Our Vision for the Future of Urban Agriculture in Arlington

posted Jan 8, 2019, 11:13 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Jan 11, 2019, 11:54 AM ]

At our December 12, 2018, meeting, we explored the progress made in the past five years since the County issued its Urban Agriculture Task Force Report (we’ve made a lot progress – read our blog). We then looked toward the future. Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture’s Board of Directors spent time this year defining our vision, mission and strategic goals. We also identified our work for 2019. We envision our work in three phases: Seed, Nurture and Grow. This year is our Seed year as we further refine our areas of work and build our organizational capacity so we can undertake our ambitious mission and agenda. As you read through this blog, ask yourself – how can I help – and then contact us!

Strategic Goals 2019 – 2021

Champion “grow local” programs to improve access to fresh food for all Arlington residents, such as:

Ø  Community and school gardens

Ø  Grow food not lawns

Ø  Creative solutions to access land (e.g. yard sharing, green spaces at multi-residential and commercial sites

Advocate for a secure and sustainable food system, such as:

Ø  Local and regional food systems

Ø  Food recovery

Ø  Climate change impact

Lead efforts to establish Arlington as a principal business and economic center for Urban Agriculture in the region, such as:

Ø  Farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) businesses

Ø  Farm to Table

Ø  Indoor, roof top and emerging growing technologies

Ø  Policy and business incentives 

Seed: 2019 Goals

Assess the 2019 status of public, community and for-profit Urban Agriculture initiatives.

Ø  Identify opportunities for further development and make recommendations.

Ø  Research best practice regulatory and structural requirements for establishing urban agriculture enterprises.

Ø  Participate in the County’s updating process for the Forestry and Natural Resources Master Plans.

 Build membership and outreach.

Ø  Host at least four meetings each year. Our target is two educational and two interactive meetings.

Ø  Increase membership and outreach, focusing on key issues for residents, businesses and other stakeholders.

Ø  Expand and improve communication.

 Develop organizational capacity.

Ø  Expand Board membership.

Ø  Create an organizational model to support initiatives, including establishing FOUA as a non-profit organization.

Ø  Explore funding sources. 

Nurture: 2020 Goals

Ø  Build community interest in expanding Arlington’s urban agriculture sector and transforming our food system by engaging members and consumers to think about what we eat and the way food is produced.

Ø  Promote urban agriculture business development and a hyperlocal food chain.

Ø  Advocate on urban agriculture and food policy issues.

Ø  Identify and help fulfill gaps in the urban agriculture sector.

Grow: 2021 and Beyond

Ø  Partner with Arlington County to implement best practices for urban agriculture such as regulations, incentives, incubating startups in the county.

Ø  Build on our foundations of activities, collaborations and research to establish a secure and equitable local food system.

Ø  Leverage existing county work to implement climate and carbon mitigating plans.

Arlington Urban Agriculture – Look How Far We’ve Come!

posted Dec 21, 2018, 7:49 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Dec 21, 2018, 8:06 AM ]

At our December 12, 2018, winter meeting, we asked County Board Member John Vihstadt who chaired the County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force 5 years ago, and Kim Haun, Urban Agriculture Coordinator, to give us an update on how far we’ve come since the Urban Agriculture Task Force report issued in 2013.

The County recognizes that we are part of a regional food system, and while they focus on what we can do here in the County, they also coordinate and collaborate with regional partners. A robust and sustainable local food system builds a strong economy and community. A responsible food system supports other values like environmental sustainability, social equity and improved health of the participants.

Community Gardens

There were 276 community garden plots in 2013, and with dividing some larger plots and adding an additional 70, we now have 380, with at least that many still on the wait list. The County splits large plots when the original holder vacates and then assigns to two new plotholders to help address the lengthy waitlists. The County is in the process of automating the waitlist.

There are still 7 community gardens, the County expanded two. Each plot represents at least 3 – 4 people and they feed not only their own families but contribute thousands of pounds of fresh produce to AFAC.

