Arcadia update: “Farm from a Box” debuts at Dogue Farm

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The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture’s newly launched veteran farm incubator received a boost last week with the arrival of its innovative, all-in-one farm kit powered by renewable energy.

Purchased with a $60,000 grant received from NBC earlier this year, Arcadia’s new “Farm from a Box” provides the complete infrastructure for an off-grid farm, according to founding partner Scott Thompson, who traveled to Arcadia from the west coast to help set up the unit.

“The beauty of what we’ve been able to do is to aggregate units in one element,” said Thompson as he highlighted the features of the modified shipping container, including a cold storage unit for keeping harvested items fresh. The turnkey farm kit also provides solar energy for powering the veteran farm incubator’s well, a water purification system, and data controller monitors that enable farmers to check the real-time status of their fields via smartphone.

All these technologies will benefit the incubator’s two current veteran farmers, Brittany Wood and Marcus Roberson, who joined forces this summer to establish Woodbox Farm. As part of their jointly owned cooperative, the military veterans have been working a one-quarter acre plot of land on the two-acre incubator, growing a variety of vegetables, which they have the option to sell at Arcadia’s Mobile Markets, farm stand, school programs, Veteran Farmer Program or outside the Arcadia network.

According to Arcadia’s executive director, Pamela Hess, the incubator is located right next to Richmond Highway “for maximum visibility” and will see an increase in activity in 2019.

“Next year we will add more farmers and use more of the two acres,” said Hess. “This is our first year, so we’re learning as we go.”

Despite the extensive rains, which have reduced crop yields throughout the region, Dogue Farm has had a productive growing season, yielding a harvest of squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, and flowering plants that provide vital pollination. Sections of soil covered by tarp are being solarized, said Hess, to kill weeds and grubs in preparation for cover cropping this winter and plowing in the spring.

“We have decades of grass to eradicate,” said Hess.

Besides tending to the fields, Arcadia staff presently are preparing to hold their fifth annual Fall Harvest Dinner on September 30 at Arcadia at Woodlawn-Pope Leighey. Featuring the cooking of nine top chefs, the four-course dinner will honor the military veterans training to become farmers at Arcadia, with all proceeds benefiting the Veteran Farmer Program. A handful of tickets are still available from EventBrite. Volunteers also are needed and can sign up here.

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