DC Urban Greens: Cultivating urban agriculture in DC

 

 

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DC UrbanGreens, one of our newest grantees, looks at the current status of our nation’s food system and doesn’t see food equity. Grocery stores selling fresh foods don’t go into low-income neighborhoods because they can’t make as much money as they could elsewhere. Low-income residents get their food from neighborhood convenience stores selling chips & soda, or fast food restaurants. The abundance of processed foods creates a toxic combination of malnutrition and obesity in our children, impacting their ability to grow and learn.

Founded by Julie Kirkwood and Vincent Forte, DC UrbanGreens aims to make a difference by growing fresh food directly in the low-income neighborhoods that lack access to grocery stores or other means to affordable, healthy foods. By growing directly in these neighborhoods, DC UrbanGreens puts the neighborhood and community at the center of its own food production.

How it works

DC UrbanGreens specifically seeks out small pieces (1/2 acre or less) of under-utilized land. Low-tech, inexpensive, chemical free methods are then used to grow food in small spaces, close to the people that need it most. DC UrbanGreens’ first farm is located behind Fort Dupont Ice Arena at 3779 Ely Place, SE.

Through partnerships with existing food trucks and mobile markets, as well as direct sales from the farm, DC UrbanGreens’ goal is to sell their produce, at affordable prices, directly into the food desert neighborhoods in which it is grown. They are specifically working in Wards 7 & 8, east of the Anacostia River, in the District of Columbia – most of which is defined by the USDA Food Research Atlas as a food desert.

photo_med_hrNot a typical garden

Many cities have community gardens. DC UrbanGreens is not that. Some have urban farms. DC UrbanGreens is not really that either. They are innovative in that they are taking a decentralized approach to farming. They are infiltrating food desert neighborhoods with productively farmed small plots that can grow a substantial amount of food. The community is included in their own welfare through volunteer opportunities, mentoring-to-employment opportunities and hands-on food growing education. The landowners that allow use of their space prove that they too are stakeholders in the community and want to be part of the solution. Though they may never grow enough food to compete with industrialized agribusiness, DC UrbanGreens will grow enough food to make a difference in the lives of those they serve.

Julie Kirkwood’s (CEO) passion and vision for DC Urban Greens stems from, “The concept that access to healthy, whole foods will positively impact a child’s ability to grow and learn.” Her background in engineering and commercial construction provides her with the necessary expertise to find creative solutions to challenges and work through them in an efficient and logical manner.

Growing impact

In February 2013, Mayor Vincent Gray published his “Vision for a Sustainable DC”. In that plan, he established a food goal for 2032 stating, “Grow a food culture around providing equal food access, ensuring the longevity of urban agriculture, and bringing locally grown food within a quarter mile of 75% of the population.” With a plan of having a total of ½-1 acre (20,000-40,000 square feet) of growing space in production by 2015, DC UrbanGreens is well on its way to ensuring that the District of Columbia achieves this goal.

Visit our website to learn more about how we support innovative community programs and explore opportunities to get involved.

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