For many, spring symbolizes fresh flowers, new beginnings and baseball, but for those who work at Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food and Agriculture, located on the grounds of the Woodlawn Estate in Mount Vernon, spring means another season of working to ensure that all members of the community have access to fresh, healthy food.
“All of our programs start up again in spring,” said Morgan Maloney, farm education manager.
These programs, which advance Arcadia’s mission and serve the community, include the Arcadia Farm, which serves as an example of environmentally and economically sustainable growing practices; the Mobile Market, which distributes fresh, affordable food to underserved D.C. area neighborhoods; the Food Hub, which provides services that support and promote local sustainable farms, and the Farm to School program, which provides healthy, local food for school meals as well as hands-on food and farm education.
“There is always a lot of work to do in the off season,” said Benjamin Bartley, mobile market director. “It is exciting because we’ve been able to expand our services each year. We’ve expanded our number of stops to 10 this year. I feel particularly good about the way that we’ve gone. I feel pretty prepared for the market season.”
“The mobile market is very effective,” said Pam Hess, Arcadia’s executive director. “They are in the right places, our prices are great, the food is fresh. We get first quality food and bring it to low income people. We don’t take leftovers like mushy apples or bruised bananas and give it to them.”
“It is easy to eat well in this town if you have money,” she continued. “One thing we’ve learned from our customers is that they care about eating healthy, but have less economic power to make those wishes known.”
The staff is also excited about their new cookbook, “The Arcadia Mobile Market Seasonal Cookbook,” written by Arcadia’s culinary educator and mobile market outreach coordinator JuJu Harris.
“We put together seasonal recipes that incorporate ingredients that are WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) staples,” said Bartley. “We are going to be giving these away to those who use food assistance programs. We’re looking forward to getting it into the hands of those who it was written for.”
Additionally, Arcadia runs a camp where children from ages 6-11 get to experience life on a farm and learn about the source of their food. Arcadia officials are raising money to offer financial assistance to those who need it.
“Campers spend most of their time in our educational garden,” said Maloney. “One fourth of the farm is specifically designed for that age group and is called the groundhog garden.”
“I am really excited because we have 30 farm camp scholarships, but we still need more money to make it happen for families who would not be able to send their children to camp,” said Hess.
She is passionate when she talks about her mission to ensure that all children are able to attend a camp where they are safely immersed in the outdoors. “This camp counteracts nature deficit disorder,” she said. “There are no electronics. The children are sweaty and happy. They have a lot of independence and freedom to make choices.”
Arcadia offers other educational opportunities for children. “In the spring when school is in session, I am running field trips,” said Maloney. “Kids come to the farm for purpose of hands-on learning.”
“We have efforts going on right now to expand all of the organization’s services,” said Hess.
One of Arcadia’s signature fundraisers is its annual spring dinner. “It is an evening of wonder and whimsy,” said Maloney. “Food is prepared by a professional chef who, along with his team, creates a menu that is based on locally sourced meat and farm produce.
“Those who attend listen and learn what we do,” she added. “We show folks what is going on and how we use the money we raise money for the farm.”