5 Middle Schools and 1 Big Green Bus

 Arcadia's Mobile Market has visited with Middle Schoolers this season to talk about local sustainable food, how food systems work, how to tell the difference between real food and junk food, and to teach them how to shop the farmer's market to create a balanced meal with a budget of $15.

Farmer Ben demonstrating food processing via the food web

At Kelly Miller Middle School this past Tuesday, Kids were encouraged to try something new and use their sophisticated vocabularies to describe what they tasted. We made a honey mustard dressing and presented a salad bar that included field greens, radishes, orange sweet peppers, roasted eggplant and basil from their own garden. The young adults had many opinions and, for the most part, kept their comments very positive. I was surprised to hear "I really love eggplant" and "I've never had an orange pepper, they're pretty sweet."

Chef Brandi serving up roasted eggplant

As the one of the groups were leaving the market, one young man began to chant, "We eat to live!" It was very inspiring and has become the foundation for every lesson I teach on the farm and on the Mobile Market.

Kelly Miller's Garden is Still growing strong!

They even have Strawberries!


Photobooth Fun at Snallygaster

Zombie Farmer Liz 
Last weekend the crew at Arcadia headed over to Yard's Park to celebrate Snallygaster with the Neighborhood Restaurant Group. In addition to being a huge beer event and a raging good time it was also an opportunity for Arcadia to fundraise for the future and share our message with both the children and the adults who attended the event.

The staff and volunteers at Arcadia set up a whole "Little Monsters Zone" for the children to enjoy while their parents sipped their craft brews. I was in charge of setting up a photo booth and encouraging our little monsters to dress up as farmers, vegetables and snallygasters to get their pictures taken.

I have to say it was quite a success and I wanted to share some of my favorites from the day. Thanks to all the little Snallies for coming out and having fun with us!

This family had so much fun dressing up together!

Education Coordinator Brandi's sons went full on monster.
I could see this same girl striking this same serene pose as an old woman - holding her prized potato. 

Even a few adults indulged. I loved this pea-pod's poses. 

Such a great smile!

Their parents were so thrilled that big sister posed with her little brother. I like his far-off farmer look.

A shy butterfly.

Teiji and I being serious farmers and Marta being a sunshine flower


Arcadia Interns Visit the Washington Youth Garden

Washing fresh picked produce and touching Malabar Spinach

The Arcadia Team went to the Washington Youth Garden last week to observe their field trip program and ogle at their lovely sensory garden. The Washington Youth Garden has been around since 1971 and is located within the equally lovely grounds of the National Arboretum. Our group was really blown away with the diversity that this garden packs into such a modestly sized space. From the "Pop-tart Garden" to the Corn Maze, the garden is so well planned out and spaced to accommodate the inquisitive minds of the children that visit, as well as taking into account their need to run and work off energy. 

The Pop-tart garden was composed of strawberries, corn, can sugar and wheat and students were asked to consider what percentage of each crop is in a Pop-tart. Anyone want to guess the percentage of strawberries that make it into a Pop-tart?

Eucalyptus and Okra

Bees and a Swallow Tail Butterfly Caterpillar 
I think what we all appreciated most was the chance to watch a field trip up close and personal and really experience the process of communicative learning. The educational experience during the field trip is interactive and encourages exploration. When a question is asked by the students the answers are open-ended and when a question is asked by the educators the question is open to interpretation from the students.  The goal of this style of learning is to empower the students themselves to be responsible for their own growing process and to contribute to the group experience, rather than passively absorbing information from an educator. The team at WTG was amazing to watch as they struck the balance between educator and an active explorer with the students.

Lammot and Amanda check out the creative bottle planters
We really loved these bottle planters - what a great project this could be to do with Farm Camp kids in the summer, right?

Chinese Noodle Beans and Baby Beets

Tomatoes and Raspberries

Morgan testing out the natural play area
Until coming to Arcadia the idea of a natural play area was not something I was very familiar with. The concept is to provide a space where students can take risks and use their imagination to create scenes and a context of their own. The Washington Youth Garden has a great play station with lots of risky logs to jump, instruments made of wood, a stage for performances and a digging box.

One of my favorite parts of the visit was learning about okra seeds. The ladies at WYG not only know how to delight and educate children but they also had a wealth of information to teach our team. We learned that plant seeds, like this okra, have parts of the plants that are called ovaries that produce the seed and that the fertilized okra seed is called an embryo - just like in human anatomy!