The County built the first ADA compliant community garden plot in the region at the Lang Street Community Garden. This plot features a vertical garden structure, a concrete pad and driveway access, on-street handicapped parking and an in-ground planting border. DPR staff identified and secured a letter of intent with Service Source, Inc., a local non-profit providing services to disabled adults, to maintain the plot. The community gardeners have welcomed them and are including them in communal activities and responsibilities.

Farmers Markets

We have 11 neighborhood supported farmers markets, six of them have robust SNAP matching programs. On a single Saturday in one market during the prime season we may get as many as 3000 people attending.

The County Board approved a special use permit for two new farmers markets in 2018. The market at Arlington Mill Community Center, run by CPRO, serves the west end of Columbia Pike. The community around Lubber Run supported the addition of the County’s eleventh market located in the parking lot of Barrett Elementary School. This market is run by the nonprofit Field to Table.

Arlington Farmers Market at Courthouse, managed by Community Foodworks, Inc., led the efforts through Virginia Fresh Match to collaborate with 4 other Arlington markets and others in the region to win a USDA Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant fund SNAP matching for the next three years. The other markets participating include the Rosslyn, Crystal City, Ballston and Arlington Mill farmers markets. Columbia Pike has other matching funds. For every $1 in SNAP benefits a shopper spends, they receive an additional $1 to spend on fruits and vegetables.

Food Access

AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger Program, a project that seeks to bring fresh produce to AFAC clients from local farmers, gardeners, farmers markets, gleaning organizations and other sources. Since it started in 2007, it has grown to 29 schools, 20 churches, fifteen community-based gardens, eight farmers markets, three CSA (community supported agriculture) groups, three gleaning organizations, as well as numerous individual gardeners. Since its first season in 2007, over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger project. In 2018 alone, AFAC volunteers picked up 55,282 pounds of farm fresh produce for needy families in Arlington.

Of the current 11 farmers markets, 6 have matching SNAP benefits. These are dollar for dollar additional funds for SNAP shoppers. These funds are supplied by a collaborative USDA grant and their own fundraising efforts. You can donate to these funds by checking the markets’ websites or stopping by their manager’s tables at the market. This program helps make our wonderful markets affordable and accessible to everyone in Arlington.

Education & School Programs

The many public education classes offered by the Virginia Cooperative Extension and taught by trained volunteers are always well attended. They have 250 Master Gardeners and 143 Master Food Volunteers who teach you how to grow, cook and preserve your food.

Our public schools and libraries have gardens maintained by students and volunteers. Each of these has extensive education programs. For example, Central Library holds free Garden Talks throughout the season at the AFAC demonstration garden. You can also find the Garden Tool Lending Shed at Central Library where you can borrow garden tools with a library card.

Our local universities – Marymount, George Mason, Virginia Tech – have urban agriculture programs and/or extra-curricular activities.

Developing Urban Agricultural Enterprises

Moving forward, there are many opportunities to look beyond the basic community garden/home garden model. Areas for development include rooftop, indoor, and edge gardening. Further encouragement of farm to institutions such as hospitals, universities and schools will help build a commercial demand for locally produced food. Examination of potential barriers to agriculture in our urban community such as availability of capital, regulatory issues and transportation infrastructure may warrant further effort.

Highlights of urban agriculture enterprises in the past year include the following:

  • The pilot rooftop garden at the Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) Trades building located at 2700 S. Taylor Street had a successful second season. All the hardware required was recycled from previous park projects. A team of DPR Staff managed this garden and learned how the high wind and heat impacts a successful garden. DPR is working to open the rooftop for public visits.

  • Arlington Department of Human Services examined regulations related to inspections for small food producers, such as those found at our farmers markets, and modified county policy to comply with the less restrictive State code.

  • DPR staff supported Zoning and AED to make a determination on a Certificate of Occupancy for an indoor urban farm, Fresh Impact Farms, located on Lee Highway. DPR staff is working with another new business, Urban Farm Greens, that is setting up in Rosslyn.

