The goal of the proposed project is the alignment of Northeast SARE’s mission of outcome-focused professional development (PD) projects on needs- and interest-based topics with UDC’s focus on Urban Agriculture and Urban Sustainability to improve the quality of life and economic opportunity of people and communities in the District of Columbia. The proposed project aims to address the NIFA programs of improving food security and mitigating climate change, and the Sustainable DC goals of increasing green-economy jobs and small businesses and bringing locally-grown food within a quarter mile of 75% of DC residents.
UDC has instituted a Farmer Training Program to lease quarter- to half-acre training plots to beginning and experienced farmers, and to train them in sustainable farming. In order to increase the resilience of urban farmers, the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education (CUAGE) intends to conduct training workshops in sustainable agriculture. By May 1, 2019, CUAGE will link a group of carefully selected aspiring and existing urban farmers (maximum 10) from metropolitan Washington with quarter- to half-acre plots of farmable land at UDC’s Firebird Farm Agricultural Experiment Station (AES). CUAGE will provide trainees with land, irrigation, small equipment and hand tools, deer protection and training by farm staff with professional expertise. Any other necessary inputs will be supplied by trainees themselves. Selected farmers will grow a vegetable crop of their choice (for example, tomato, eggplant, pepper, sweet potato, lamb’s
quarters and Malabar spinach) in the space set aside for these agripreneurs (agricultural entrepreneurs).
This SARE state project will support the Farmer Training Program by conducting a comprehensive suite of training workshops. The project will also recruit at least 2 agricultural service providers from organizations that support urban growers to participate with the expectation they will transfer their learning to additional growers. As part of the training series, the project will coordinate with UDC’s Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health (CNDH) to teach a practically focused food safety workshop to begin building workforce credentials of the participants. The linkage not only provides an opportunity for the university to fulfill its land-grant mission pertaining to cooperative extension, but also sets up incidences of knowledge-exchange between the university’s staff and D.C.’s burgeoning farming communities.
Performance targets from proposal:
8 farmers/growers including 2 who also serve as agricultural service providers who participate in this project will use recommended sustainable crop production practices learned through the project to produce, for example, about 42 to 85 tons of marketable tomato crop on about 2.5 to 5 acres of land at the UDC Firebird Research Farm/Agricultural Experiment Station. The aim is to help the farmer grow a crop of his/her choice, although we would recommend a list of crops including tomato.
The 2 agricultural service providers who participate in this project will teach/advise at least 40 farmers/growers about concepts and recommended sustainable crop production practices learned through the project.