Arcadia expands operations, boosts healthy harvest for local families

Children in garden area

Children planting vegetables at Arcadia’s Hilltop Farm. (Courtesy of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture)

Located on the grounds of historic Woodlawn Estate, the Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture is gearing up for a bountiful 2018.

Since expanding in size from one to nearly four acres in 2016, the non-profit foundation’s Arcadia Farm has seen a corresponding rise in output — from 88,000 servings of fresh food in 2016 to 119,000 servings last year. Seventy-five percent of that food was delivered via Arcadia’s two Mobile Markets to low-food access areas, while 15 to 20 percent was served at on-farm school programs. The remainder went to local food banks and home with volunteers.

According to the center’s executive director Pamela Hess, last month Arcadia kicked off year three of its Veteran Farmer Reserve Program, which is enabling 24 veterans and active-duty service members to receive intensive training in sustainable farming for one weekend per month. Funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant, as well as grants from Grace Communications Foundation, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and individual supporters, the program provides hands-on cultivation, business planning, farm field trips and classroom training to veterans who — if they opt to start farms in the area — are eligible to receive a wholesale contract from Arcadia.

One of Arcadia’s 2016 graduates — a poultry farmer who started Dancing Buffalo Farm — soon will be the first to receive such a contract, Hess said. Additionally, the foundation offers a fellowship program in which two veterans can pursue full-time, year-long apprenticeships at the farm.

Group of veterans at Arcadia

Veteran farmers in 2017 on Dogue Farm. (Courtesy of Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture)

One new initiative that Arcadia will launch in 2018 is a Veterans Farm Incubator. To help recent veteran graduates access affordable land, equipment and related services until they can qualify for a USDA loan, Arcadia will lease plots of land to them, as well as provide tools and equipment, a heated greenhouse, an irrigation system and expert advice. Arcadia’s newly dug well will be the source of the irrigation system, which will be powered by solar panels that are scheduled for installation in coming months. Arcadia is breaking ground on the two-acre plot of leasable land this spring.

Veterans can choose whether to sell their produce at wholesale prices to Arcadia, market it at a small farm stand that Arcadia plans to set up for public business this summer, or take the produce to other markets or customers. The stand likely will be open on a weekly basis and feature a variety of vegetables, melons and herbs, all grown on the historic farm that once belonged to George Washington.

Besides its 2018 Veterans Farmer Program, Arcadia will continue its Mobile Markets for underserved communities in Washington, D.C. and the Bailey’s Crossroads area from May to November, and its educational Field Trip and Farm Camp Programs. The organization offers several summer camps for children ages 6-11, which are currently accepting registrations, as well as open volunteer days and opportunities for corporate volunteering.

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