Nadia - one of the WYG Educators

Bee dance!

Explaining the bee colony 

We all agreed that they have great signs to explain and reinforce their program - which is something that we can add and enhance in our own garden.

Playing with sensitive plant

Finding worms in the compost
Saving cotton seeds
After showing the kids the cotton seeds they made the experience interactive by asking the kids to separate the seeds and save them for the next planting season. This was a great example of bringing things full cycle and reinforcing the cyclical and seasonal nature of farming.

In all, the Arcadia Team left WYG feeling inspired, excited and more prepared to teach our own groups of bubbling school children.  The WYG is open every day that the National Arboretum is open so stop by to see what's going on or sign up to volunteer!


Arcadia's Mobile Market: more than just a Vegetable Stand

With the end of market season in sight, I can now say with certainty that we've accomplished a lot this first year, and that our mobile farmers' market bus is more than just a vehicle schlepping local, sustainably grown foods. 

After months of reliable, high-quality service, Arcadia's Mobile Market has become a place where strangers living on the same street have become neighbors; where new and expecting mothers receive brief lessons on nutrition and learn the merits of breastfeeding; where food assistance recipients can stretch their benefits twice as far, thanks to our "Bonus Bucks" program.  Recipes are exchanged by both staff and customers.  Questions about sustainable farming practices and the impact these have on the local food system are frequently asked and honestly answered.  Health concerns are shared, and personal progresses on these issues are regularly reported.

Benjamin and I have celebrated the acquisition of a job for one customer, witnessed the growth of another's newborn, and eagerly anticipated the weekly updates of one regular's kindergartner's first year of schooling. 

In my own life, working on the Mobile Market has made me physically stronger, broadened my awareness of the financial struggles still facing many of our market participants, and made me more committed than ever to using my knowledge of and passion for food education to positively impact the lives of our clients and their families.

Most importantly, the Mobile Market has made access to healthy, affordable food a little bit easier for the residents of the "food desert" neighborhoods we serve.  I'm already looking forward to next season, as we build off of the successes from our first year!  


Interns visit Common Good City Farm

Now a thriving farm nestled in LeDroit Park, it is hard to believe that this space was once an unused baseball field connected to an abandoned school. Common Good City Farm is unlike anything I have ever seen. With its fruit trees, ample rows of vegetables, native plant rain garden, and Community Garden Plots, it is impressive how so much variety can fit into a seemingly small space. 

The lovely ladies of Common Good, Anita, Elizabeth, and Beza, hosted the interns for a visit in September. We began our day under the cover of a beautifully constructed shade pavilion: an area which provides space for cooking demonstrations, produce refrigeration, and entertaining during programs. I was so excited by the gas stove top they use for cooking demonstrations during Growing Gardens Workshops and Youth Programs, that I immediately began scheming about my future outdoor kitchen. A rain water cistern living the corner of the pavilion collects rain from the roof, filters it to the rain garden, and provides water for the farm in emergency situations.

As we moved into the farm, Anita Adalja, Common Good’s Urban Grower, spoke about her adventures of growing in this space. Various things like pests and rats have presented challenges, but the farm’s successes are enormous. They grow enough produce to provide their program participants with veggies (which they helped to grow), sustain a small CSA, and sell to Arcadia’s Mobile Market and other locations. One of the most productive plants they had this season was okra; there was a long and tall row of this special fruit that was still yielding crop. Next to the okra were a few very healthy compost piles. Members of the LeDroit Park community deposit their compost in a bin near the farm’s fence, helping to keep these piles alive and their community sustainable! The next stop on our tour was the small orchard space. Along with delicious fruit, this area provides an interesting natural place space for youth that mimics a forest floor. After preparing two rows of rich soil and transplanting some baby kale, we enjoyed a scrumptious lunch while sharing our passions for good food and healthy people. Liz and interns, Marta and Morgan, thank the Common Good City Farm staff for an enlightening day.

Common Good’s programs include the Green Tomorrows program for low-income individuals to participate in sustainable growing, Growing Gardens Workshops to inspire the community with garden knowledge, and Youth Programs to engage youth of all ages in farm fun. Check them out at www.commongoodcityfarm.org. In fact, they have a fundraiser on October 11th called “Taste of Common Good,” a simple way to get involved right away!