  • For years, the County has supported the addition of green roofs on buildings. You can see examples at Walter Reed Community Center, DPR’s Trades building, and the Bozeman Government Center at Courthouse Plaza. These installations, that can include vegetable gardens, qualify for LEEDS credits. County staff visited several rooftop gardens and farms this past summer to learn more about them. They saw different design concepts and management models. The staff is going to reach out to local property owners and developers to share what they have learned and to talk about what is possible here in Arlington.

  • The multi-family residential building at 3110 Tenth St N, called Ten at Clarendon is a luxury building offering a rooftop garden and lobby market as amenities. The rooftop design has raised bed vegetable gardens as well as social and entertaining space. The garden is managed by Love and Carrots.

  • A 40 cubic-yard container was installed at the Department of Environmental Service’s Solid Waste Bureau to convert food waste into compost. Food waste is collected from Abingdon Elementary School, AFAC, the Fairlington Farmers Market and Columbia Pike as well as private citizens and County special events. This is mixed with leaf waste and is converted from 16 tons of raw material to 5 tons of compost.

Community Engagement & Outreach

The Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA) established its inaugural Board of Directors in 2017. FOUA hosts quarterly public educational events, and in 2018, its first social hour at Trade Roots in Westover. A 30 people attended on a very rainy night. FOUA Board members led informal conversations about what people want to see happen in Arlington to further urban agriculture. FOUA also maintained a website, Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram, and an email list of over 340 names to share information about resources, news and upcoming programs.

For the second year DPR staff and FOUA partnered with Marymount University student club, Food for Thought, to grow basil seedlings, and conduct a giveaway event for metro commuters at the Ballston and Courthouse Metro stations.

DPR staff with FOUA hosted a table at the County Fair, including a demonstration on growing microgreens. DPR and FOUA encourage community gardeners to enter their produce and homemade products in the County Fair’s competitions. This is a fun way to draw attention to all the wonderful vegetables Arlingtonians are growing.

FOUA’s First Annual Golden Radish Award: Puwen Lee

posted Dec 18, 2018, 9:42 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Dec 18, 2018, 9:50 AM ]

It gives us great pleasure to present Puwen Lee with our first annual Golden Radish Award, recognizing her extraordinary contributions to growing urban agriculture in Arlington. Puwen was an original member of the Arlington County Urban Agriculture Task Force, and is an Arlington Healthy Community Action Team member and a Master Gardener.

Most people know her work at the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Puwen joined AFAC in 2005, first as a volunteer and later as the head of the Volunteer Department.  Since 2014 she has served as Associate Director of the AFAC Program Division and manages AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger Program, a project that seeks to bring fresh produce to AFAC clients from local farmers, gardeners, farmers markets, gleaning organizations and other sources. Since she started the “Plot” program in 2007, it has grown within Arlington area, to 29 schools, 20 churches, fifteen community-based gardens, eight farmers markets, three CSA (community supported agriculture) groups, three gleaning organizations, as well as numerous individual gardeners.  Since its first season in 2007, over 600,000 pounds of fresh produce have been donated to AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger project.  In 2018 alone, AFAC volunteers picked up 55,282 pounds of farm fresh produce for needy families in Arlington. 

She spearheaded the creation of a schoolyard garden at Ashlawn Elementary School, a garden which has become integrated into the school curriculum and which donates fresh produce to AFAC. She also played a pivotal role in the creation of the Central Library garden, without which there would be no garden talks, and no tool lending library.

If you have had the pleasure of working along side this incredible garden leader, you will know that she can tackle the smallest garden chore to the most complicated logistics challenges. We cannot think of another person that will time and time again rise to the moment with passion in her heart and a smile on her face.

A Celebration of Arlington Urban Ag - Dec 12th!

posted Dec 2, 2018, 9:55 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Dec 4, 2018, 1:05 PM ]

Celebration of Arlington Urban Ag

Look How Far We’ve Come!


