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City Orchard Report – June & July 2017

For the first time, we’ve got #VeggiesToo! UDC generously offered us the use of an extra 1/2 acre of their farm site, Firebird Farm, to grow our own vegetables. In early June, our farm contractors Purple Mountain Organics installed the vegetable plot for us near the orchard. And by late June, the veggies started rolling in. By the end of July, we had already harvested over 1,500 pounds of vegetables, serving nearly 800 families!

Executive Summary

In June and July of 2017, the Sustainable Agriculture division harvested about 3,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables and cared for the orchard and vegetable plot to ensure long-term food production. This equates to over 2,600 servings of fresh, nutrient-dense produce distributed to DC residents through our farm to pantry operations.

The Sustainable Agriculture team engaged over 450 volunteers at orchard workdays, including the Congressional Black Caucus, Center for Student Missions and several summer mission trips from the Midwest. We also engaged over 30 clients through our monthly Farm Tour & Fruit and Vegetable Picking events and other client engagement opportunities.

The Congressional Black Caucus chanting “End food apartheid!” instead of “Cheese!” for their group photo. In our volunteer orientation, we address food justice and encourage people to refer to neighborhoods that don’t have access to fresh produce as food apartheid neighborhoods rather than food deserts, a desert being a natural ecosystem and apartheid being a social construct that targets Black communities.

Harvest & Volunteer Numbers

June & July 2017 Harvest
Produce Weight (lbs) Servings (pints) Servings (bags)
Strawberries 288 526
Blueberries 109 128
Raspberries 89 135
Blackberries 399 676
Garlic Scapes 62 77
Chard 71 30
Collards 278 266
Kale 54 26
Lettuce 18 0
Zucchini 469 138
Squash 151 87
Okra 77 96
Cucumbers 645 286
Tomatoes 147 93
Hot Peppers 8 15
Sweet Peppers 44 55
Eggplant 19 8
Basil 2 5
Total (June & July)
2,929
1,465 1,182
2,647
Total (year-to-date)
3,551
2,259 1354
3,613
# Volunteers 457
# Volunteers (year-to-date) 656

Farm News

Some new things happening at the farm this year, besides the veggie plot:
  • Our 2-year sweet potato grant ended last year. We were growing large quantities of sweet potatoes to go with the Thanksgiving turkeys in our clients’ Holiday Helpings bags. But UDC, our host and partner, has funded their own sweet potato plot and agreed to share the harvest (and labor) with us. So we will continue to supply sweet potatoes for our Holiday Helpings program.
  • We are growing watermelons! A pretty big field of them.
  • This year, we saved our blueberry crop by installing bird netting over all of the blueberry bushes. Birds love blueberries more than anything else on the farm, and last year they ate all the berries. This year we got a decent harvest!
  • We are growing some ornamental flowers to cut and serve to our clients. In the back section of the blueberry patch, soil tests revealed that the soil is not good enough to grow food. We already had the garden beds established and mostly free of weeds, so we made use of the space by planting flowers for people’s dinner tables.

Community Engagement

Also new this year, we are making a special effort to engage our clients with a monthly Farm Tour & Fruit and Vegetable Picking event. This event is for clients only, in order to further the Sustainable Agriculture division’s goals of promoting agricultural education, sustainability and nutrition in our community. At the event, participants get to learn about the farm and UDC’s program offerings, pick their own food, and take part in a grounding exercise to reflect on their experience. We engaged over 30 clients through the June and July events, volunteer opportunities, and gleaning opportunities at the farm.

Participants on a farm tour led by Che of UDC.

While the orchard crew was on holiday for Memorial Day weekend, we invited DC residents to the farm to pick their own produce. We trained Lauren Goodwin, UDC’s Ethnic Crops Trainee, to lead the group in picking and weighing their harvest. In total, they harvested nearly 500 lbs of fruits and vegetables from City Orchard, our vegetable plot and UDC’s fields! As fruit and veggies can turn from ripe to overripe to rotten fast, we wanted to ensure our bounty reached the people somehow!

Work Highlights

In the last 2 months, our volunteers, staff and Purple Mountain Organics together have:

  • Maintained the orchard with a lot of weeding, mulching, tying branches, pruning, and other tasks.
  • Installed the vegetable plot, including laying landscape fabric and planting seeds and baby plants.
  • Helped install the watermelon field by laying landscape fabric and thinning the plants.
  • Helped UDC plant the sweet potato field.
  • Pulled out part of UDC’s spring greens crop, mostly collard greens and kale, to help them prepare that field for summer crops. It’s the least we could do for letting us glean so many of those greens.

Want to see more pictures? Check them out on the City Orchard 2017 Flickr page.

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