A (Hippie and Food Justice) Dream Come True

I grew up in Oakland, California, and spent a lot of time in Berkeley.  With the vibe of the 1960s still hanging around the place, I often felt like I'd been born 15 years too late.  In time, I became a hippie-of-sorts in both my dress and attitude.  The only thing missing, however, was the cross-country trip in a "Magic Bus."

Years later, I'm proud to say that I'm now a licensed driver of Arcadia's Mobile Market.  Not only am I living out my hippie fantasy, but I'm doing so while giving something positive back to the community!  I get to pilot Arcadia's magical, green school bus around DC, Maryland and Virginia, hauling fresh produce, dairy products, meats, eggs, and bread to low-income "food deserts." 

Juju and Arcadia's Mobile Market in front of her home in Temple Hills, MD

All it took to pass my Commercial Driver's License Road Test was several weeks of diligent studying (ask me how deep the tread on the bus' front tires should be, and I promise I'll know the answer!) and several weekends behind the wheel with Benjamin, the Mobile Market Director.

Next time you see the big green vegetable bus coming down the street with a straw-hatted driver behind the wheel, that'll be me in my Berkley-Hippie glory!  And when you see me rolling out the awning as we set up the Mobile Market each morning, I'll be living out my other alter ego, Estella, the Italian grocer-woman (but that backstory is for a future blog post!).


A quick, easy dinner using our Mobile Market offerings

At the end of a long day of working on the Mobile Market, I need a deeply restorative dinner.  Usually my sons cook on the days that I work, but yesterday I wanted to make a meal which showcased the wonderful food that we had for sale on our market bus.

Fragrant bread from Lyon Bakery, a gorgeous salad of Boston Bibb and Red Leaf lettuce, and a soup made from freshly-harvested asparagus and plain yogurt from the Pennsylvania Amish graced my table last night.  My sons ate three bowls of soup each; half a loaf of bread was demolished; the salad topped with Rockin' Red Radish Salsa was devoured. 

What's more -- I was able to get dinner on the table in 30 minutes, despite working a long day of market stops!  And with a meal like this, our tummies were happy all night.

Asparagus Leek Soup
Serves 6

2 bunches asparagus, trimmed and cut into small pieces, tops reserved
2 bunches leeks, washed, trimmed and cut into small pieces
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Small pinch each of dried dill and thyme
1 to 2 shakes of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat.  Add the asparagus stems and leeks to the butter.  Place a steamer/sieve with the asparagus tops over this, and cover.  Steam the vegetables for 10 minutes, then add the water and simmer until the vegetables are tender.  Set the asparagus tops aside, and place the stems and leeks into a blender.  Puree until smooth.  Pour the puree back into the pot.  Add the yogurt, dill, thyme and nutmeg, and asparagus tops.  Reheat the soup over low heat and season with salt and pepper.

Visit here for our Red Radish Salsa recipe.


Building Arcadia’s Own Local Compost

By Marsha Johnston, Arcadia Farm Education Volunteer 

Upon arriving at Arcadia to direct farm operations last year from his job as an instructor at the Farm School in Massachusetts, Stephen Corrigan quickly realized that he would have to create his own field-scale compost production in order to restore the tired soil enough to produce a large volume of vegetables. The bin compost system in the Groundhog Garden was great for teaching, but could simply not produce the quantity of compost he needed.

“The rule of thumb is 10 tons of compost per acre for an established garden,” says Stephen, who has taught composting at the Farm School in north-central Massachusetts and elsewhere. “But the land here is heavy clay, and has not really been worked in a while, so it needs more love. We’re trying to add at the rate of 20 tons per acre.”

Arcadia had been buying compost, but to buy twice as much would have broken the bank. Instead, on a sufficiently discrete spot on Arcadia’s lower field last December, he created the first pile out of 30 parts bedding and one part manure from the neighboring horse stables.  By March, it was ready to spread. While manure from grazing animals like horses, cows and sheep is fine, Stephen cautions that compost should never include waste from carnivorous animals such as dogs and cats, to avoid introducing pathogens.

“The most important rule is the 30 [parts carbon] to one [part nitrogen] ratio, where brown is carbon and green matter is nitrogen,” Stephen says. “It’s the one most people don’t get right. You can’t just throw out a bunch of kitchen scraps and expect to get compost. That’s why it gets a bad reputation, because if you do that, it will smell horrendous.”  
For Arcadia’s second batch, he used horse manure plus food scraps from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group Central Commissary and coffee grounds from Buzz Bakery in Alexandria and Peregrine Coffee. Living in Alexandria, Stephen picks up the grounds from Buzz Bakery, while Arcadia’s Mobile Market picks up from NRG and Peregrine, which are both near its route, in Union Market. “We’re layering it all with leaves from the city of Alexandria and spoiled straw from Mount Vernon,” he says, adding that clean newspaper and brown paper are also good brown matter components.

