On Saturday, May 21, 2016, the weather could not deter partners, friends and neighbors from coming together to celebrate the spring launch of East Capitol Urban Farm & Food Hub - a national model for temporary use of vacant lots, fresh food access, and community education. Pioneered by the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability, and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC), our Urban Food Hubs seek to improve food security and sustainability in D.C. neighborhoods through food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water management. East Capitol Urban Farm:
- Promotes urban agriculture
- Improves food access and nutrition through a community-centered farmers market & aquaponics system
- Offers nutrition education through youth engagement
- Provides community gardening plots
- Creates opportunities for entrepreneurship
“This farm shows our community, our city, and the rest of the world how to eat healthy, grow food where you wouldn't believe food could grow, and to educate,” said Tommy Wells, director, District Department of Energy and Environment during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “I'm proud that through this partnership that we can do something that special in the nation's capital,” he continued.
Officially the District’s largest urban farm, East Capitol Urban Farm (ECUF) was a vacant three-acre parcel of land less than a year ago. The challenge and opportunity was to develop the site as a model for temporary use of vacant lots while demonstrating on-site stormwater management and local food production. Now, the site features community garden space, a demonstration area, exercise trails, a nature discovery area, public art, rain and pollinator gardens, a market place and an aquaponics facility that will produce sustainable fish and produce for Ward 7, which has been identified as a food desert in the District of Columbia.
Almost two years ago, UDC CAUSES partnered with the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) to lease the vacant lot located at 5901 East Capitol Street NE, Washington, D.C., and transform it into a community asset. That transformation began on September 26, 2015, when over 1,000 volunteers united to build the East Capitol Urban Farm as part of the District of Columbia Building Industry Association's (DCBIA) 23rd Annual Community Improvement Day. Led by Bradley Site Design (a DCBIA member), the site’s leaf shaped design incorporates transportable elements including raised beds and aquaponics/fish tanks and farmers market. The project was a partnership effort that includes DCBIA, DOEE, DCHA, Urban Waters Federal Partnership, American Forests, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Sustainable DC and other District government agencies.
“This is a pretty amazing day. Looking back two years ago, we had the idea to do something with this big piece of vacant land, like growing food,” explained Alistair Smith, DCHA.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Wells also announced that CAUSES was awarded a $20,000 grant to provide an experiential summer learning opportunity to 30 students from the nearby Woodson High School.
“Mayor Muriel Bowser, the DC Government and UDC are committed to investing in our youth to teach them a healthy lifestyle and to give them an extraordinary opportunity that many youth across the country would never have,” stated Wells.
View more photos of East Capitol Urban Farm.