Wednesday, December 12, 6:30pm – 8:30pm,

Arlington Central Library

> Learn about the progress we've made in urban agriculture

in Arlington in the past 5 years!

> Join the discussion about FOUA’s goals and future plans!

> Find out who will receive FOUA’s first annual Golden Radish Award -- 
Recognizing a person, group or business that has made significant contributions to growing urban agriculture in Arlington.

> Come share what you have been doing and growing!

It's FREE and open to the public! RSVP today =>

Facebook page for details. Follow #arlingtonurbanag.

(We will hold elections for Board of Director members at this meeting.)

Fall is Full of FOUA Events!

posted Aug 18, 2018, 7:29 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Sep 23, 2018, 8:36 AM ]

FOUA Social Hour, Thursday, Sept. 27, 6:30 – 8:30pm at Trade Roots in Westover. RSVP today!


START YOUR OWN FARM, new book by Forrest Pritchard and Ellen Polishuk

Arlington/Alexandria Urban Ag Summit, Friday, Oct. 5, 9:00am – 3:30pm, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Arlington. To register go to:  

FOUA Winter Meeting: Celebrating Arlington Urban Ag, Wednesday, December 12, 6:30pm – 8:30pm, Arlington Central Library

Visit and our Facebook page for details and to RSVP!

Highlights from Beyond Farmers Markets: A Look at Food Hubs

posted May 24, 2018, 10:57 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Jun 6, 2018, 11:09 AM ]

At our spring meeting on May 10th at the Arlington Central Library, we had a lively discussion about changes in local food delivery systems. We explored food hubs and regional trends, and discussed how we get nutritious food to all. 

We were fortunate to have Ellie Bomstein, Program Associate, Wallace Center as moderator for the panel discussion. The Wallace Center is part of Winrock International, a national nonprofit with headquarters in Little Rock with an office in Arlington. The Wallace Center “supports entrepreneurs and communities as they build a new, 21st century food system that is healthier for people, the environment, and the economy.” Specifically, the Wallace Center “leverages these strategies across all of our work, drawing on market-based approaches to bring more healthy, affordable, sustainably-produced food to all communities, by scaling up to wholesale, retail, and institutional outlets.” Learn more here:

An important part of the Wallace Center’s mission is supporting food hubs. What is a food hub? The USDA definition is “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products.” The USDA has compiled a registry of food hubs that currently numbers 220. According to Ellie, there are closer to 400 operating food hubs nationally with about 22 in the DC area.

Michigan State did a 2017 survey of food hubs with 119 hubs responding. There are fewer food hubs being added each year, but the ones that do exist are more profitable, viable and are showing more longevity than previously. 42% are nonprofit and 37% are for profit. To learn more from the 2017 survey and to find further food hub resources, check out Wallace Center’s Food Hub Portal:

The discussion moved to food hubs in the DC region with an introduction of the panel:

Katie Farnoly, Eastern Vegetable Buyer and Local Farm Coordinator, Coastal Sunbelt Produce, a large for-profit distributor of both imported and local fruit and vegetable products, including home-grown hubs to help local farmers.

Dalila Boclin, Food Access Director, Community Foodworks. Community Foodworks is a nonprofit using the “convening power of farmers markets” to “help farmers get the most bang for their buck.” Community Food Works is using 3.5 of their 14 farmers markets as pop-up food hubs where bulk, wholesale orders can be picked up, generally by small concerns that cannot use a larger distributor, such as faith-based groups and daycare centers. Community Foodworks serves as the middleman.

Chris Guerre, Owner, Maple Avenue Market. Chris and his wife Sarah own a farm, located in the Shenandoah, and brick and mortar market in Vienna. They grow and sell year round and have had a 10-year, small-scale partnership selling produce to Arlington County Schools.

Topics covered:


Dalila: We are grant-funded and nonprofit, so we do not raise prices.

