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.

Monday, June 23, 2014

UDC Nursing FAQ

The University of the District of Columbia offers several nursing programs, but do you know what they are? The nursing career ladder includes the following five programs: 
  1. Through the Nursing Assistant program, students can become Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). This program is taught through the UDC Community College Workforce Development program at the Bertie Backus Campus, located at 5701 South Dakota Avenue, NE, Washington, DC 20017. Call (202) 274-6950 or visit the website.
  2. The Practical Nursing program for students to become Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) is part of the UDC Workforce Development program, also in the same location at the Bertie Backus campus. Call (202) 274-6950 or visit the website.

  3. The Associate in Applied Science in Nursing (AASN) undergraduate degree allows generic pre-licensure for non-licensed students to become Registered Nurses (RN). This program is also taught at the Community College in Building 52 at 801 North Capitol Street, NE | Washington, DC 20002. Call (202) 274-5940 for more information or visit the AASN website.

  4. The Associate in Applied Science in Nursing is for Licensed Practical Nurses to complete their associate degree (LPN to AASN-RN). This program is also offered in Building 52 at the UDC Community College. Call (202) 274-5940 for more information.

  5. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is for Registered Nurses to complete the undergraduate baccalaureate degree (RN to BSN or RN-BSN). This program is offered through the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences at the Van Ness campus. Dr. Pier Broadnax, director, can be reached at (202) 274-5916 or at Click here for more information.

CAUSES TV: Student's Speak On the Environment

The topic of this episode is the environment. The air we breathe, the water we drink and the food we eat are our life support systems. Without a healthy and clean environment, we humans cannot exist. The environment is a tremendously complex system. What cleans the air? What replenishes clean water? What make food actually grow? These questions are complicated matters and require much investigating and prodding.

The questions surrounding our environment are a big focus for CAUSES and a growing number of young people, including Kelli Webster and Doug Loesch. Watch as they discuss these issues and more with Dr. Sabine O'Hara.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Muirkirk Farm makes the Washington Post!

Muirkirk Research Farm has been featured in the Washington Post in the article "UDC’s research farm embraces multiple missions: grow, teach and discover." The article also spotlights our partnership with the Hay-Adams Hotel, featured last year in Just CAUSES. Here's an excerpt:

The farm grows apples, Asian pears and tiny crimson strawberries as sweet as truffles, but few outside the neediest Washingtonians will ever eat the fruit. The farm grows waterleaf, garden eggs and peppers as hot as glowing charcoal, but you won’t find the West African and Caribbean produce at farmers markets in the District. And the farm grows greenhouse microgreens, but the fragrant little leaves grace the plates of only one D.C. restaurant.
Muirkirk Research Farm clearly isn’t hung up on sales. It has an altogether different mission.
Located in Beltsville, miles from the University of the District of Columbia’s Van Ness campus, the 143-acre Muirkirk is part of UDC’s relatively new College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES). The college’s dean, Sabine O’Hara, decided it was time for the farm itself to grow: Muirkirk needed to expand beyond its community outreach work, like training master gardeners, and move into research and academics.
Continue reading for a link to the full article!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Healthy Recipes: Asparagus Soup, Tomato Asparagus Salad and Watermelon Salad

Need cooking ideas for summer produce? Here are three more healthy recipes, courtesy of Chef Herb Holden of the CAUSES Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health: 

Keep reading for the tomato asparagus salad and watermelon salad recipes! 

Monday, June 16, 2014

UDC Celebrates National Pollinator Week

The SEED School, Washington, D.C.
June 16-22, 2014 is “National Pollinator Week.” Designated by the U.S. Senate in 2007, “National Pollinator Week” raises bee health awareness by addressing the decline of pollinator populations, which include bees, butterflies, bats and beetles. These pollinating animals support terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed and more.

Honey bees play an important part in our agricultural ecosystem. According to the USDA, one-third of our daily diet comes from honey bee pollinated crops. Pollen is transported by honey bees, allowing plants to produce fruits, vegetables and seeds. Despite their critical role, these pollinators are being increasingly threatened by extreme weather, parasites and disease, and reductions in forage areas. Surveys of honey bee colonies as measured since 2006 have shown average winter losses of nearly 30 percent. Of particular concern is the impact of the invasive parasite, the Varroa mite, which the USDA considers “the single most detrimental pest of honey bees” and the one factor most closely associated with colony decline.  

