Volunteer opportunity with kids, food & nutrition!

Who doesn't love teaching kids about where our food comes from and how to make healthy choices?  On Wednesday May 23rd, students across the DC will see fresh, locally-grown strawberries and salad greens in their school meals as part of a city-wide event called "Strawberries & Salad Greens." Arcadia's D.C. Farm to School Network is coordinating the event, in partnership with D.C. Public Schools and Whole Foods Markets.  

We need your help!

We're looking for passionate, enthusiastic volunteers to engage students at educational tables in their school cafeterias on May 23rd.  At lunch, students will grab their fresh berries and greens from the lunch line.  Then, volunteers will show students how the food on their trays came from nearby farms using visuals like plants, seeds, maps, seasonality charts and more.  We promise it'll be the best extended lunch break you ever take.

Learn more about the event and what's involved here and email ERIN @ DCFARMTOSCHOOL . ORG to sign up!  

“The looks of wonder and contemplation were hands down the most rewarding part of the experience!” – Catherine, Volunteer


Natural Play Space at Arcadia!

This spring season we’re welcoming a brand new natural playspace to Arcadia's educational farm!

What is a natural play space anyway?

According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a natural playspace is:

"A space intentionally designed or designated to integrate natural components into a place for
structured and unstructured play and learning."

Part of my responsibilities as the Farm Education Intern was to create such a place for field trippers, summer campers and other young visitors to the farm.

To be honest, a natural playspace wasn't something I was familiar with from my own childhood experience. I generally had woods or the beach to play in and explore. These naturally occurring playspaces are dwindling, or may not exist at all for many of the children who visit the farm. I figured that making the playspace was very much about re-creating a natural exploration experience for those kids.

The process began with research in order to gather some ideas that might work within the parameters of Arcadia Farm. Design Principles for Nature Play Spaces and New American Phenom by Liz Kirchner were both excellent resources. I also visited the Nature Explore Classroom at the Washington Youth Garden.

Designing and building the structures in the playspace was really a team effort between Stephanie, the other Farm Education Intern, and me. We wanted to include different areas that could be appealing to a variety of personalities. We wanted kids to have space to thoughtfully assess their own risk and exercise their creativity to have fun with natural materials. We wanted to create a place at Arcadia Farm where kids of all sizes and ages could be silly and happy about being on a farm!

-The following are a few highlights:

-Two digging areas (because after all, who doesn't want to just dig?);

-A straw bale pyramid for climbing (thank you to Mt. Vernon for supplying these);

-A few stump circles for gathering and hanging out;

-A bamboo bean teepee to serve as a nook/hideout; and

-A table with building blocks, another table with rock checkers (carrots vs. eggplants).

Creating a play space was a unique experience. I think it will be even more interesting to observe how students and other young visitors utilize the space differently throughout the season. I hope that our creation will be an area for kids who visit the farm to dig, jump, climb, run, wish, hop, skip, build and just be kids!


School Food Workshop: Healthy Food for Healthy Students

You know it's a great event when you're greeted at the door by folks in carrot and peapod costumes!  (Thanks Keith and Sara, from the School Food Tour!)

On April 18th, Arcadia's D.C. Farm to School Network hosted a workshop 40 Washington, DC school food stakeholders, in partnership with OSSE and DCPS.  The goal of the workshop was to get students and staff on board with the healthier types of foods being served in school meals.  Because all too often schools have healthy, farm-fresh food on the menus, but cafeteria staff aren't thrilled to serve it and students are more inclined to just throw it away.

The workshop opened with a keynote address from Ms. Anand Shantam, a cook at Walker Jones Education Campus with DC Central Kitchen's Fresh Start Catering.  A graduate of DCCK's culinary job training program, Ms. Shantam spoke of how she treats the students she serves as family, which helps create a culture of respect and curiosity in the cafeteria.

Alyssa Moles came all the way from the Food Trust in Philadelphia to speak to attendees about getting cafeteria staff buy-in around serving healthy, farm-fresh foods.  Then, our panel presentation included tales of:
  • A school full of students who demolish salad bars (Lisa Dobbs, the Chef and Director E.W. Stokes Public Charter School's school meal program); 
  • A seamless team of dedicated cafeteria staff called the Dream Team (Sandy Hodge, Cafeteria Lead at Phelps Architecture, Construction and Engineering High School with Chartwells); 
  • How DC Central Kitchen's Fresh Start Catering staff treat the school kitchen like it's their own kitchen (Ed Kwitowski, Executive Chef for DCCK's school contracts);
  • How a principal leads the charge at her school to engage students, staff, parents and teachers in an integrated school health & nutrition program - she eats the school meals every day! (Principal Janeece Docal at Powell Elementary School); and
  • How a school food service vendor doesn't just serve food, but engages the entire school community in hands-on "food awareness" (Sadie Barr, a School Account Manager a Revolution Foods).
After the panel, we took a break and attendees enjoyed snacks from Chipotle and Rockin' Red Radish Salsa made by our very own Chef Tom.  Both were a big hit!  Folks broke in to groups for some in-depth discussions about breaking down the biggest barriers to getting students and staff on board with healthy school food.  Next was a much anticipated screening of the student-made documentary "School Lunch," and a conversation with former Thurgood Marshall Academy High School students Keith Jenkins and Brittany McGhee who produced and edited the film.

