August 10, 2017 by BFC
Guest Author: Anita Budhraja, Orchard Coordinator, and Tef Reese, Sustainable Ag & Foodways Manager at Bread for the City
At Bread for the City’s City Orchard, we have been growing fruit for our food program since 2012. Our 2.75 acre orchard has supplied thousands of pounds of fresh fruit to clients all across DC! But at Bread for the City we’re always thinking about how else we can help our community — which has requested #VeggiesToo!
This year, our longtime City Orchard volunteer Mary Haskin asked if we ever surveyed clients about their needs — like what type of fresh groceries our clients like to eat. While we had performed these surveys in the past, it had been a while, so we jumped right to it! Bread’s Sustainable Agriculture and Foodways (SAF) Team developed a questionnaire asking questions like “What canned vegetables would you prefer to eat fresh?” and “Name a preferred vegetable to eat which is too expensive to purchase?”. Approximately 180 food pantry clients at both Northwest and Southeast centers completed these questionnaires, and our SAF team handed the data over to Mary to analyze the findings.
The timing of the survey coincided with talks with the University of the District of Columbia’s (UDC) College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) about the 2017 growing season. UDC generously began allowing us to use an extra half-acre of land near our orchard site to start our own vegetable plot. Hence, #VeggiesToo.
Bread for the City clients indicated they would love to have more zucchini, squash, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, sweet peppers, hot peppers, collard greens, kale, string beans, sweet potatoes, and so that’s what we’re now growing. Purple Mountain Organics, our awesome farm contractors who’ve been farming in DC for over 20 years, installed the veggie plot and continue to keep it healthy and productive. They use all organic sprays and while our veggies haven’t been certified as organic by the USDA, we take pride in the fact that they are are organically grown (or ecoganic).
So far, our new vegetable plot has yielded well over 1,562 lbs.; that’s 783 families served fresh organically grown veggies! With this larger farm site, we’re doing more to help DC families put healthful food on the table.