Wednesday, September 30, 2015

East Capitol Urban Farm - DCBIA Community Build Day a Success!

On Saturday, September 26, 2015, over 1,000 volunteers united to build the East Capitol Urban Farm – a model for temporary use of vacant lots – as part of the District of Columbia Building Industry Association's (DCBIA) 23rd Annual Community Improvement Day. The project is a partnership effort that includes DCBIA, Urban Waters Federal Partnership, American Forests (a non-profit organization), the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Sustainable DC, Department of Energy & Environment, the DC Housing Authority and other District government agencies. 

The transformed, three-acre parcel of land is the largest of its type in DC and will provide Ward 7 residents with an Urban Food Hub that includes: (1) food production; (2) food preparation; (3) food distribution; and (4) water management; and targeted community education programs. Features of the farm (food hub) include community gardening space, a demonstration area, exercise trails, a nature discovery area for children, public art, rain and pollinator gardens, a market place and later this fall, an aquaponics facility. The farm is located at 5900 East Capitol St. SE DC. 

We would like to thank the District of Columbia Building Industry Association and members: 
Forest City Washington, Hines, HITT Contracting, and Property Group Partners, Balfour Beatty Construction, Clark Construction, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, Fort Lincoln New Town Corp., Grunley Construction, JLL, Quadrangle Development, WC Smith, Cunningham Quill Architects, David M. Schwarz Architects, HOK, RTKL Associates, SmithGroupJJR, Corenic Construction, DAVIS Construction, Gilbane, Langan Engineering, LendLease, Monarc Construction, Turner Construction and many others, including select agencies of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership including 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. 

Additional thanks to the Walmart Foundation, who provided $40,000 towards maintenance of the farm and aquaponics facility. Finally, thank you to the hundreds of volunteers for your time.

A second opportunity for the community to put the finishing touches on the site will be held on October 17, 2015, so stay tuned for details! Additional photos from the DCBIA Community Improvement Day are available on our Facebook page

Join us on Oct. 14 for Ag Is America Twitter Town Hall

On Wednesday, October 14, from 10:30-11:00 a.m., Ag Is America will be hosting a Twitter Town Hall in conjunction with the University of the District of Columbia, Kansas State University, North Dakota State University, and Southern University’s Ag Center. Each university will be honored at the upcoming 2015 National Extension Directors and Administrators (NEDA) and Cooperative Extension Section Annual Business Meeting this October in St. Louis for their innovation and leadership in their communities. 

The Urban Food Hub concept consists of: food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and wastewater management to address food insecurity. As the world’s population increases and cities, in particular, continue to grow in size, we must meet the food and water security needs of urban populations. Urban Food Hubs are now being implemented across the 8 Wards of the District of Columbia, including the newly built East Capitol Urban Farm in Ward 7. The original peer-reviewed Urban Food Hubs research article, authored by CAUSES Dean Sabine O'Hara, was published in Solutions Journal.   

A Twitter Town Hall, like a public meeting or seminar, gives participants an opportunity to engage in a Q&A session over Twitter - a digital public forum. Research and Extension specialists from the four universities will be responding to your questions as they come in. The town hall will occur from 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. ET. The easiest way to participate is to tweet a question to @AGisAmerica and include the hashtag #AGisChat in your tweet. We will begin answering questions starting promptly at 10:30 a.m. ET. Submit your questions here! 

Research and extension experts from each institution will answer questions about youth development, drones, health, nutrition, urban agriculture, and more. You don't want to miss it!

UDC SNAP-Ed Provides Nutrition Education at Community Health Screening

UDC SNAP-Ed Provides Nutrition Education at the Congressional Black Caucus Community Health Screening Clinic

On Thursday, September 17, 2015, UDC SNAP-Ed was among the region’s leading health care providers and organizations serving District residents at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.  The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Health Braintrust in collaboration with Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and  Robin Kelly, Ph.D. (D-IL) hosted the inaugural health screening clinic.  