Katy: Depends on the crop. If everyone has curly kale, it goes for market price with little markup. If a farm has a known brand, such as Little Wild Things City Farm, they can ask higher prices. Also depends on the customer—larger institutions and volumes require a smaller markup.

Chris: Pricing is tricky, especially because we buy from other farmers. We have had a CSA for 10 years that includes all products in our store and operates as a discount: $550 gets you $650 worth of products from June through October. Many farmers don’t believe that CSAs should be discounted.

Is there something about this region that allows an alternative approach to food hubs to work?

Dalila: A dense urban area is a plus when you can make 30 stops within 50 miles. CFW places a value on serving disadvantaged customers first. CFW currently serves 45 daycare centers at about $15 a drop.

Katy: Coastal Sunbelt serves many restaurants and other institutions that are hard to convince to pay more for local. But that is a Coastal goal, to get mainstream food institutions to go local.

Chris: In this area, there is no shortage of markets for local items.

Affluent people use farmers markets—do others?

Katy: Coastal Sunbelt gives produce to food banks and does a lot to encourage people trying to get into farming. It also works with underserved school populations. It tried to work with Baltimore City, but the schools had no way to process the produce.

Chris: Food access has been an issue for them since 2008. They work with Carlin Springs Elementary School, which has the highest number of free and reduced lunch students; went there exclusively for one year. He also wants the food in their store to be affordable to families.

How can we increase the biodiversity of products grown? How can we increase the interaction between customer and farmer?

Katy: We are trying to bring farmers and restaurants together. If they meet, they develop a relationship and restaurants are willing to try new things. We have to start small. Biodiversity is one of the beauties of local food.

What about waste? Is there a lot?

Chris: We grow on about 2 acres. There is definitely waste. Not just what doesn’t sell but what is not saleable. AFAC is great at getting leftovers from the markets.

Katy: Waste is a challenge. Bumper crops are especially hard. We need ample notice to take on more. Processing is one avenue, but the labor adds to the cost.

Delila: A lot of waste occurs on the farm itself. “Local frozen” could add capacity to food hubs.

How can consumers support their work:

  • Buy local.
  • Join a CSA.
  • When you think local is too expensive, think about what went into it, the farmer’s costs.
  • Ask in the mainstream for local. Push them to want to add that value.
  • Be collaborative, not “all or nothing” local.
  • Grow a garden.
  • Work with kids.
  • Start a nonprofit.


Marymount University Promoting Urban Farming!

posted Apr 11, 2018, 5:06 PM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Apr 11, 2018, 5:10 PM ]

Our extremely popular Potting Kit Giveaway is back for a second year. Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture has teamed up with Marymount University again to promote gardening in small spaces. With assistance from Rooftop Roots, students started basil seedlings and on April 25th will distribute Potting Kits to lucky commuters at the Ballston and Clarendon Metro stops.

For updates on the Potting Kit Giveaway, go to our Facebook event page.

In addition to promoting gardening in small spaces, Rooftop Roots built raised beds on Marymount University's campus, which will be maintained by Marymount's Food For Thought campus group. This garden is a Plot Against Hunger plot and the produce will go to AFAC families in need.

The Marymount Farmers Market, a local producer-only market, opens for the season on May 26th. Each of the vendors grows, bakes, roasts, cooks, or prepares all of their products within 125 miles of Arlington County.  

When: Saturdays 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM, May 26th through Thanksgiving

Where: Marymount University surface parking lot, near the intersection of Glebe Rd. and Old Dominion Dr.

Follow Marymount Farmers Market on Facebook.

Beyond Farmers Markets: A Look at Food Hubs - May 10th Presentation

posted Apr 5, 2018, 10:59 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Apr 11, 2018, 6:52 AM ]

Come to our spring meeting to learn about changing local food delivery systems. We’ll explore food hubs and regional trends, and discuss how we get nutritious food to all.

