Va. Urban Ag Summit offers trips, discussions
ARLINGTON, Va. (Dec. 12, 2017) — The third annual Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit was held on Oct. 5-6 at George Mason University with talks by community leaders and agricultural experts about topics ranging from sustainability, food waste, policy, agriculture in the classroom, and starting an urban farm business.
Field trips to local urban farms, community gardens, and agricultural resources were a highlight of the event.
Poster displays were available for perusing and in-depth discussions during the speaker break times.
Paul Meyer, of Virginia Vegetable Co., shared his experiences in establishing a new urban farm in Petersburg, Va.
A number of attendees were surprised to learn that he lost 80 percent of his first winter’s brassica (kale, broccoli, etc.) crops to theft and vandalism. The second year, he switched his crop selection to small lettuce greens and was able to bring more than 90 percent of them to market that second winter.
He also shared that his manual laborers earn minimum wage, which is more than he received himself in the end. Many of the other presenters shared as openly and honestly about their struggles, but also their triumphs as well.
Hiu Newcomb of Potomac Vegetable Farms has been growing and selling vegetables for more than 50 years in once-rural Vienna, Va.
The community has grown up around her and she is now a stone’s throw from the busy Tyson’s Corner corridor of high-rises and business headquarters.
She said she was able to capitalize on the building boom around her by selling off some land to a housing development and integrate her farm into it.
The project, Blueberry Hill Cohousing, is a win-win for both the residents and the farm as well.
Many of the presenters at the conference addressed food insecurity issues and creative solutions to the high cost of land for farming. One of the stops on the DC farm tour was Up Top Acres, which operates a network of rooftop farms across the DC metro area. Their rooftop farms include 15,000 square foot farm located a block away from Nationals Stadium, this farm produces everything from baby greens to melons and features two beehives, and an event space overlooking the DC skyline.
Speaking of bees, one of the tabletop exhibits was DC Water. The utility’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant is an unlikely home for honey bees in the city. The facility currently has 15 hives and plans to add more soon. It also produces biosolids for farmers and gardeners during the wastewater treatment process. Attendees were invited to examine and smell samples of the biosolids, which will be marketed under the name “Bloom.”
The summit also included many opportunities for networking and sharing.
Aspiring urban farmers were able to connect both with veteran urban growers as well as exploring Virginia cooperative extension offerings and speaking with experts on all aspects of agriculture.
The dates and location for the 2018 Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit will be announced soon.
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