The focus of this free clinic was to “end disparities in health care by performing outreach and connecting to underserved communities with more access to quality, preventative health care in their area,” according to the events’ press release. Residents received free screenings, support services and information by health professionals spanning various disciplines in the health care field. 

4-H Update

Youth from the DC 4-H Club participated in the USDA  Farmers Market Back to School Night on September 15, 2015, where they had the opportunity to educate market shoppers about the programs and activities available through the District's 4-H program, which is managed by the UDC CAUSES Center for 4-H and Youth Development. 

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has managed the weekly daytime USDA Farmers Market in Southwest Washington, D.C. for 20 years. However, this year, the USDA Farmers Market team is experimenting with a series of night markets on the third Friday of the month from May through October. 

Around CAUSES September 2015

Here's what's been happening around CAUSES!
  • Paige Zaitlin Joins CAUSES
  • CAUSES featured in the Northwest Current
  • Institute of Gerontology participates in AARP Day of Service
  • CAUSES exhibits at DC State Fair
  • Smithsonian Foods in the Garden

Paige Zaitlin Joins CAUSES
Paige Zaitlin has joined CAUSES as a project specialist with the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), in the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health. Paige is a Registered Dietitian and a Licensed Nutritionist in the District of Columbia, and holds a BS degree in Nutritional Science from Cornell University. She obtained her MS degree in Nutrition from Tufts University, where she also completed her dietetic internship. She has experience working at WIC at Mary’s Center, a nonprofit in DC; and at a skilled nursing facility in Hyattsville, Maryland. She served in the Peace Corps in Uganda, East Africa, in 2013, where she worked on a grant to bring a sustainable water supply to her village. Paige enjoys working with diverse populations and is particularly interested in nutrition programs focusing on meeting the needs of low income people in the District. 

CAUSES featured in the Northwest Current
In addition to two features in the Washington Post, CAUSES also made an appearance in the Northwest Current: "At the University of the District of Columbia’s research farm in Beltsville, Md., farmers are putting the facility’s formal name — the Muirkirk Agricultural Experiment Station — into action to help improve food security in the District and around the world." How's that for a lede?  Visit page 16 of the Sept. 9 edition of the Northwest Current to read the full article!

Student Opportunities

CAUSES needs student research volunteers!
CAUSES is seeking student volunteers for a research project. The project on economic development involves members of the DC community conducting focus groups on the five pillars of economic development. This is important research for us to learn more about the quality of life for our DC residents in indicators such as health, education, social and cultural amenities, environment and recreation, and information and transportation access. Volunteers will serve as notetakers. Good notetaking is an important part of the focus group analysis and we will be training you on this task. This will be a great experience for you to experience hands-on qualitative research methods. 

The focus group dates are October 17 and November 7, 2015, and will be conducted in the Deanwood and Congress Heights neighborhoods from 8:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. UDC students only. Contact Arielle Gerstein for more information or to volunteer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In the field with the Architectural Research Institute

You do not have to look far to see that many areas of DC are being transformed. But did you know that UDC Architectural Research Institute plays an instrumental role in those transformations redeveloping abandoned properties around the District?  In a collaboration that has lasted more than 20 years, ARI, under the leadership of Distinguished Professor Clarence Pearson, was founded through a partnership between the University of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Homestead Preservation Program (now the Property Acquisition Disposition Division (PADD)). This collaboration provides comprehensive architectural services allowing for the reclamation of the city’s vacant, boarded and run down housing, rehabilitating them for low- and middle- income residents, and thus, giving them the opportunity to become homeowners.

PADD acquires and disposes of vacant and abandoned properties, with a goal of offering excellent construction, design and architecture to mixed-income development units while maximizing long-term affordability across income levels. Under PADD, ARI develops full projects from the ground up. ARI is currently tracking 25 properties, but has tracked as many as 60 projects in a single year. Each ARI analyst has an allotment of multiple properties they must visit, inspect and file reports for. On a sunny August day, Mr. Leroy Palmer, Construction Analyst, Architecture & Urban Design, ARI, explained the program in detail and gave a tour of three residential PADD construction sites in his allotment.