WHEN: Thursday, May 10, 7 – 8:30 pm

Networking and display tables at 6:30 pm

WHERE: Arlington Central Library – Auditorium

1015 N. Quincy St. (free parking, near Virginia Square & Ballston Metro Stations)

Panel Moderator – Ellie Bomstein, Program Associate, Wallace Center at Winrock International

A regional food hub is a business or organization that actively manages the aggregation, distribution, and marketing of source-identified food products primarily from local and regional producers to strengthen their ability to satisfy wholesale, retail, and institutional demand.

Check our Facebook event page for updates!

Our Mission: Facilitating community collaboration to promote sustainable food systems for Arlington. Sponsored by Arlington County Department of Parks & Recreation

FOUA Winter 2018 Meeting: Climate Change & New Board Members

posted Jan 26, 2018, 9:14 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Feb 13, 2018, 7:16 AM ]

Our Winter 2018 meeting on Climate Change, Agriculture and Our Food was well attended. Our panel presented a wide range of information on climate change impacts on food plants, pests and production, plant variety changes, techniques to address the coming changes, and the role of policy and governmental planning to steer change in practices.

Kirsten Conrad, Natural Resources Extension Agent,
focused on how plants are physiologically affected by heat and other climate change impacts and outlined expected changes in foods that will grow in this region. She emphasized that high nighttime temperatures are often overlooked when talking about how rising temperatures are damaging plants. High nighttime temperatures increase plant respiration rates, which reduces biomass accumulation and crop yield. Kirsten ended her talk with a list of handy tips for how gardeners can adapt to the changing climate. Click here for her full presentation.

Don Weber, USDA Research Entomologist, discussed changes in pests and beneficial insects and adaptive approaches to controlling pests. Don focused on how microenvironments, microclimates (such as urban heat islands) and temperature extremes impact insects the most. He also provided a list of tips for gardeners, very similar to Kirsten’s list. Click here for his full presentation.

Tod Wickersham, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate and Beneficial Results, LLC, opened our discussion with an overview of climate change trends and how our weather is getting “weird.” He then highlighted how the use of regenerative agriculture and ecological restoration brings carbon back into soil and heals the climate. He highlighted ways that gardeners can bring regenerative practices to their own gardens and how people can work within their communities, and at the state and national levels to promote policies and regulations that will increase regenerative agriculture practices. Click here for his full presentation.

At our meeting, we also voted in three new board members: Robin Broder, Clean Water & Local Food Advocate and Nonprofit Consultant; Andrew Rude, Retired from Agency for International Development and USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, and Nanda Setlur, a CPA and small business owner, Urban Farm Greens, a vertical hydroponic farming venture.

We want to thank Thomas Schneider, an original member of the Steering Committee and Board member, who has resigned so he can grow his nonprofit Rooftop Roots. He will continue to coordinate our Spring Potting Party with Marymount University.

We thank Arlington Central Library for once again providing a great venue for our meeting. We thank Pu Wen Lee from AFAC and Kirsten Conrad for bringing displays.

AFAC Spring Garden Kickoff - Feb. 10th

posted Jan 4, 2018, 8:57 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture

The Arlington Food Assistance Center’s “Plot Against Hunger” program will host a Spring Garden Kickoff on Saturday, February 10th from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The event will take place at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 4000 Lorcom Lane, Arlington, VA 22207, home of AFAC’s largest Plot Against Hunger garden.

The Kickoff will feature:

·         Information about how Plot Against Hunger gardens provide fresh produce for AFAC clients and how to start one yourself

·         Short presentations on techniques for starting a garden, irrigation/mulching, pest control, and safe body mechanics for gardeners

·         Displays on compost bins, container and window sill gardening, cold frames, growing mushrooms, and more

·         Hands-on tables to practice basic gardening skills

·         Exhibit tables for Northern Virginia Extension Service, 4-H in the Schools, Master Gardeners, and other local organizations

Free vegetables and herb seeds, seed pots and trays, coffee grounds and other compost, and containers for packaging produce donations will be available to AFAC gardeners.

Light refreshments will be served. 

All are welcome.  RSVP to


Flyer attached.

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