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Jul 6, 2015 11:09 AM ET

Archived: Margaret – ECO City Farms, Edmonston & Bladensburg, MD: An educational, not-for-profit food justice urban farm

iCrowdNewswire - Jul 6, 2015


Personal Story

ECO City Farms grew out of my work as founder of the Engaged University (UE) at University of Maryland, College Park. My staff and I brought thousands of university and community residents together to create a vibrant center housing a demonstration urban farm, youth-run recycled bike shop, mural-making collaborative and biodiesel coop. When the University disbanded our unit, the EU staff, with the support of many local leaders, students and residents, launched ECO.

I am a first generation American with a multi-ethnic, multi-racial family. I am a deep-rooted resident of Prince George’s County, determined to make a profound, enduring difference where I now call home. More than 85% of the population of our County, bordering Washington, DC, are people of color. I set out to create a transformative community institution tied to the food-producing traditions of area immigrants and migrants. The surrounding communities were involved at every stage of building ECO City Farm. More than 1,000 volunteers helped in its construction.

We are intentionally located in food desert communities and became a centerpiece of the Port Towns Community Health Partnership. We turned a vacant lot and deteriorating public tennis court into a highly productive replicable urban farm. After 2 years of organizing, we secured a zoning change to allow urban farming on private multi-family land and launched our second farm in the Port Town of Bladensburg on a subsidized apartment complex. We aspire to proliferate healthy food, farms and farmers throughout our County.

Business Description

Engaged Community Offshoots, Inc. dba ECO City Farms (ECO) is an educational, not-for-profit food justice urban farm located inside the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County, MD. Our mission is to “grow great food, farms and farmers.” We envision a just, vigorous and sustainable food system in the Chesapeake foodshed with ample fertile soil, quality environments, sustainable incomes for farmers and food workers, and access to nutritious high quality food for all.

We operate a variety of educational community programs and two “Certified Naturally Grown” farms in food desert areas of the Port Towns. We helped to launch the Prince George’s Food Equity Council, which we co-chair. We host community events and offer regularly scheduled farm tours and open volunteer hours at both of our farms.

We produce vegetables and herbs year-round and distribute through an affordable farm share (CSA) and at the nearby Riverdale Park Farmers market. We also increase the amount of healthy food available to our community through a second EAT LOCAL farm share that incorporates produce grown by small local sustainable farmers. In June 2015, we will launch a new low income farmers market in the Port Towns in partnership with our County’s Park and Planning Commission, the Port Towns Elementary School and the town of Bladensburg.

We train others to grow food sustainably through our certificate courses in Urban Agriculture at Prince George’s Community College and our 6-month apprenticeships. We conduct a SEED2FEED summer program for local high school youth who farm in our garden, cook fresh food daily, write poetry and create art while learning about food equity.

We employ resource conservation and renewable energy whenever possible. We creatively reuse and upcycle materials for all of our farms’ needs, including our shipping container processing kitchen and five hoophouses. To complete the food system loop, we process local food waste on-site through composting and vermicomposting.

What is the purpose of this loan?

A renowned soil scientist examined our Edmonston farm and found that our soil is being systematically depleted of its nutrients due to poor drainage. We urgently need to re-engineer and divert water on our farm, particularly between our hoop houses. The recommended solution is installing gutters along the perimeter of the structures and drainage pipes between them. It will cost us about a good deal of unbudgeted resources to make these urgently needed improvements and this loan will make a timely and needed difference as we enter a key growing season.

The loan will be spent on purchasing and installing wood and gutters for all four of our hoop houses to fortify the hip boards, divert water and prevent summer storms from washing away plants on the perimeter and eroding our soil.

Contact Information:


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