BY SCARLETT SALEM AND PAULA MINAERT — On October 21, a crowd of about 30 area residents and elected officials gathered in neighboring Edmonston for the unveiling of a vibrant mural. It was painted for Engaged Community Off shoots (ECO) City Farms to hang at the entrance of its urban farm, located between the end of Crittenden Street and an Anacostia tributary.
The mural, funded by a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, was put together by artist Matthew Gifford (who also painted the mural inside the new Busboys & Poets) and photographer and ECO City educator Sonia Keiner. Both are from Hyattsville.
Gifford and Keiner interviewed nearby residents to get feedback on food, particularly what is available in the community.
“The mural is the community’s vision of what [a healthy and sustainable community and agriculture] looks like,” said Keiner.
The urban farm movement has been picking up steam nationwide over the past few years. Proponents say it promotes a united community, cuts down on the costs of food shipment, and creates sustainable food security for residents.
ECO City Farms brought the urban farm movement into Prince George’s County in May 2010, when it broke ground on about an acre of land. It utilizes almost every inch of that land, with beehives, compost-generating worms, solar-heated plastic hoophouses, an aquaponics system and more.
The October 21 event included an overview of upcoming projects, most of which are funded by grants. One plan calls for expanding onto an adjacent property, recently donated by the Maryland-National Park and Planning Commission, that now contains tennis courts. Eco City Farms plans to use them to show the public how to turn concrete into sustainable agriculture.
CEO Margaret Morgan-Hubbard would like to see the property used as an education farm to teach others how to start and maintain their own urban farms. To that end, the farm will soon be installing a “foodshed,” a low-tech commercial kitchen with space for teaching.
It’s these educational outreach activities that Edmonston City Councilmember Tracy Farrish Grant (Ward 2) values most about the farm.
“We are so honored to have this farm in the community,” she said.
To find out where to buy produce from the farm, visit the website. The website also outlines how to receive fresh produce through spring by buying a share in the farm’s first winter Community Supported Agriculture program, which begins December 1.