Friday, July 25, 2014

Interview with ANC Commissioner Kent Slowinski

Kent Slowinski is the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 3D01, representing Wesley Heights in Ward 3 of Northwest , D.C. He is also cofounder of the Environmental Health Group, a nonprofit educational organization to encourage sustainability and a more thorough cleanup of contaminated sites. He recently visited Muirkirk Farm for the summer ANC Open House.
Kent Slowinski (far right) viewing one Muirkirk's vegetable boxes.
Photo by Ed Jones, UDC-TV.

If this was your first trip to the UDC Farm, did you have and preconceived notions about the farm? 

No. I've been to the farm several times. The last time was to help build one of the greenhouses/high tunnels with Will Allen and a group of volunteers. I was looking forward to seeing how the high tunnel was being used and how things have changed. There have been many changes - several new greenhouses and many volunteers. 

CAUSES Alum Interns in Mayor’s District Leadership Program

By Arielle Gerstein

Jennifer Dixon Cravens, who completed her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics at UDC, is currently participating in the Mayor’s District Leadership Program. This internship program allows undergraduate and graduate students to gain professional experience in the District government as well as attend lectures and brown bags about topics such as leadership and customer service. Ms. Dixon Cravens was selected for the Mayor’s Leadership Program (DLP) in the fall of 2013, and Summer 2014.

Jennifer (middle) graduating from the internship program. Pictured to the left with
DC Department of Human Resources, Director Shawn Stokes.
Her first assignment was in the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Health and Human Services a 9 month position. The second internship is with the District of Columbia Department of Health/Community Health Administration in the Nutrition and Physical Fitness Bureau. During her internship with the Department of Health, she assists Public Health Nutritionist, Public Health Advisors, and the Community Health Administration (CHA) Bureau Chief with designing and developing, implementing and evaluating nutrition services for DC residents. She is also helping to edit, update, and evaluate SNAP-ED and WIC State Plans. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CAUSES TV: New Heights Teen Nutrition Program

Developing healthy eating habits is essential to experiencing a quality of life. One of the strategies we use at CAUSES is working with our public and charter schools and one of our most successful partnerships is with Anacostia Senior High School in Ward 8 where our CAUSES' Center of Nutrition Diet and Health collaborates to teach students how to prepare healthy meals. 

In this episode of CAUSES TV, Dean O'Hara disscusses the partnership and the elements of the program with Michelle Victoria Bellard, program coordinator for the New Heights Teen Parents program, Ciatta Savoy, New Heights Program Analyst and Chef Tyrome Henson from the CAUSES Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health.

Learn more about CNDH

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Free Soil Testing for DC Residents!

The Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory of the University of the District of Columbia is  providing one-time, free soil quality testing for D.C. residents and gardeners. The service will be offered on a first come, first served basis for a limited time throughout July and August as part of a USDA-grant, funded to analyze soil samples in home and community gardens around D.C. Apply here.

Urban agriculture is increasingly becoming a way of life for city residents; therefore, it is important to test the soil quality of your garden for three main reasons. First, soil can contain contaminants that pose risk to human health. Second, we may not have enough information about the level of contamination in our soil. Finally, testing our soil give us valuable information to improve your garden and promote healthy soil.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Donate Bikes to 4-H!

The Riverside Healthy Living Center 4-H Club has unveiled the new “Earn a Bike” program. This program will teach children ages 10-14 and who live in the District's Ward 7, basic bike maintenance skills and to promote safe, regular cycling in their own urban neighborhoods. “Earn a Bike” is soliciting the donation of gently used bicycles of any size or type, such as mountain, road, hybrid, cross or cruiser that are in fair or better condition.

Partnering with local agencies, club members will meet twice a week to learn basic bicycle maintenance skills and working up to more complex concepts to keeping their bikes in good form. In addition to learning the mechanics of bicycles, the club also offers several sessions that teach bike safety in urban areas.

