Last Saturday, EcoAction and Georgetown Community Garden (formerly called GUSGI) co-hosted an event with food from the Burleith Farmers Market and three amazing speakers.
First, Christopher (Director of Business Operations) and Christian (Farm Manager) from Engaged Community Offshoots spoke about their awesome farm in Edmonston, Maryland.
Their story is inspiring; the four-person staff recently got a grant and found park land in Maryland, where they now have hoophouses so they could grow vertically, partner with groups like Whole Foods to get waste for their compost and restaurants like Busboys and Poets to sell their food, and teach hands-on classes for immigrant workers and college students so they can replicate this model in their own communities.
This is their mission statement from their website: “ECO seeks to reverse the effects of systemic poverty, racism, and environmental destruction through establishing and promoting social venture community-based businesses.”
They trained with Will Allen of Growing Power, and are using those skills in their plans to start doing aquaponics (a closed growing cycle with fish) and to establish a farm-to-school program. It is also clear that, like Will Allen’s urban farm, the people at Engaged Community Offshoots have an environmental justice focuses that influences all their work. For example, they increase food access by selling their food at Langley Park Farmers Market, which serves a low-income food desert, and by holding classes for the residents of that neighborhood to learn how to grow their own food.
They also organized this summer’s Sowing Seeds Here and Now conference (http://www.sowingseedshereandnow.com/), the largest DC area gathering of “urban farmers, planners, healthy food advocates, food systems researchers and educators.” One of their other interesting facts was that they are entirely off the grid—they use only solar power at their farm.
We also had Jacob Seigel, a recent graduate from Washington University at St. Louis, speak about his experiences at a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm in Connecticut this summer where he made his own cheese, and his experience at Washington University’s on campus garden The Burning Kumquat.
As one of the leaders of Georgetown Community Garden, I was really inspired by The Burning Kumquat’s founders. They sold some of their food to the school cafeteria (and I learned from Christopher and Christian that UMD has a rooftop garden that supplies some cafeteria food!) and they ran a summer camp where local schoolchildren learned how to garden and about where their food comes from. Jacob has access to the inventive curriculum used at the camp if anyone is interested in seeing it.
I think the students who came to this event really got to engage with these speakers, and we all got inspired about our own potential for getting involved in urban agriculture, which is a huge piece of the sustainable agriculture/ local food/ equitable food distribution/ environmental justice movement.
If anyone is interested in getting involved with the Georgetown Community Garden or getting in touch with our speakers, email me at mara.schechter_at_gmail.com!