the seasonal ingredients used by the four competing chefs to make salads at the D.C. Farm to School Week Kick-off Event on Monday October 4th!  Over 150 students, community members, local and national leaders joined us for a fun and delicious afternoon.  White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses emcee'd the chef demonstration, while Pat Dombroski, Administrator of the USDA Food & Nutrition Service Mid Atlantic Regional Office, State Superintendent of Education Hosana Mahaley and National Farm to School Network Director Anupama Joshi also spoke to the importance of healthy eating, supporting local farmers, and engaging students in the farm-to-table process.

The event took place at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School, a high-performing law themed high school in Southeast Washington, DC.  Special guest, White House Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses, emcee'd the chef competition!  Once Chef Bill started the timer, chefs and their student assistants whipped up salads for the judges using school garden produce, a "pantry" of items from Whole Foods, and their special seasonal ingredients.

Chef Lauren Von Der Pool, the "Queen of Green" and her student assistant won over the judges' taste buds with their tangy kale dish.  Chef Kyle Bailey from Birch & Barley mixed up a kickin' beet salad (using beets from Arcadia Farms!); Chef Will Artley from the Evening Star Cafe put together a colorful carrot salad; and Chef Todd Wiss from Radius Pizza whipped up a great apple dish.  The event concluded with student-led tours of Thurgood Marshall Academy and neighboring Savoy Elementary's shared school garden.  

The kick-off event marked the start of D.C. Farm to School Week October 3-7, 2011 - a celebration of seasonal, local food in Washington, DC schools.  October is also National Farm to School Month!  Many thanks to all of the wonderful staff and volunteers who helped make the event a success, and to the D.C. Farm to School Network at Arcadia, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education and Whole Foods Markets for coordinating the kick-off.

Photos by Sarah Bernardi


Outstanding in the Field

What an amazing (and busy) week at Arcadia Farm! We were so lucky to host Outstanding in the Field last week for two dinners reconnecting eaters with the land, the farmers that grow their food, and the amazing chefs who cook it. With the cold fall winds blowing and the threat of rain ever constant, I wasn't sure we would pull it off, but I have to say, the crew with OITF were unbelievable (a huge thanks to Elaine and Leah, as well as the whole OITF crew!) and both events went off without a hitch!

The first night me and 150 others were graced with the culinary mastery of Scott Drewno, Executive Chef at the Source. The meal had an Asian flair and featured local Virginia wines as well as Port City Beer and Creekstone beef. The wontons were delectable!

The next night showcased Kyle Bailey, chef extraordinaire at Birch and Barley. Dessert was provided by the amazing Tiffany MacIsaac. Beer pairings were provided by Greg, the Man. Seriously. He finds the best beer around. The fresh lima bean hand-made caviteli pasta was delicious and nothing can beat Tiff's apple pie for dessert. I felt especially lucky to have the BBCK crew out at the farm seeing the spoils of their hard work helping me dig out the grass this spring. I was also especially lucky to have my sister, Shannon, and my mentor farmer, Kristen from Radix Farm at the table.

I got to serve up my eggplants, peppers, kale, mizuna, arugula, beets, herbs, and was once again humbled by how great chefs can transform my vegetables. I am already looking forward for the old Outstanding in the Field bus to come rumbling back to town and Arcadia Farm will be honored to have them!

More than thanks to everyone who helped with this event and really made it happen. (Benjamin, Liz, Adam, and all my volunteers, you are the real muscle. I just grew some plants.)

Check out some photos, courtesy of Jim Darling (more to follow):

Photo Credit: Jim Darling
Photo Credit: Jim Darling

Photo Credit: Jim Darling

-Farmer Mo