- Fruits: berries (other), paw-paws, persimmon
- Crop Production: agroforestry
- Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, workshop
Problem and Justification:
The Washington, DC Metro Area does not produce enough fruit to meet local demand. Maryland and Virginia show deficits for almost all locally-grown fruits; Washington, DC fares even worse in this regard. Space constraints in a densely-populated urban setting, rapid increases on land leases, and perceived skill deficits among farmers have, in previous years, prevented D.C.’s urban farmers from expanding into the urban orcharding sector, despite its lucrative potential.
Recent changes in D.C. law, concerning the use of public lands and privately-owned vacant lots, have ameliorated some problems facing urban farmers. The city now offers more incentives to set deeper roots and seek professional development in the area of orchard production that offers excellent financial returns, albeit spread out over a longer timeline. Many farmers are now eager to attend skills workshops that increase their knowledge and skill sets in the areas of fruit tree production and orchard management. Management of these perennial tree crops offers District farmers an opportunity to contribute to the solution of local fruit deficits in Washington, DC while also securing a great return on a farmer’s investment.
Solution and Approach
To address the agricultural need and meet farmer demands, I propose a professional development program that extends fruit growing techniques to local Agricultural Service Providers (ASP). These specialized skills will prepare selected ASPs to re-enter their community and train local farmers in subsequent years. By May 1, 2021, the SARE State Coordinator will recruit a group of ten ASPs to participate in a comprehensive suite of training workshops, seminars, and field practicums held at UDC’s Agricultural Experiment Station. The trainings will focus on teaching participants how to successfully plan, implement, and manage a fruit-bearing orchard.
The PD project will focus entirely on specialty and native fruit varieties in the Mid-Atlantic region. Program participants will develop orcharding skills for specialty products (such as pawpaws, persimmons, blackberries, and raspberries) that exhibit the potential to offer higher returns from small-scale operations.
The State Coordinator will recruit ASPs from local nonprofits and government agencies. These ASPs and farmers will be expected to return the following year to assist in instructing a new class of trainees.
We will assess and verify successful outcomes through pre-and post-testing, interviews with participants, and mid-point evaluations of candidates’ abilities and engagement. The completed PD project will culminate with the planting of twenty fruit trees at urban farms throughout the city as well as the formation of an orchard manager mentoring program staffed by the PD program’s trainees.
Performance targets from proposal:
Twenty Agricultural Service Providers will be selected to attend extension workshops and classes that either (1) establish, or (2) further develop orcharding skills. This newly-developed set of skills will prepare at least ten of the ASPs to train thirty DC-area farmers. The resultant farmer training will prompt the farmers to plant fruit trees or fruit-producing bushes on their land in or around the District of Columbia over the PDP’s two-year period.