Eggshells are a good nitrogen element, he notes, but all fats, butter, oil, dairy and meat should be kept out.  Citrus fruits are not great, as the oils in the rind slow decomposition, he said, but his experience at Arcadia composting mostly zested citrus has shown that citrus flesh is workable.  

Thanks to Stephen, Arcadia now produces enough organic compost to meet its growing needs, while keeping otherwise useful organic matter out of landfill. He'll be teaching our June 1st Workshop on How to Compost so join us to learn about building your own backyard compost. 


Arcadia Farm Camp is the Place to Be!

Do your kids love to help you cook or plant in the garden? What about dig in the dirt? Sounds like they would enjoy Arcadia’s Farm Camp!

Farm Camp weeks will focus on food, agriculture, and sustainability with varying themes.  No matter which week you choose, each day of camp begins with gathering eggs from the flock of laying hens and harvesting what's ripe in the field.

There will be four weekly sessions to choose from:

- July 8-12: Young Farmers: a camp to discover the tricks of the trade
- July 15-19: Little Locavores: campers learn the seasonality of our foodshed
- July 22-26: Green Growers: a camp for budding environmentalists
- July 29-Aug 2: Small Chefs: campers explore the science of cooking

Campers will learn the importance of farming by living the farmer lifestyle, eating their way through our Groundhog Garden, and having fun with our interactive and educational games.

During Little Locavores week, campers will harvest and create a Buried Treasure Salad, pickle their own foods, and create seasonal food plates. In Small Chefs week, campers will make their own meals and learn about chef tools, including knife skills and measuring. Campers will create their own recipes and taste tests as well.

Arcadia Farm Camp is for 6-12 year olds and scholarships are available for qualifying families. Visit the scholarship fund page for more information. Transportation is available from Capitol Hill and Old Town Alexandria for an additional fee. Registration for Arcadia Farm Camp closes on June 1st.

Want to learn more? Attend our Farm Camp Open House on Saturday, May 18th from 1-3pm. Our young farmers will get a sneak peak at the farm and participate in a few hands-on activities. Register here to let us know you're coming. 

Written by: Aisha Salazar


Inspiration at Washington Youth Garden!

By Marsha Johnston, Arcadia Farm Education Volunteer 

Last week, several Arcadia Farm Educators visited the Washington Youth Garden at the National Arboretum to share our best practices and learn the secrets to WYG's 40-year longevity. We were not disappointed.

First, we were impressed by the garden itself, with its vibrantly colored, giant bird statue, Poptart garden and beautiful asparagus patch, but even more by WYG's skilled staff.  From amazing Education Programs Manager Anna Benfield and Garden Manager Nadia Mercer to Emily the Garden Education Assistant, they gave us tips on making our farm education appealing and interesting to any age group. 

When it comes to helping kids observe bees without fear, for example, Anna asked her fourth-graders, "Do YOU have pollen or nectar in your pockets? No? Well, then you can be sure that ol' bee won't be interested in YOU!" 

We watched in fascination as the kids were taught how to pick asparagus and to extract cotton seeds from their fluffy pods and plant them. 

Thank you Washington Youth Garden, for sharing your experience with us.  Farm education in the capitol region will be ever richer for it! 

If you'd like to discover more about the Washington Youth Garden's educational opportunities for students in D.C., visit their programs page here. If you're interested in the learning opportunity of being an Arcadia Farm Educator, check back in June for intern and volunteer postings. 

Photos by Aisha Salazar, Arcadia Farm Education Intern 


Farming, Food, and Fun at Farm Camp Open House

May is here and you know what that means.  It’s not only time to stock up on sunblock, but it’s also time to get pumped for Arcadia Farm Camp!  

This past Saturday, between the Open Saturday Volunteer Day and the Farm Camp Open House, we had plenty of friends come out to visit the farm for what turned out to be a beautiful day.  Our future campers had a chance to meet the chickens, harvest vegetables from the Groundhog Garden, enjoy the natural play space, and even make a snack with their freshly harvested veggies.  Some were Arcadia Farm Camp veterans, and for others it was the first time exploring the wonders of the farm.  For parents, it was a great opportunity to see their kids engaged in the Groundhog Garden activities.

If you missed the first Farm Camp Open House, do not fret!  We will be hosting yet another Farm Camp Open House on Saturday May 18, from 1:00-3:00pm.  We will explore some of the weekly themes that Farm Camp will offer and answer questions that parents and campers might have.  

The second Open House will be at the farm, and we ask that you please register here so that we can provide enough materials for activities.  Farm Camp Open House attendance and registration is free!

Did you make it to the first Farm Camp Open House?  Are you ready to register for Arcadia Farm Camp?  You can register or review the Farm Camp dates and weekly themes here.

Written by: Erin Bischoff