In addition to unwanted bikes, the program is also in need of bike tools and supplies, and is seeking the following items for Bike Club graduates: 
  • Seat bags
  • Patch kits
  • Multi tools
  • Mini pumps
  • Bike locks
  • Biking gloves
  • Rain jackets
  • Velcro leg bands
  • Water bottles & bottle cages
  • New mountain bike tires and tire sealant
  • Bike repair stands and tools

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CAUSES TV: Ethnic Crops and Invasive Plants

In this episode of CAUSES TV, Dean O'Hara is joined by two members of the CAUSES team: Mary Farrah and Yao Afantchao. Mary, who specializes in urban forestry native flora, and Yao, our ethnic crop specialist, are part of the community education program for the CAUSES Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. 

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Here's what's been happening Around CAUSES!
  • Ycov Assa joins WRRI as a lab tech.
  • Architecture major Theo Willhite works with the National Youth Leadership Forum this summer.
  • "My Cautious 180 Degree Turn-Around on UDC" in the Forest Hills Connection

CAUSES extends a big welcome to Mr. Ycov Assa, who is now serving as a technician in the 
Water Resources Research Institute's Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory. Mr. Assa has a masters degree in Soils and Biogeochemistry and extensive experience in soil  and soil water quality analysis. Mr. Assa has more than five years biogeochemistry and nutrient cycling experience. He previously worked at the Biogeochemistry and Nutrient Cycling lab in the University of California-Davis, US Geological Survey (USGS) in Sacramento, and as a Maryland Agricultural Research Station Technician. His expertise will help the lab meet its ultimate goal of becoming a NELAC-certified lab, which is the most prestigious lab certification in the nation. 

Going Native in your Garden

By Mary Farrah

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnata L.); Sally & Andy Wasowski. 
In the landscaping world, why are our native flora continually overlooked? And at what price?  The answer to that question requires a closer look at ecology on a local and even international scale. Our native flora provide breakfast, lunch and dinner, free room and board, and are the preferred tryst location of our native insects. 

Native insects!? Who cares about them? Not many of us I realize, as I gaze down the  overflowing aisles of colorfully-labeled insecticides made to annihilate every pest under the sun. 

So why is it a good thing to have native plants in our gardens that serve as bug motels? For several reasons, actually. Not only do native bees, moths, dragon flies, butterflies, flies and birds serve as pollinators, but they rely almost exclusively on our native flora for food. 

UDC Architecture Prof. Visits China

Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Architecture and Community Planning as well as the Principal of K. Dixon Architecture and President of the National Organization of Minority Architects recently returned from a 10-day trip to Southwestern China. Prof. Dixon was part of a delegation of architecture and planning professionals who visited Beijing, Shanghai and the Yunnan Province, to study housing and explore options for continuing engagement in sustainability initiatives in the region, which is experiencing dramatic and rapid economic, cultural, and development change with profound implications for local communities. View the itinerary

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

All About the UDC Muirkirk Research Farm

You've read about UDC's Muirkirk Research Farm many times throughout the Just CAUSES blog, but there is so much more to know! For starters, its formal name is the Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation Station and the overall goal is to research and test techniques in sustainable and organic agriculture, applying them to an urban agricultural setting.

The University of the District of Columbia is a landgrant institution, receiving its landgrant designation in 1967. As the nation’s only urban landgrant, UDC must marry the aspects of a traditional landgrant institution with an urban environment. As our Agricultural Experiment Station, Muirkirk Farm must address those issues unique to urban areas. This aligns closely with the mission of CAUSES, which embodies UDC’s land-grant tradition:

CAUSES offers research-based academic and community outreach programs that improve the quality of life and economic opportunity of people and communities on the District of Columbia, the nation and the world.

The Sustainable Agriculture Program focuses on techniques to increase productivity in smaller, urban land areas, while limiting the use of commercial chemical fertilizers and toxic chemicals for pest control which can have harmful effects on the environment and human health.

Muirkirk Farm provides some of the means for offering local and nutritious food to the residents of D.C., many of whom are low-income and live in food desserts without access to fresh produce. These residents are food insecure.