UDC Research Farm on display at HarvestFest 2015!

The Second Annual CAUSES HarvestFest brought together UDC staff, students, administration, the Institute of Gerontology and friends of CAUSES for an afternoon of food and fun! For the past three years, Muirkirk Farm has developed into an Experiment Station for small-scale urban and peri-urban agriculture. The farm also serves as a training facility to build food systems capacity in underserved urban neighborhoods.

CAUSES Dean Sabine O'Hara, Associate Dean William Hare and Director of Urban Agriculture, Che Axum, served  as tour leaders for the event which saw over 100 visitors on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015. Chef Herb and Chef T from the Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health cooked onsite, providing refreshments using produce grown on the farm. 

Water Resources Research Institute seeking RFPs to address local water problems

DC Water Resources Research Institute (DCWRRI) Request for FY2016 Proposals

The Water Resources Research Institute at the University of the District of Columbia (DCWRRI) is accepting proposals under the Water Resources Research Act, Section 104 (b). The DCWRRI is requesting a proposal for research or information transfer that explores new ideas to address water problems in the District of Columbia, and expands understanding of innovative ways of managing urban waterways. Partly funded by the U.S. Geological Survey, the mission of the DCWRRI is to provide the District of Columbia with interdisciplinary research support to identify DC water resource problems and contribute to their solutions.

The deadline is 5:00 p.m., Friday, November 13, 2015. Download the application.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Register for the Urban Agriculture Symposium Oct. 22-23

Please join the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC CAUSES) for the second annual Urban Agriculture Symposium and Green Living Expo on October 22 – 24, 2015. Centered around the CAUSES Urban Food Hubs Solution to Food Insecurity, the Symposium and Expo will be a forum for sharing information, exchanging ideas, and building networks to support a healthy and economically viable urban food system. The Symposium is co-sponsored by the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association and the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (USDA BARC). Practitioners, researchers and food lovers are all welcome! 

We will start off with some big names featured at our opening event and food tasting on Thursday, Oct. 22, followed by a wealth of information shared by local thought leaders on Friday, Oct. 23. Keep reading to review the agenda. Register for the events here!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

UDC student spotlight: Webs Pierre

By Webs  Pierre

In summer 2015, the Ohio State University granted me acceptance into their Summer Research Opportunity Program, where I was located at their Ohio Agriculture Research and Development Center in Wooster, Ohio. I had the privilege of working on two experiments in the Department of Entomology- The Use of Various Treatments to Evaluate the Dispersion of Predatory Mites onto Greenhouse Benches, under the supervision of Dr. Luis Caῆas, and Relationship of Free Amino Acids to Thrips (Thrips tabaci) Populations in Field Onion (Allium cepa), under the supervision of Dr. Paul L. Phelan. After nine weeks of assimilating Integrated Pest Management, I presented my research findings, under Dr. Phelan, at The Ohio State University Research Symposium, Columbus, Ohio.
In this ten-week endeavor, I learned about agricultural science and learned the difference between conservational and organic farming. Within farming, I learned the significance of crop rotation, and biological and chemical analyst. We experienced the fundamentals of graduate school, and given tools and resources to apply into various graduate programs.

Future Perfect exhibit available for viewing until Oct. 9

Brought to you by the Goethe-Institut and hosted by CAUSES, Future Perfect Project is a photography exhibit that tells the stories of individuals, initiatives, organizations and businesses that have moved from ideas towards action for a better, more sustainable future. Future Perfect shows the transformation of modern society toward sustainability is not principally the domain of experts in the fields of natural sciences and politics. The photography exhibit showcases stories from around the world which facilitate an exchange of ideas,  and informs and inspires a broad diversity of experiments with a sustainable future.

