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How We Can Grow the Next Generation of Urban Farmers

posted May 21, 2019, 8:09 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated May 21, 2019, 8:14 AM ]

Arlingtonians young and old gathered at Ashlawn Elementary School on April 11th for Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture’s presentation on “Growing the Next Generation of Urban Farmers.” We had an inspiring discussion on future urban farmers in the area and how children, students, families, teachers, schools, PTAs, and communities can increase outdoor learning and local food production and consumption.

Our host Joan Horwitt from Reevesland Learning Center and Ashlawn’s Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch led our panelists in a conversation about current school garden and outdoor learning programs in Arlington and Alexandria. Joan described how Reevesland Learning Garden started in 2011 in partnership with the community and Ashlawn Elementary School. The garden provides a space for the students to bring the classroom outside. Another partnership with the community is the Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch program where homeowners convert part of their lawns into garden to grow greens that are served at spring and fall special school lunches. Joan emphasized that one of the many challenges is the need to institutionalize programs like these that are primarily initiated and implemented by volunteer parents, teachers and school staff. 

Pamela Hess, Executive Director, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, explained that Arcadia’s mission is to build an equitable and sustainable local food system in the DC metro region. Pamela emphasized that our cheap food system is very expensive in terms of public health citing some very disturbing statistics on diabetes. They operate training programs for veterans, a mobile fresh produce market, kids programs, a farm to school program, and a summer farm camp. They also provide outreach and assistance to school garden programs. Arcadia tracks several metrics to show transformation in kids (e.g. 42.5% increase in kids who like beets).

Reggie Morris, Unit Coordinator Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development, Virginia Cooperative Extension, after leading us in the 4H Pledge, described the Junior Master Gardening Program. This program, in partnership with the Arlington Public Schools, meets once a week after school for six weeks. There is a similar program at Alexandria Public Schools. Virginia Cooperative Extension volunteers lead the students through the entire process of planning, planting and harvesting a vegetable garden.

Raena Mitchell, Children's Garden Liaison, Alexandria City Public Schools, explained that her position is new in the school system. Her role is to provide the training, curriculum and technology for schools and teachers to implement school garden and outdoor learning programs. Raena said that the program has been received well by teachers. She emphasizes that this is not an additional program, but instead it’s bringing what they already do in the classroom to outside of the classroom. For example, art teachers bring students outside to draw.

Christy Przystawik, Outdoor Classroom Coordinator, Campbell ES-Arlington, described how Campbell has adopted an expeditionary learning model and the outdoor classroom is part of this approach. Two times a year they have 3 month long in-depth units of study (e.g. grow and harvest herbs and cook with them). In addition to their extensive outdoor learning spaces, they have access to Longbranch Park that runs adjacent to the school.

Panelists were asked about the challenges they face:
  • Small staff and heavily reliant on volunteers. It’s a challenge to find people who like gardening and working with students
  • Funding – Arlington Public Schools provides zero funding so programs are reliant on PTAs, which means programs are not equitable across the school system. In DC, programs are well funded through a tax on soda.
  • Communicating the value of the programs and how they are connected to the curriculum. How do you measure exploration?
  • Need to institutionalize programs into school system. These programs provide hands on learning, address the obesity problem, and students thrive outside. Need to understand that it’s worth the money and it does not have to be an extra burden on teachers.
  • Maintaining gardens through the summer months. Creative solutions include summer school, student, parent and neighbor volunteers, partner with community centers, career center students, and job programs.
Suggestions from the audience included:
The panelists provided information and demonstrations at display tables. Additional groups that tabled included: Greg Rusk from Discovery Elementary displaying his hydroponic garden system, Nancy Strinste author of Nature Play at Home, the Healthy Community Action Team, and Fresh Impact Farms.

FOUA Board Member David Sachs concluded the gathering with a challenge to everyone – be the change. Our students are the next consumers as well as farmers and they should see that it’s normal to eat local. We all should demand food that is grow in Arlington, support farmers markets and local farms, and share our passion with others.

Arlington's Farmers Markets!

posted Apr 18, 2019, 6:31 PM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated May 21, 2019, 8:52 AM ]

This season, Arlington has 10 wonderful farmers markets. View a map of all the farmers markets and find one near you! You may contact the individual markets, linked below, to apply to become a vendor. For more info, go to => https://topics.arlingtonva.us/farmers-markets/

Arlington Farmers Market, N. 14th Street & N. Courthouse Road 
Saturdays, open year-round: April – December 8 am – noon, January – March 9 am – noon

Arlington Mill Farmers Market, Arlington Mill Community Center, Colombia Pike & 909 S. Dinwiddie 
Saturdays, May – October, 9 am – 1 pm

Ballston Farmers Market, Welburn Park across N. Stuart Street from Ballston Metro Station 
Thursdays, April - November, 3 pm – 7 pm

Pike Park Farmers Market, 2820 Columbia Pike at Walter Reed Drive 
Saturdays, May – October, 9 am – 1 pm

Crystal City Farmers Market, 1900 Crystal Drive between 18th & 20th Streets 
Tuesdays, May – October, 3 pm – 7 pm

