Urban Agriculture Symposium

VCE’s Urban Agriculture Symposium on Saturday, 3 October, offers something for anyone interested in growing food in urban areas for personal use or for sale. Whether it’s growing vegetables in small backyard spaces or community gardens, soilless production of mushrooms and microgreens, producing food for community food banks, or planting trees that provide both shade and fruit, participants will find topics to fit their interests and needs.

The symposium, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington, will help kick off October as Urban Agriculture Month in Arlington County.  Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.; preregistration is encouraged at mgnv.org. An advance registration fee of $10 covers materials, snacks and refreshments; the fee is $12 if paid on the day of the symposium.

Keynote speaker for the symposium will be Dr. Marcus Comer, who will discuss the lessons learned from his work with Petersburg’s Harding Street Urban Agriculture Center, a model of indoor farming dedicated to increasing access to healthy food and mitigating poverty. The Center is funded by the USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Dr. Comer is the Small Farm Outreach Program Director in the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Virginia State University in Petersburg.

For more information about the symposium, contact the VCE Horticulture Help Desk at 703-228-6414 or by email at mgarlalex@gmail.com

The full schedule is as follows:

8:30 Registration opens—Coffee, tea, snacks, view displays, networking setup.

9:00-9:15 Welcome to Urban Agriculture Month—Arlington County Board Member John Vihstadt and Kirsten Conrad Buhls, Arlington County VCE horticultural agent

9:30- 10:15  Group Session: Local Government-Supported Initiatives for Urban Agriculture—Kim Haun of the Arlington County Parks Department, Danielle Wyman of George Mason University’s Sustainable Food System program and other representatives of local and regional government will talk about how the growing interest in urban agriculture is being accommodated in our space-challenged cities.

10:30-11:15 Concurrent Sessions   

Putting the Community in Community Gardening—Community garden leaders Marlin Lord, Maraea Harris and Allison Kindler will discuss how the best community gardens make it work for everyone: how they meet their needs for water, mulch, tilling, and trash removal; how they make and enforce rules; and how they make the garden a place where people can have fun and feel safe.

Love, Carrots and Urban Gardening—Morgan Morris, a 10-year veteran of Love and Carrots, will present a regional business model that uses innovative ways to promote home food production in small spaces. The presentation will cover garden design, installation and maintenance and how helping people grow food can be good for the bottom line.

Microgreens and MushroomsPuwen Lee, director of the Plot Against Hunger arm of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, and Tom Hayes of the Northern Virginia Mushroom Producers’ Cooperative will share some different techniques for growing food. No soil. No space. No problem. All attendees will receive catalogs from mushroom growing supply houses and seed.

11:25-12:10 Concurrent Sessions

Faith-Based Community Gardening:  Social Justice Tool?Dave Smith, the garden leader at St. Andrews Episcopal church in Arlington and Robin Denney and Taylor Poindexter of the Virginia Theological Seminary will describe how faith communities are supporting local and regional food production efforts for church members, food banks, and their parishes.

Small Space Gardening: Making the Most of Site Conditions—Becky Halbe, a Plot Against Hunger volunteer and a leader in the Wednesdays in the Garden talks at Arlington Central Library, will present some new ideas about how to maximize food crop production on small, shady, and maybe impermeable surfaces.  Becky, a Master Gardener, has been helping gardeners produce food for the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

Urban Permaculture:  Woody Edibles for Shade, Beauty, and FoodArlington County Arborist Vince Verweij will share his perspective on how to increase tree canopy, grow edible fruit, and reap the benefits of trees in our urban garden spaces. He will discuss the best fruit trees to grow in Virginia, native fruit trees for Virginia, and how to use these trees in an urban setting.

12:15-1:30—Keynote Speaker Dr. Marcus Comer

Download: UrbanAgSymposium Flier PDF


Contact:  Kirsten Buhls, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent (kbuhls@vt.edu)

Virginia Cooperative Extension http://www.ext.vt.edu is a joint program of Virginia Tech, Virginia State University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and state and local governments. VCE programs and employment are open to all, regardless of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. An equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; Jewel E. Hairston, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State, Petersburg.
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