Wilfried Eckstein, Goethe-Institut Washington and CAUSES Dean Sabine O'Hara
At the opening reception on September 10, 2015, Wilfried Eckstein, executive director, Goethe-Institut Washington, described the themes behind the exhibit:

"We are convinced that we need more sustainable projects to achieve something better, done in a manner that people feel connected to and responsible for. The exhibit highlights individuals and organizations that are doing things in a different way--not following the normal economic process, but are utilizing ways of achieving certain goals like sustainable food production. We are convinced that by collecting and telling these stories, we contribute to a different mindset--something different from the mainstream narrative we experience." 

On October 1 at 5:30 p.m., the UDC Department of Urban Architecture and Community Development will be showing the award winning Chinese film,  Before the Flood

The Chinese town, Fengjie, along the Yangtze River has to be abandoned because it lies in flooding area of the newly built Three Gorges Dam, the largest dam on earth. But Fengjie’s citizens contend with administrators and each other over the residences in “New Fengjie,” which are allocated via lottery and are far smaller than the homes they’ve worked a lifetime to build. This documentary shows the clash of the citizens with the communist administration and collectivism over the course of two years.

RSVP to watch the film for free! 

Learn more about Future Perfect Project: Additional photos from the opening reception are available on our Facebook page.The exhibit is available for viewing weekdays from 9:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. until October 9. 

Here's the scoop: storing tomatoes

Lorraine Weller Clarke is the Project Specialist in Urban Agriculture, in the CAUSES Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education.

Ever wonder why store-bought tomatoes are so red? Or why homegrown tomatoes don't last long in the fridge?

Most of the tomatoes we buy in D.C. supermarkets were grown in California. Harvested before they were ripe, the green tomatoes were treated with ethylene gas before being transported cross country and are "ripe" just in time to make their appearance in the produce aisles. Dr. Clarke explains:

"Those tomatoes tend to be more firm and rigid and don't soften a great deal in the refrigerator. Supermarket tomatoes can benefit from being on the counter, even temporarily, but the difference in texture is huge with vine-ripened tomatoes, which on the other hand, experience a natural softening of the cell walls. The softening of the cell walls on the vine makes these tomatoes delicious when you eat them, but they turn mealy in the fridge."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

DCBIA to Build “East Capitol Urban Farm” on its 23rd Annual Community Improvement Day

Contact: Liz DeBarros, Senior Advisor
(202) 498-5862

DCBIA Build Day: Hundreds of Volunteers to Create East Capitol Urban Farm
The City’s Largest-Scale Urban Farm and Aquaponics Facility

(Washington, DC) – On Saturday, September 26, 2015, hundreds of volunteers will come together to build the East Capitol Urban Farm – a model for temporary use of vacant lots – as part of DCBIA (the District of Columbia Building Industry Association) 23rd Annual Community Improvement Day.

The Day is a result of a major local, federal, public and private alliance between the University of the District of Columbia, the District of Columbia Housing Authority, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, several District of Columbia government agencies, community organizations, churches, and businesses to transform a vacant, three-acre parcel of land to become the city’s largest-scale urban farm to increase access to local and sustainable produce and fish for Ward 7. Features of the Farm also include community garden space, demonstration area, exercise trails, nature discovery area, public art, rain and pollinator gardens, market place and later this fall, an aquaponics facility.

"DCBIA members are laser-focused on building community and adding to the fabric of this vibrant City,” said Sean C. Cahill, President of DCBIA and Senior Vice President of Property Group Partners. “This year’s Build Day is bigger than ever bringing in more local and federal partners than one could have ever imagined, resulting in a Ward 7 community asset that can become a model for access to fresh produce and fish, sustainability, and the use of vacant land.”

