Less than 0.5% ?

According to our very rough calculations, Washington DC demands 189 million pounds of fresh fruit and veggies per year. And according to the best stats we could find, we are growing less than 1 million.

That means we are growing less than 0.5% of our own fresh produce.

Anacostia Aquaponics has submitted testimony for today’s DC Council hearing on the DC Urban Ag Land Lease Program.

Read the full statement: Nov 18 Anacostia Aquaponics Testimony

In our statement we argue that we need to measure what we’re currently growing and set a goal for how much we want to grow. And, once we crunch the numbers, we’ll find that to make a difference we  will likely need to focus on Controlled Environment Agriculture with modern technologies like hydroponics, aeroponics, aquaponics, and vertical growing.

Do you have better stats, opinions, questions? Shoot us an email.

 

Urban Ag in the 2019 DC Food Economy Study

The DC Food Policy Council just published the 2019 DC Food Economy Study. It is filled with interesting information about where our food comes from, and insights about where we are headed.

Read the study: https://dcfoodpolicycouncilorg.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/food-economy-study.pdf?mc_cid=b21fb5afb3&mc_eid=5f7b24b706

Regarding urban agriculture, the study states:

“…urban farms in the District should have more access to resources and support. Farms not only supply fresh food to other food businesses; they also create local jobs, activate green spaces, and often provide healthy food to the surrounding communities. Yet currently urban farms in the District struggle to navigate licensing and permitting, identify grants and resources, and access large contracts and buyers. In addition, there is insufficient data on the current offerings and sales of District farms, making it difficult to measure progress. The District will soon provide more assistance to urban farms through the newly created Office of Urban Agriculture in the Department of Energy and the Environment created by the Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Support Act.”

How much are we actually growing?

What percentage of fresh fruits n’ veggies consumed within DC is grown within DC?
a) <1%
b) 1% – 5%
c) 5% – 10%
d) >10%
e) no one knows

Washington, DC is doing some great things for urban agriculture. For more info, check out the DC Sustainability 2.0 Report, or the Food System Assessment. We also recently created an Office for Urban Agriculture.

But a lot more work needs to be done. An old adage: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”. Here’s some questions we should answer:

How much are we actually growing as a percentage of our consumption? what are we growing? and what is our goal?

What percentage of food grown in DC is edible, and what resources are needed to improve our growing skills and grow better fruits n’ veggies?

One issue is that policy-makers nationwide continually underestimate the skills and resources necessary to grow high-quality crops consistently… it’s very hard! Unfortunately this is the problem UDC ran into over the last few years.

Answering these questions will inform the next steps we take to improve urban ag in DC!

Brian Filipowich, Director
Anacostia Aquaponics DC LLC

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (4/4)

Business Development was the last issue we identified at the Potomac Aquaponics Conference last Fall.

Commercial aquaponics ventures have high upfront costs, and must manage multiple sides of the business: fish and plants.

We identified municipal business development agencies, the USDA, and agriculture colleges as possible collaborators in developing the commercial side of aquaponics.

 

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (3/4)

The aquaponics trailer was a highlight of the Potomac Aquaponics Conference.

This trailer is a mobile educational tool that travels all over Virginia, which is why it is the perfect example for the next issue we identified at the conference: Education & Outreach.

We need to teach more people about the benefits of aquaponics, so that more people enter the industry and consumers understand the benefits of aquaponics produce.

This will need to be a large effort undertaken by the entire aquaponics community.

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (2/4)

Participants at the meeting identified three areas in which Potomac-region growers could advance aquaponics.

The first was food safety. We identified all the actors involved in aquaponics food safety, which turned out turned out to be a very long list! We identified:

  • farmers,
  • distributors,
  • retailers,
  • state departments of health,
  • state departments of agriculture,
  • the USDA,
  • the FDA,
  • fisheries, and
  • third-party auditors

Coordination will be critical among these groups to ensure consistency, fairness, and efficiency in aquaponics food safety regulation.

Stay tuned for more from the Potomac Aquaponics Association.

Potomac Aquaponics Conference (1/4)

Last Fall, Members of the Potomac Aquaponics Association met for a two-day conference to discuss advancing aquaponics in the Potomac region.

Represented at the meeting were: the national Aquaponics Association, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the University of the District of Columbia, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, Virginia State University, Virginia Tech, and Anacostia Aquaponics DC LLC.

We identified three areas in which we could advance aquaponics in the Potomac region. Stay tuned for part 2!

Farm Bill creates Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production

The recently-passed U.S. Farm Bill creates the USDA Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production which should boost aquaponics, hydroponics, and other sustainable growing methods.

The Bill establishes the Office “to encourage and promote urban, indoor, and other emerging agricultural production practices.” Related to this new Office, the Bill:

  • Provides for the assignment of a farm number for rooftop, indoor, and other urban farms.
  • Provides authority to award competitive grants to operate community gardens or
    nonprofit farms, educate a community on food systems, nutrition, environmental impacts,
    and agricultural production, and help offset start-up costs for new and beginning farmers.
  • Establishes an Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production Advisory Committee.
  • Establishes pilot projects to increase compost and reduce food waste, and create urban
    and suburban county committees.

In addition to the Office for Urban Agriculture, the Farm Bill also establishes the Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agriculture Production Research, Education, and Extension Initiative. This Initiative does the following:

  • Authorizes competitive research and extension grants to support research, education, and
    extension activities for the purposes of enhancing urban, indoor, and other emerging
    agricultural production.
  • Provides $4 million mandatory for each fiscal year 2019-2023.
  • Requires the Secretary to conduct a census of urban, indoor, and other emerging
    agricultural production.

Unfortunately, there is plenty of bad along with the good: this Farm Bill continues negative policies that stifle smaller growers and wastefully support large industrial monoculture growers. Nevertheless, it is welcome to see the Federal Government acknowledging the need for investment in urban and sustainable growing.

Will these government initiatives improve urban agriculture in Washington, DC?

How can the DC Urban Ag community make the most of this opportunity?

Are you interested in being part of the revolution in urban agriculture? Anacostia Aquaponics is looking for 2019 Team Members / Interns. Learn more: http://anacostiaaquaponics.org/2019-team-member-opportunities/