Monday, June 29, 2015

Green roof featured in USDA Week in Review!

Dr. Catherine Woteki, USDA Under Secretary for USDA Research, Education, and Economics, visited the UDC green roof on Friday, June 12. That visit is captured in the USDA Week in Review for the week of June 19.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Spike Mendelsohn Visits UDC Food Hub and Farm

On Monday, June 22, CAUSES played host to Spike Mendelsohn, the recently appointed Chair of the DC Food Policy Council. A former Top Chef contestant--and the "bad boy" of his season (but not in real life, mind you)--Spike now owns six restaurants in the DC area, and nine restaurants total in Philadelphia and Chicago, and recently opened the first of two locations in Saudi Arabia.

As chair of the DC Food Policy Council, the restaurateur is tasked with addressing food access/security across the city, with an emphasis on advancing DC's burgeoning local food movement. The Food Policy Council was established by Mayor Muriel Bowser to promote food sustainability, nutrition education, the District's local food economy and of course, urban agriculture (which we know a thing or two about). Mendelsohn was appointed by Mayor Bowser in early 2015.

Spike and his business partner Vinoda Basnayake, got a firsthand tour of the Ward 3 UDC 
Urban Food Hub, which included a tour of the recently completed green roof, the almost completed teaching and demonstration kitchen, the Environmental Quality Testing Lab (all on the Van Ness campus) and of course, the hub anchor, our research farm in Beltsville, Maryland. 

"This has been eyeopening and inspiring," Mendelsohn commented. 

CAUSES could not ask for a better ally. We look forward to working with Chef Spike in the future!

Touring the food-bearing green roof.
Talking shop with Urban Ag Director Che Axum and Dean O'Hara.
Spike picks carrots for use at Restaurant Bernaise.
Peering into one of the aquaponic tanks.
Additional photos of Chef Spike's visit are available on our Facebook page!

Volunteers help support UDC's sensory gardens

On Friday, June 19, several CAUSES staffers and community volunteers came out to tend to the UDC Garden of the Senses. Thanks to a grant from the Verizon Foundation, the gardens were first created to represent the senses of vision, smell and touch. 

Several Ward 3 community volunteers worked alongside CAUSES staff to give the gardens a little TLC after 2015's extended winter. Two of those volunteers, Mary Beth Tinker and Keshini Ladduwahetty, shared their thoughts on the community service gardening project.

"Projects like these are absolutely critical for UDC and CAUSES because we are at a turning point in this country and in this city in terms of developing urban agriculture. It's a huge part of the whole sustainability movement and there is no other institution that can do it except for the landgrant university, explained 
Ladduwahetty. "The fact that we have it right here and are lucky enough to live in the neighborhood is just excellent!"
Mary Beth Tinker and Kesh Ladduwahetty building a trellis for the blackberries.

Wards 7 and 8 Healthy Cooking Dates Announced

(Click to enlarge)

Around CAUSES June 2015

Here's what's been happening around CAUSES:

CAUSES has recently implemented an internal CSA! Using produce grown at the farm (and soon from our new green roof), participants in the Community Supported Agriculture program receive a weekly bag of produce until Dec. 3. The pilot project serves to demonstrate the viable income potential which the farm can generate. Above, Che Axum and Dean O'Hara inaugurate the first delivery on June 11, 2015. 

CAUSES will be exhibiting at the Annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival on July 11, 2015. The free environmental and cultural festival will include traditional fashion, music and dance exhibitions, arts and crafts, native wildlife, nature hikes and more. 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, 1500 Anacostia Ave., NE DC, 20019.

SNAP Education in the District of Columbia

By Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord

SNAP-Ed nutrition educator, Chef Herb Holden, teaches students about growing food at the UDC Research Farm.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) at the District of Columbia provides education programs, behavior-change initiatives, and social marketing campaigns designed for individuals receiving or eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP-Ed programs seek to increase healthy food and active lifestyle choices among District residents. The University of the District of Columbia implements the SNAP-Ed program throughout the District through the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH), a landgrant program housed under the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES).

CNDH conducts programs with a variety of age groups, going to daycare centers and schools, health fairs and gerontology programs. Each month, different topics are covered that introduce participants to healthy food using all the senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch.  Using the senses method and instilling an understanding of where food comes from, youth participants will more likely want to eat it again.

In one example, students from Seaton Elementary School’s Garden Program celebrated the end of the year with a Make Your Own Salad party. This fun event was suggested by one of the program’s enthusiastic participants and enjoyed by all.  Having attended weekly nutrition education and food demonstrations since February, the students were excited to share their knowledge of fruits and vegetables.

