Arcadia staff, veterans and volunteers in the greenhouse at Dogue Farm on Tuesday morning. (Erika Christ image)
Early risers driving by Dogue Farm — the former horse pasture turned vegetable farm at the corner of Mount Vernon Memorial Highway and Richmond Highway — may have noticed an unusual level of activity this morning. A camera crew and reporter from NBC4 descended on the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture to shoot live footage while announcing that the non-profit organization won a $60,000 grant as part of a program launched by the news station in January 2018.
Arcadia was one of six local non-profits to share in a total of $225,000 in grants under the Project Innovation grant challenge awarded by the NBCUniversal Foundation and NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, including NBC4 and Telemundo 44. According to a press release issued yesterday, the winning organizations were selected by the stations “for their outstanding programs that leverage technology to solve everyday problems in the areas of civic engagement, skills for the digital economy and STEM/STEAM youth programming.”
Arcadia received funding to install a “Farm from a Box” on its new Veteran Farm Incubator. The incubator — a two-acre farm-within-a-farm on Arcadia’s Dogue Farm at Woodlawn-Pope-Leighey — will enable graduates of Arcadia’s Veteran Farmer Program to launch independent farm operations on affordable land, leveraging Arcadia’s equipment and technical support as they start their businesses and provide healthy, sustainably grown food to the community. Using its new grant funding, Arcadia will acquire a turnkey farm kit powered by renewable energy that provides all the core components needed for the incubator’s two acres.
“The Veteran Farm Incubator is a crucial next step for the 50 veterans we have trained since 2015,” said Pamela Hess, executive director of the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture. “This is a low-risk, low-cost way for new farmers to start their businesses with the support and infrastructure they need to be successful.”
New farmers need three years of farm operation experience to qualify for low-interest USDA farm loans; incubator farming will make them eligible. Arcadia is offering optional wholesale contracts to all incubator farmers to allow them to focus on developing their growing skills and will have a small on-site farm stand open once a week starting in June to generate revenue for the farmers and share their wholesome food with the local community.
Other local grant recipients include Community Youth Advance ($50,000); Manna Food Center ($50,000); Covenant House ($30,000); The Fishing School ($25,000); and Community Bridges ($10,000). The Project Innovation program was launched in 10 other markets across the country this year, awarding a total of $2.4 million to non-profits helping transform communities by providing solutions to real-world problems through tech-based approaches.
Besides the Project Innovation grant, Arcadia is raising funds to support the incubator and farm operation through ACT for Alexandria’s Spring2Action fundraiser, a 24-hour online event benefiting community non-profits. The event takes place April 25, but early giving starts tomorrow at https://www.spring2action.org/organizations/arcadia-food-inc.
Other Route 1 corridor non-profits participating in Spring2Action include Fort Hunt Preschool, Fort Hunt Youth Athletic Association and New Hope Housing.