Finally, we were honored to have Ward 3 Councilmember and Chair Pro-Tempore Mary Cheh share some closing remarks, and raffle off some great items from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group and USDA.  We were also joined by special guests Christina Connel from USDA's Farm to School team, and Sandy Schlicker, Deputy Superintendent of Education.  Many thanks to all who made the event a success!


The Arcadia Chickens!

 Arcadia recently received a wonderful new addition to the farm: chickens!  

Paint covered grass ready to go in the dumpster!
 It took a couple of weeks to build the new chicken house, paint it, and set up fencing.  It looks lovely, despite some minor mishaps during the painting stage.  One day, I was trying to help Farmer Mo finish painting the trim on the newly built house just as it began to rain.  In our hurry to get it finished, the can of paint got knocked over and paint poured all over the grass.  If the paint were to leach into the soil, its chemicals would be harmful for both the grass and the chickens who would soon be living there, pecking that grass, and eating the bugs living in that soil.  After some quick thinking, we ended up digging out the patch of grass and the paint and throwing it in the dumpster, just as it began to rain. It was a ridiculous sight!

But despite our clumsiness, the coop now looks great, and after much anticipation from all of us at the farm (especially the interns), our wonderful hens arrived two weeks ago from Moutoux Orchards!  They are beautiful, colorful, and friendly and are laying plenty of eggs.

The lovely ladies (as we call them) were also a huge hit during the first Arcadia  field trip last week.  Most of the kids from the Lab School had seen chickens before, but they were still thrilled to watch and pet the birds.  Some kids even got to see some eggs!  Stephanie and I taught the field trippers all about chickens: how they are raised and why they are so important on a sustainable farm like Arcadia!  Unsurprisingly, poop was a popular topic--the kids were particularly interested in the fact that the hens' manure is so good for our crops. 

Overall, the arrival of our chickens--and their squawking--has been very exciting! 


Farm Intern Trip to Moutoux Orchard!

Morning milking at Moutoux

One of the great things about being a Farm Intern at Arcadia is the opportunity to meet other farmers in the DC metro region.  Each farm, while all are dedicated to sustainable agriculture practices, is run a bit differently with each farmer bringing his or her wealth of experience and knowledge to fledgling and experienced growers alike.  Our first field trip of the season was this week to Moutoux Orchard in Purcellville, Virginia.  About 60 miles northwest of Arcadia, Moutoux is a third generation family farm best known for its peach orchards. Rob Moutoux now runs the 60-share "Full Diet CSA" where a family buys an annual membership and comes to the farm for a weekly pickup of fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheeses and various meats, all raised, harvested and produced in a sustainable fashion on the farm.
I have long been a fan of the CSA model to promote the growth and distribution of local food though this is the first I have encountered a full diet CSA, and find it to be a really great way to bring the surrounding community together year round.  You may still need to go to the grocery store once in a while to get those exotic items like avocados or grapefruits (and olive oil!), but when you become a share member, you learn what's in season and how food is supposed to taste and, more than likely, you will never want to go back to shopping and eating conventionally ever again!

Breakfast time!
     Farmer Rob practices rotational grazing for both his cows and chicken similar to Joel Salatin's system on Pollyface Farms.  Pigs and lambs are coming to the farm later this spring and he will incorporate them into the rotation as well.  The idea is to allow pasture grasses to grow fully to provide the best nutrition possible through grazing and rest periods for the grass.  The animals then provide the soil with fertilization and aerate with their hooves and scratching.  Throughout our visit to the farm, Rob emphasized how it's the soil that is at the core of successful farming and once you have spent the time to build up your soil, other farm challenges like pests and disease are at a minimum.
We also had the opportunity to plant thousands of 'Red Zeppelin' onions (which Rob insists are the best storage onion) in the rain and had a great evening at the farm house waking up to freshly whipped up pancakes made with Moutoux flour! Thank you farmer Rob for your hospitality!  We learned a lot!


First field trip of the spring!

Students from the Lab School of Washington kicked off our spring field trip season last week.

We focused on learning about what makes a farm sustainable - for example, avoiding pesticides and using crop rotation - and we heard some great questions like: What crops need to be pollinated by honeybees? (Some estimates say one-third of the food we eat depends on pollination by bees!)

Our new natural playspace was a hit, and so was the sorrel we included in the taste test activity. Who knew something green could taste like Sour Patch Kids?