Muirkirk Farm: Specialty and Ethnic Crops

Two of the largest and most popular Muirkirk Farm programs is Specialty Crops, which began in 2013. As defined by the USDA, specialty crops are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops that are cultivated or managed and used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification to be considered specialty crops. They include: 

  • Collards
  • Hybrid Kale
  • Hybrid Pac Choi
  • Hybrid Patty Pan Squash
  • Hybrid Smooth Leaf Spinach
  • Mini Broccoli
  • Specialty Salad Greens
  • Swiss Chard
  • Red Romaine Lettuce
  • Mustard Greens
  • Bunching Onions
  • Arugula
  • Red Russian Kale
  • Baby Peppers
  • Asian Yard Long Bean
  • Spearmint

Muirkirk Farm: Solar Technology

By Arielle Gerstein

The Muirkirk Research Farm is currently experimenting with solar energy to access groundwater. The project is using solar energy to produce electricity to extract groundwater for food production uses. The groundwater is being stored in a cistern reservoir above ground to be used for agricultural purposes. The end goal of the project is to assess if using solar power is a sustainable method of extracting groundwater. 

This is an important experiment for the future of agricultural production because the use of fossil fuels is not sustainable and leads to further damage to the environment. These methods are in line with UDC’s push toward sustainable agriculture through hydroponics and aquaponics. This new method will allow the farm to irrigate and fertigate crops more efficiently and affordably.  

Experiment: Small Scale Rice Production

By Arielle Gerstein

According to Nazirahk Amen, ND, L.Ac. co-founder of Purple Mountain Organics, “Rice is the number one eaten crop in the world.” 

Rice production also creates the highest amount of methane even compared to cattle. Flooded rice patties in particular produce a lot of methane. Although the largest agricultural companies are starting to move away from flooding as a method of rice production, they are still flooding the fields. At Muirkirk Research Farm, Nazirahk and his team have planted dry land rice to test the feasibility of small-scale rice production that is more environmentally friendly.

The large-scale agriculture community still depends on genetically modified rice to produce large yields and Roundup to kill weeds. This is referred to a “Roundup Ready Rice.” Large-scale farmers spray the entire field with Roundup but because the rice is resistant to Roundup, only the weeds are killed.  

CAUSES Partners with Arcadia Mobile Market

By Arielle Gerstein

CAUSES and the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture have partnered to provide DC residents with two new mobile market locations at the St. Elizabeth’s Campus and Providence Hospital. These are now official UDC sites; ideally, Arcadia will establish the business environment and UDC will seek grant funding to later to establish a permanent presence at the locations.

These markets will run until September 30, 2014, and will focus on bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to some of DC’s most underserved residents who have little access to healthy food options. These markets also accept federal food assistance benefits and provide the public with cooking demonstrations so they feel comfortable purchasing unfamiliar ingredients.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Integrated Lincoln Heights Project a Success for CAUSES Students

Reprinted with permission from the Go Dutch Consortium.

On May 19 the first group of UDC students who did an integrated research project with Go Dutch presented their work titled “Raising the Heights” to representatives of the Deputy Mayors office for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and DC Housing Authority. They analyzed data on health, education, crime, housing, economics and nutrition and came up with an integrated approach to address the needs of people living in Lincoln Heights, an underserved neighborhood in Ward 7. Lincoln Heights is part of the New Communities Initiative, a District government program designed to revitalize severely distressed subsidized housing and redevelop neighborhoods.

In appreciation of their work, the University was offered to continue working with the stakeholders on the community planning and design process and were offered internships.

Go Dutch Consortium serves as Consulting Faculty to the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) at the University of the District of Columbia to conduct workshops by integrating academics, research, land-grant programs and Dutch expertise to originate comprehensive solutions to a case study proposed by DC Government (Lincoln Heights). The purpose of this initiative is for students, faculty, and Dutch experts to exchange knowledge and use sustainability (economics, equity, and environment) in an applied case study scenario.