Encouragingly, urban beekeeping is gaining in popularity, especially in Washington, D.C., with even the White House cultivating its own colonies. Honey bees thrive in pollinator patches, which offer bees blooming opportunities and a variety of flowers to support different bee species, increasing pollinator diversity. In partnership with The SEED School, the University of the District of Columbia Master Gardener Program will celebrate planting a pollinator garden as part of the Bayer Bee Care Program.

 “Pollinator forage is essential to the health of honey bees,” explained Sandra Farber, coordinator of the University of the District of Columbia Master Gardener Program. “We are delighted to partner with Bayer CropScience and come together with students and industry stakeholders to design and plant a garden to support pollinator health.”

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Free Urban Ag/Design Workshop at DC Housing Expo 6/21

Join us on Sat., June 21 at the 6th Annual DC Housing Expo, held at the Washington Convention Center. CAUSES Dean Sabine O' Hara will be teaching a one hour workshop Urban Design for Urban Agriculture at 10:30 a.m. So if you have an interest in agriculture, sustainable design, urban planning or the like, then please join us! 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

CAUSES TV: From Germany to DC: The Role of Arts in Society

Quality of life is a very broad concept, encompassing everything from economic opportunity to clean water. But arts and culture play a significant role in giving quality to life and making our cities more livable. In fact, arts and culture are crucial to the process of urban development. 

Joining CAUSES Dean Sabine O'Hara are Dr. Wilfried Eckstein and Ursula Seiler-Albring Dr. Eckstein is the executive director of the Goethe Institute Washington and Ms. Seiler-Albring, president of IFA, the Institute of Foreign Cultural Relations, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany. Together, they discuss the role of arts in society. 

My Cautious 180 Degree Turn-Around on UDC (A neighbor's perspective)

Reprinted with permission from Forest Hills Connection

My Cautious 180 Degree Turn-Around on UDC

by Carol F. Stoel

I’ve lived in the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) neighborhood for years and often felt frustrated by the lack of visible student activity and the dearth of information about UDC’s activities. But in the last few months I have had the luxury of time to learn more about happenings at UDC, and I am impressed by the energy and purpose that I found.

I’ve met with some UDC folks, scoured UDC’s web site, looked up leads, and found bits of news in the local press (i.e. Forest Hills Connection) that are both exciting and daunting. Here are just a few interesting things I’ve learned.
My first finding is that I shouldn’t take the lack of UDC news personally. The press rarely covers UDC in spite of it being the city’s only public university. I know from my recent research that there’s lots of news that would be of interest and could have some significant bearing on our lives. There’s a lot going on!
My second finding is that certain parts of the university are developing real strengths. With outstanding programs, new leadership, and exciting synergies across different parts of the university and with the goal of meshing UDC’s programs with the goals of the city for urban sustainability, improved health and nutrition, and economic development. There is an explicit strategic focus that inspires hope in the heart of at least one cautious optimist.
In fact, UDC recently won three Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge grants, totaling $921,000. They are to be used for;
1. Building three aquaponics facilities in neighborhoods;
2. Building a commercial kitchen facility and food truck to promote nutrition and entrepreneurship, and
3. Creating a native plants nursery for combating invasive plants and restoring native habitats.
These three examples happen to be occurring under the auspices of my third discovery, the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Studies (CAUSES) and its highly regarded global leader, Dean Sabine O’Hara. It’s in this college that many of the important mandates of land-grant universities, of which UDC is one, are pursued. Each state in the Union has at least one land-grant university, and when UDC was founded in 1977, it was designated DC’s land grant university, given a small endowment, and it became eligible for all types of federal support for land-grant universities. These opportunities are mostly meted out through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and support the university’s commitment to the three pillars of land grant universities throughout the U.S.: Research of a practical nature, teaching and service. These three pillars shape the dean’s vision for CAUSES.
Dean O’Hara, an environmental economist, brings a distinguished research and administration background to the college. This year, in addition to being the dean, she serves as the president-elect of the International Society for Ecological Economists, and prior to joining UDC she was the president of Randolph College and vice president of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) that administers the State Department’s Fulbright Scholars program.
Sustainability is the organizing theme of the five centers in the college, with each having an academic and land grant focus. They include the Center for Sustainable Development, with a focus on green entrepreneurship and green infrastructure; the Architecture Research Institute, which partners with the Department of Urban Architecture and focuses on urban issues of design, rehabilitation, and transportation; the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health; the Center for Urban 4-H and Youth Development, and the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education, coupled with health education and public health academic programs.