We also debuted a lesson about chickens, with a special guest appearance by our new feathered friends. Although most students already knew that chickens lay eggs, they learned about the important role that chicken manure will play in fertilizing our crops.

We're still looking for some donations of healthy snacks for field trips - all that talk about food makes our young visitors hungry way before lunchtime! Leave a comment if you know someone who might want to make an in-kind donation to our field trip program.

We've got a packed field trip schedule for the rest of the school year, so stay tuned to our blog for more updates!


Strawberries & Salad Greens - May 23rd, 2011!

Mark your calendars folks, because fresh strawberries and salad greens are headed to school cafeterias near you!  On May 23rd, 2012, over 200 schools in all 8 wards of Washington, DC will feature locally-grown berries and greens in their school lunches.  The D.C. Farm to School Network at Arcadia is also helping 50 schools coordinate "Where Food Comes From" tables with visuals to help students understand the farm-to-table process.  They look like this:

We're also working with school gardens all over the city to celebrate the spring harvest.  Hundreds of school stakeholders will be involved in this city-wide event.  We'll need volunteers to help out, too!  Learn more and get involved at www.strawberries-salad.blogspot.com.


Arcadia's Mobile Market to Launch May 2nd

With spring in full swing, Mo and her team of farmers-in-training have been busy turning over cover crop, preparing beds, and transplanting seedlings at Arcadia Farm. Thanks to their tireless efforts, the countdown has begun for our mobile farmers’ market to hit the streets of Washington, DC!

Beginning Wednesday, May 2nd, the Arcadia Mobile Market will make weekly market stops at partner organizations throughout the District. Please visit our website for more information on the times and locations, or check out our map of scheduled market stops.

The bus has been fully retrofitted to accommodate exterior shelving, as well as interior refrigerators and freezers, preserving our offerings of sustainably produced vegetables, fruits, milk, eggs and meat. The Mobile Market will operate from May through October, making additional stops in Northern Virginia and acting as our market stand at Arcadia Farm, beginning in June.

Cat, Arcadia’s Artist-in-Residence, has nearly completed the Mobile Market’s mural. Expect a blog post later this month highlighting her experience painting the bus with volunteers and the students of Bancroft Elementary.

We’re also excited to have JuJu, Arcadia’s Mobile Market Nutrition and Outreach Coordinator, on board to conduct cooking demonstrations and food access outreach during market stops.

The Mobile Market has been made possible by both individual and corporate support. Arcadia would like to thank everybody who contributed to our Kickstarter campaign last year, as well as Kaiser Permanente, the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Whole Foods Market, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Clif Bar Family Foundation, and the Leonsis Foundation. Funding for our “Bonus Bucks” incentive program has been generously provided by Wholesome Wave, INOVA Health System, Capital Area Food Bank, and United Medical Center.


The Votes are In: It's Spinach by a Landslide!

March saw the successful debut of DC Farm to School's newest program - Local Food THROWDOWNS. Chef Tom visited 9 schools in March, engaging 1,000 elementary school students in an exciting and interactive taste test of Jammin' Spinach Salad, which paired crisp and nutritious spinach with a super-healthy raspberry balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a handful of tangy-sweet dried cranberries.

After students had a chance to eat their school lunch, Chef Tom handed out individual samples of the spinach salad, and asked them to try it with an open mind, and offer their feedback and thoughts on what they like or don’t like about the sample. Chef Tom also engaged the students in a discussion of why spinach is super healthy, and why eating local foods is important.

Chef Tom heard overwhelmingly positive feedback from the students that they LOVED their spinach salads and wanted to see more spinach on their school menus in the coming months.

The Local Food THROWDOWN program ties in with DC Farm to School's new Farm Fresh Feature effort, which helps schools celebrate a different local, in-season veggie each month. The Farm Fresh Feature for April is Radishes - and our Local Food THROWDOWN recipe will be a colorful and vibrant Rockin' Red Radish Salsa!

(Special thanks to SweetGreen for donating 14 lbs of organic spinach for our March events!)


Donate to the Arcadia Farm Camp scholarship fund

When we at Arcadia decided to start a farm camp, I knew that I didn't just want it to be for kids whose families could afford it. Since Arcadia is all about creating a more equitable and sustainable food system, it makes sense that we should try to give all kids the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from.

That's why we created the Arcadia Farm Camp scholarship fund: make Arcadia Farm Camp accessible to young people from low-income households. Just like biodiversity helps make a healthy farm, I believe our farm camp will be enriched by the contributions of all kids.

We also want to give folks who are able the opportunity to contribute to creating a more equitable food system, starting with kids. If you're someone who believes that all kids can benefit from an experience like Arcadia Farm Camp, consider donating to the scholarship fund by visiting the Arcadia Farm Camp website. Your donation will help pay the fees for a child from a low-income household to attend camp this July. Thanks in advance!

If you'd like to apply for a scholarship for your child (or know someone who might), email me (liz@arcadiafood.org) for an application.