Thursday, August 20, 2015

East Capitol Urban Farm Coming Soon to Ward 7

East Capitol Urban Farm Project: A UDC Partnership Effort


With only four full-service grocery stores in Ward 7 (Ward 3, by comparison, has 11), many of the
Ward’s 71,000 residents do not have easy access to healthy food. Additionally, a 2012 study found
that as many as 17,000 people were eating and sharing fish which may contain chemical contaminants above recommended health levels caught from the nearby Anacostia River—many because they are hungry.


To help address these and other challenges, in 2015, the University of the District of Columbia’s
College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (UDC) partnered with
the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) to lease a vacant three acre lot (located at 5900 East Capitol
Street SE, Washington, DC) to transform the parcel into the District’s largest-scale urban farm and
aquaponics facility—East Capitol Urban Farm.

The challenge and opportunity for partners is to develop this farm as a model for temporary use
of vacant lots while demonstrating on-site stormwater management and local food production.
The East Capitol Urban Farm is being established in collaboration with the Urban Waters Federal
Urban Waters Federal Partnership—14 federal agencies working collectively to address environmental and economic challenges in cities across the country in underserved communities. The East Capitol Farm is one of a network of urban farms UDC and its partners will develop.

Through community engagement and partnering with many local and federal agencies as well as
public and private organizations, the concept for the farm grew in scope and size to become a
multi-functional community asset, inclusive of the following features and characteristics: urban
farming with a special emphasis on diverse, biointensive, niche crops, a farmers market, food truck,
public art, nature discovery space for kids, a community garden, pollinator gardens, interpretive
trails, rain gardens and other environmental practices.

East Capitol Urban Farm will promote urban agriculture, improve food access and nutrition through
a community-centered farmers market, offer nutrition education, provide community gardening,
create opportunities for entrepreneurship, and include a research and demonstration site for UDC.
Groundwork Anacostia River DC will lead efforts to engage Ward 7 youth at the Farm throughout
the year, and there will be arts and educational programming for local schools, residents, and UDC
students, with support from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.


As planning for East Capitol Urban Farm advances, the excitement continues to build. the excitement
continues to build. DCHA, who owns the land, will provide water and electrical connections. UDC willoperate and maintain East Capitol Urban Farm. UDC, through an award from the Department of
Energy & Environment’s (DOEE) Sustainable DC’s Innovation Challenge Fund, has also committed
to build an aquaponics facility, a “win-win” food production system where fish provide plants with
nutrients to grow and plants act as a bio-filter to purify the water for fish.

Earlier this year, the DC Building Industry Association (DCBIA), the premier non-profit trade association representing over 450 member companies and thousands of real estate development industry professionals, joined the effort by providing design and construction expertise and materials.

Beginning at 7:30 am on Saturday, September 26, 2015, hundreds of DCBIA members and community volunteers will build the Farm on DCBIA’s 23rd Annual Community Improvement Day.
American Forests (the nation’s first conservation organization devoted to protecting and restoring
urban and wildland forests) and Bradley Site Design (a DCBIA member and locally prominent
consulting firm) are contributing trees, urban wood waste and bio-retention resources. They will also
evaluate the farm’s social, economic and ecological impacts.

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities is working with an artist to develop a place-making
sculpture and three murals that will be completed on Community Improvement Day. The artwork will
convey environmental themes such as managing stormwater pollution and urban sustainability.

The Metropolitan National Church is establishing the community garden zone of the site and will
provide stipends to employ students who will work year-round. Groundwork Anacostia River DC
has been and will continue to provide its youth Green Teams to help with developing and maintaining
the site.

Select agencies of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership—the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish
and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and
the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry—are contributing funding, soil, and other

Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, and the Walmart Foundation have committed funding toward
the project as part of its Healthy Foods Initiative, launched in 2011 with First Lady Michelle Obama.


The project’s vision goes beyond the East Capitol Urban Farm. With the temporary nature of the
initial site in mind, UDC and partners plan to use innovative technologies to build raised beds and
portable aquaponics/fish tank facilities. UDC has mapped the District’s underused properties to
ensure a continued viable future, if moved to another site.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Dwane Jones
College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES)
University of the District of Columbia

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