Tuesday, October 27, 2015

CAUSES Hosts Second Annual Urban Agriculture Symposium

The Second Annual Urban Agriculture Symposium hosted by the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia brought together practitioners, researchers and food lovers to continue the dialogue others are having locally, nationally and globally to address the future of food security. The opening panel, Symposium and Green Living Expo served as a forum for sharing information, exchanging ideas, and building networks to support a healthy and economically viable urban food system. The events were held October 22-24.

Opening Panel and Food Tasting

On October 22, the opening panel, Local Food - Cultural, Social, Economic Catalyst, featured: Susan Delbert, Executive Chef, National Press Club;  Mike Curtin, President, DC Central Kitchen; and Betti Wiggins, Executive Director, School Nutrition, Detroit Public Schools. 
Representing the culinary arts, Chef Delbert addressed how local food contributes to DC’s culinary arts scene. She credited kale as being a breakthrough for taking a seasonal vegetable not normally eaten and bringing it to the restaurant scene as well as to family dining room tables.

“I was thrilled to visit UDC Research farm and seeing the microgreens produced in one of the greenhouse; those same microgreens are being sold at a high-end hotel in the District,” said Chef Delbert, noting that the National Press Club was a big supporter of the local foods movement.

Lending a different perspective, President of DC Central Kitchen (DCCK), Mike Curtin, expounded on the organization's mission to employ people who have had hard times in their lives, including "returning felons, recovering addicts, the abused, homeless and unemployed." He explained that food becomes a way of mentoring people and bringing people back into our communities: “Our mission is to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.”

DCCK prepares 5,000 meals per day at shelters and other agencies, and 6300 daily meals in local schools.

Betti Wiggins is the force behind the Detroit School Garden Collaborative (DSGC), a farm to school initiative sponsored by the Detroit Public School’s Office of School Nutrition and the Office of Science. Michigan, which has a six month growing season, is the second largest agriculturally diverse producer in the nation outside of California.

“My interest was increasing access to fresh foods. Relying on locally grown food helps to get kids engaged,” explained Ms. Wiggins.  

DSGC currently includes 78 schools sites. Each school has six raised beds for vegetable production, and engages in garden curriculum and STEM education in the state-approved program. Coincidentally, Ms. Wiggins is also the former, state director of childhood nutrition for DC.

Following the panel discussion, Chef Delbert, Brazilian Caterer Maria DaSilva and Chef Herb Holden of the CAUSES Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health, prepared samples of some their most popular offerings. Chef Herb even harvested most of his ingredients from the UDC Research Farm!

Urban Agriculture Symposium

As a landgrant, the University of the District of Columbia like its fellow landgrant institutions is charged by the USDA to research solutions for nutritional and agricultural concerns. The Urban Agriculture Symposium on October 23 brought together leaders to discuss best practices for various local perspectives during three plenary sessions.

In Food Production - New Models for New Markets, Maria Moreira, owner, Flat Mentor Farm (Lancaster, Massachusetts), leases land to small farmers specializing in growing specialty and ethnic crops, offering cooperative to many immigrant farmers from around the globe. Adam Hill, represented the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, a nonprofit organization founded in 1827 that offers programs for gardeners of all levels. PHS offers many programs including City Harvest, which trains inmates in gardening and landscaping. Produce is donated to local food banks and food insecure regions.

In the second plenary, John-Mark Hack, executive director, The Local Foods Association described current methods his trade association uses to promote an increase in market share for buyers and sellers of local food across the nation. The association provides best practices, networking opportunities, advocacy and professional development.

In the final plenary, Professor of Soil Science, Sally Brown, University of Washington, shed light on how her research to utilizing treated wastewater to create nutrient rich biosolids, a loip-like product that has helped repair and improve soil health to increase crop production. Commonly used  in Seattle, their applications could serve as a benchmark for urban areas seeking resolutions to similar issues. The Solutions from the Land initiative brings together farmers, ranchers and foresters to explore sustainable solutions to meet the interrelated challenges of food security, climate change, conservation and economic development. Co-Chair AG Kawamura, former Secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, discussed many of the innovations such as the Orange County Great Park, a farm built on a former marine base in Irvine, California, referred to by Kawamura as the "22nd century farm."

CAUSES is making strides to address the lack of access to healthy and affordable food in the underserved areas of the District. However, it's not just CAUSES, but many organizations and entities around the city, many of whom participated in the Symposium’s roundtables. Special thanks to:   

-Bill Blevins, PlantsMap Electronic Plant Management System 
-Thomas Kakovitch, KI Industries, Aquaponics, Water Quality and Energy Efficiency Systems
-Byunggu Yu, Clearton Technology Systems Optimization
-Charley Coiner, Coosman Specialty Foods
-Lorette Picciano, Executive Director, Rural Coalition/CoaliciĆ³n Rural 

The Urban Agriculture Symposium was co-sponsored by the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association, the USDA Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) and the USDA Rural Development and featured the following representatives who participated in the plenaries and roundtable discussions: Rudy Arredondo, President, National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Association; William A. McGowan, State Director Delaware and Maryland, USDA Rural Development; Elanor Stamer Senior Advisor to the Secretary, USDA;  Arthur Neal, USDA AMS; Dan Roberts, Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory, USDA BARC; David Fleisher, USDA ARS; and Patrick Canning, Senior Economist, USDA ERS.

Green Living Expo
Held on Food Day 2015  (October 24), the Green Living Expo was held in conjunction with the UDC Farmers Market, held every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. in front of the David A. Clarke School of Law and featured exhibitors demonstrating why DC is steadily becoming the model of a sustainable city. Food and sustainability experts were on hand, along with demonstrations, live music, and local food. CAUSES was out in full force, showcasing our experiential landgrant programming:

  • The Center for 4-H and Youth Development
  • The Center for Urban Agriculture
  • The Center for Sustainable Development
  • The Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health
  • The Architectural Research Institute

Music was provided by Trio Caliente, giving an exotic flair to the Forest Hills neighborhood of Van Ness on a blustery autumnal day. In a special treat, Rudy Arredondo from the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association joined the bad Trio Caliente, to the delight of Expo and farmers market patrons. 

The Oxfam America Action Corps in Washington, DC, hosted a film screening of Dirt, Climate Change, Hunger: It's all connected and panel discussion for the public to discuss hunger, the human impact of climate change and efforts to build resilience. The program was also in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and featured CAUSES own Ethnic Crop Specialist Yao Afantchao in addition to other panelists: Jodi-Kaye Wade, Oxfam America Action Corps in Washington, DC; Dr. Jessica Fanzo, Associate Professor, JHU SAIS-International Development; David Hong, Global Senior Policy Analyst, Once Acre Fund; Dr. Jessica Felix-Romero, Director of Marketing and Outreach, Farmworker Justice; and Margarita Diubanova, Strategy and Science Advisor, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. See photos on their Facebook page.

A final appreciation of thanks goes to our friends at the David A. Clarke School of Law for allowing us the use of their space. Additional photos of the event are available on our Facebook page!

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