Over a year ago, the University of the District of Columbia’s College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) partnered with the DC Housing Authority (DCHA) to lease the vacant lot located at 5900 East Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC to transform the parcel into a remarkable community asset. Select agencies of the Urban Waters Federal Partnership—14 federal agencies working collectively to address environmental and economic challenges in cities across the country in underserved communities also partnered in the effort. Specifically, 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 have contributed to the vision of and provided resources for the Farm which will promote urban agriculture, improve food access and nutrition through a community-centered farmers market, offer nutrition education, youth engagement, provide community gardening, and create opportunities for entrepreneurship.

The challenge and opportunity with the site is to develop the Farm as a model for temporary use of vacant lots while demonstrating on-site storm water management and local food production. To that end, the project’s designer and DCBIA member, Bradley Site Design, created a leaf-design for the site that includes raised beds and portable aquaponics/fish tanks. UDC has also mapped the District’s underused properties to ensure a continued, viable future of the site. Bradley Site Design will also evaluate the farm’s social, economic and ecological impacts.

"The East Capitol Urban Farm is one of the Urban Food Hubs pioneered by UDC to improve Food Security and Sustainability in DC neighborhoods through food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water management,” said Dr. Sabine O’Hara, Dean of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia. “We are thrilled to see this project become a reality.”

Monday, September 14, 2015

Rice research project featured in Washington Post!

Not only did the Washington Post write an excellent piece about our edible roof garden, but our rice research project was featured in the Food section during the same week! 

 (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
Instead of growing rice in the familiar paddies, they are conducting a three-year study in growing it just as you’d raise wheat or eggplant or apples: that is, on dry land. They’re doing it on a farm connected with one of the country’s smallest land-grant universities, and the only one based in a city. The goal: to produce a nutrient-dense crop that can be grown in urban areas.

A small excerpt does not nearly do Rhea Yablon Kennedy's beautifully written article justice, so visit the Washington Post to read it in full!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

CAUSES Green roof in the Washington Post!

Our green roof was featured in the Washington Post! Here's an excerpt from the Home & Garden article by Adrian Higgins: 

"A hundred feet or so above the street, the containers are part of a loftier mission to develop an urban agriculture program aimed at connecting people in food deserts to affordable and nutritious vegetables. But from a simple gardening perspective, the boxes prove, too, that there is a lot of stuff you can grow in containers. Admittedly, this assemblage is on a grand scale. There are 117 containers that by my tally offer a growing area of more than 1,400 square feet.
I saw the rooftop garden in June but decided to check back to see how its first summer had gone. The answer? Far better than the gardeners imagined."
The green roof was recently visited by Adrian Higgins, who has been writing about gardening for the Post for more than 20 years. Mr. Higgins interviewed Sandra Farber-Bandier, who manages the green roof as well as the DC Master Gardener program (learn more about that here). 
Photo by Adrian Higgins, Washington Post
Also featured in the piece is this photo of Nick Toney, a UDC student who helps Sandy Farber take great care of our rooftop vegetable and pollinator plants. Great pic, Nick! 

Friday, September 4, 2015

CAUSES TV: DC Master Gardeners Program

On this episode of CAUSES TV, DC Master Gardener Coordinator and Green Roof Manager Sandra Farber-Bandier joins Dean O'Hara in a live taping on the UDC green roof. 

The Master Gardeners program is a volunteer program affiliated with landgrant universities  in all 50 states. The program was established to assist the USDA Cooperative Extension System in reaching the wider public beyond the farming sector, and providing information and training on topics such as plant pathology, entomology, soil quality, plant propagation and pruning. In return, participants are required to dedicate volunteer time to demonstrate their knowledge of horticultural practices, answer questions, provide information, speak at public events and participate in community gardening programs.

Our master gardener volunteers utilize the research-based information that we offer to educate district residents on best practices in horticulture and environmental stewardship; and we are expanding the food plants, or agriculture, component of our master gardening program, do to the fast growing interest in urban agriculture here in the District. 
For more information on UDC's Master Gardener program, contact Sandy Farber

And speaking of our roof garden, have you seen the Firebird Update on the grand opening? Watch below!