Institute of Gerontology Update

Time to catch up with the Institute of Gerontology (IOG):

  •   On May 4, 2015, IOG implemented a new Low Impact Aerobics class on Mondays from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. at Arthur Capper Senior Center located at 900 5th Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003.  As of On June 23, 2015, a new movement and chair class is now being offered on Tuesdays from 10:00 a.m. -11:00 a.m. at Roundtree Senior Living Facility located at 2515 Alabama Ave., SE. Washington, DC 20020. 
  • The Senior Companion Program held a four days orientation for seven new senior volunteers.  Upon Completion of the orientation, Senior Volunteers received a certificate.  Congratulations to: Beatrice Small, Doris Fairell, Mary Cypress, Carolyn Potter, Denise Smith, Lorraine Watts and Willie Decoster, Jr., and welcome to the family!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

CAUSES partners with Plants Map to tag green spaces

Have you heard of Plants Map? Launched in early 2014, it's an online community for those interested in gardens and green spaces. CAUSES has partnered with Plants Map to identify plants, herbs and vegetables found in our Garden of the Senses, on our research farm, and on our new green roof.  

Plants Map helps us to organize and map our ever expanding greenery, tagging our green inventory with QR codes. Short for Quick Response Code, a QR code, is used for storing information that can be accessed using a smartphone. In this case, the information is linked to, an online community for plants and gardens.  

While you can always visit CAUSES on Plants Map, we suggest downloading a QR code reader to your smartphone for when you are visiting us at the farm, garden or green roof, to take advantage of interactive learning. Once you've opened the scanner tool, scan the code found on the identification marker. You will then be taken to the applicable webpage on the Plants Map website.

We are still in the early stages of adding additional details and background information to our Plants Map albums, so keep checking back for more information!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Che Axum on Kojo Nmandi Show

Our research farm and landgrant programming have been making the rounds lately, as you may know. Earlier this month, CAUSES Director of Urban Agriculture, Che Axum, appeared alongside journalist Whitney Pimpkin on the Kojo Nnamdi Show. 

Whitney authored the recent UDC farm feature on "Urban Farmers Say It's Time They Got Their Own Research Farms." Produced on local NPR station WAMU 88.5, the Kojo Nnamdi Show is a daily two-hour magazine program highlighting news, political issues and social trends of the day. Being featured on the program--which is a legendary and trusted resource for the Greater DC Metro Area--is an accomplishment and honor for CAUSES.

Listen to the June 10, 2015, appearance here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

National Pollinator Week 2015

It's National Pollinator Week, and our friends at Bayer Bee Care want to share some facts about honey bees. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

USDA visits our Research Farm!

Reprinted with permission from the USDA.

By Ann Bartuska, Ph.D., Deputy Undersecretary, Research, Education, and Economics, USDA
This year I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of urban agriculture operations. From California to Cleveland, the ability of individuals to realize the multidimensional benefits of agricultural production and leverage them in an urban context has been nothing short of amazing.

Photo caption: Dr. Ellen Harris, Director of the Beltsville Agricultural
Center observing the hydroponics research  at the neighboring Muirkirk  Agricultural Experiment Station
This past week I visited a University that is heavily involved in both the research and extension aspect of urban agriculture — right in the backyard of the Department’s Washington, D.C. headquarters. The University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) Muirkirk Agricultural Experimentation is located about 20 minutes north of the school’s D.C. campus. Upon arrival I found everything from activists passionate about learning how to best provide their neighbors with fresh produce, to researchers developing improved hydroponics systems; and even students working with community organizations on rice varieties suitable to be grown in urban areas.

At the Van Ness campus in D.C., it was clear that from an agricultural perspective, the University has fully embraced its uniqueness as an entirely urban land grant University. For example, while many discussions of urban agriculture have taken place in the context of revitalizing and reclaiming urban areas on the decline, UDC describes its orientation as more “global.” The activities here have been framed by competition for already crowded space as opposed to a solution to urban decay. This has translated into an 18,000 square ft. research garden, designed to optimize rainwater harvesting, and located on a rooftop within earshot of busy Connecticut Avenue.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

CAUSES TV: Aquaponic & Hydroponic Research

On this edition of CAUSES TV, you will learn about two very important research projects and technologies that will change food is production around the world; hydroponics and aquaponics. Hydroponics is a technique of growing vegetables in water (instead of soil), and with hydroponics, vegetables and fish are raised/grown in a closed loop system.

Dean O'Hara interviews Tom Kakovitch, creator of the Flovex water aeration system (and 26 other patents). He also recently retired from UDC after 43 years. She also interviews Peter James, director of First Food Farms in Germantown, Maryland, where he develops robotics and renewal energy systems to make urban farming economically viable.