Fairlington Farmers Market, 3308 S. Stafford St. at Fairlington Community Center 
Sundays, May – October, 9 am – 1 pm

Lubber Run Farmers Market, Barrett Elementary School, 4401 N. Henderson St. & George Mason Dr 
Saturdays, April – November, 8 am – noon

Marymount Farmers Market, N. Glebe Road at Yorktown Boulevard 
Saturdays, May – November, 9 am – 1 pm

Rosslyn Farmers Market, 1800 N. Lynn Street near Rosslyn Metro Station in Central Place Plaza 
Wednesdays, May – October, 3 pm – 7 pm

Westover Farmers Market, 1644 N. McKinley Road & Washington Blvd. 
Sundays, open year round, May – November 8 am –noon, December - April 9 am – 1 pm

Growing the Next Generation of Urban Farmers

posted Mar 19, 2019, 7:32 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 7:58 AM ]

Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture invites you to our next public meeting at Ashlawn Elementary School (5850 8th Road N, Arlington) on Thursday, April 11th, 6:30-8:30pm.

The theme of the event is “Growing the Next Generation of Urban Farmers”, an in-depth discussion on future urban farmers in the area and how children, students, families, teachers, schools, PTAs, and communities can increase local food production and consumption.

We will have panelists leading a discussion on student involvement, nutrition, and comprehensive curriculum development. We will also have hands-on activities for children and young families.


Our host and MC: Joan Horwitt, Reevesland Learning Center and Lawns 2 Lettuce 4 Lunch

Panelists:
  • Pamela Hess, Executive Director, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture
  • Sarah Holway, Education Director and Co-founder, DC Greens
  • Reggie Morris, Unit Coordinator Extension Agent, 4-H Youth Development, Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Raena Mitchell, Children's Garden Liaison, Alexandria City Public Schools
  • Christy Przystawik, Outdoor Classroom Coordinator, Campbell ES-Arlington

We hope to you can join us, and if possible, please share this event with your members and colleagues. If your organization would like to setup exhibits or provide brochures/pamphlets, we’d be happy to display them for you. Email matt@bushelediblegardens.com.

Let's Show the County Board Our Love for Urban Ag!

posted Mar 7, 2019, 8:36 AM by Arlington Urban Agriculture


The Arlington County Board must reduce costs for it’s FY2020 budget. The county’s Urban Agriculture program could be cut. Last December we had a celebration of our accomplishments over the past 5 years. Let’s raise our voices now to show there is robust support for prioritizing a coordinated food sustainability program and our exciting, emerging urban agriculture industry. Climate change challenges bring urgency to our government addressing these priorities.
 
The Urban Agriculture Program’s mission is the advancement of the County-wide goal to improve access to healthy, fresh and sustainably produced foods in Arlington. Created from the 2013 Urban Agriculture Citizen Task Force recommendation, the Urban Agriculture Program synchronizes management of Arlington’s community gardens and farmers markets, conducts outreach and education, and coordinates activities with Virginia Cooperative Extension agents. Additionally, the program provides liaison between Arlington’s burgeoning agriculture start-up businesses and County officials.
 
Friends of Urban Agriculture believes that the time is right for the County to become a national leader in this emerging economic sector and to address climate change realities. Instead of shrinking, the County should seize this opportunity to support and expand this vital program that enhances Arlingtonians’ health and quality of life and advances environmentally-sustainable food access and food production throughout the County.  
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
  1. CLICK HERE to send an email to your County Board members and the DPR.
  2. Or cut and paste and customize the letter template below and send to the County Board.
  3. Watch the County Board's Work Session on March 12 on the Department of Parks and Recreation's proposed budget.
  4. Attend the Public Hearing on the Budget April 2 at 7:00pm.
  5. Forward this email to 5 of your friends!
Sincerely, 
Friends of Urban Agriculture
 
——————————————
 
SUBJECT: Urban Agriculture Program Proposed FY2020 Budget Cut
 
Dear County Board and Department of Parks & Recreation,
 
I recently learned of the proposed FY2020 budget review and am concerned the Urban Agriculture Program is at risk of elimination. As a patron of Arlington’s vibrant local food ecosystem, I am worried that budget cuts to the Urban Agriculture program will mean ongoing programs will become decentralized and reduced to minimum maintenance levels. In addition, staff and policy support for expansion and innovation in the urban agriculture business sector will be stopped.
 
I request you reconsider proposed budget cuts to the Urban Agriculture Program. I am a proud supporter of Urban Agriculture and believe in its ability to simultaneously advance Arlington’s progressive vision, promote public health, improve our local food system, expand food access, increase environmental stewardship, and promote economic development in the County.
 
Instead of shrinking, the County should seize this opportunity to support and expand this vital program and recognize the time is right for the County to become a national leader in this emerging economic sector and to address climate change realities.
 
Respectfully,
NAME
ADDRESS

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 => https://bit.ly/2BLEWr3


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:  https://tinyurl.com/aauas2018  

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

Visit www.arlingtonurbanag.org 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: http://www.wallacecenter.org/how-we-work/.

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: http://ngfn.org/resources/food-hubs/food-hubs

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:

Pricing—

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.


 

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