Our seminar began with tours of agricultural operations in Loudon County, a unique area where agriculture meets urban development. While this convergence can create many challenges for farmers, some have leveraged the opportunity for growth.
Mary Ellen Taylor of Endless Summer Harvest has used her proximity to urban development to capture a niche market for her hydroponic greens. She produces many varieties of lettuce and greens in 12,000 sq. ft. of greenhouse space in Purcellville, VA. As the name suggests, the controlled greenhouse environment allows her to harvest a consistent, high quality product year-round. It is easy to see why Mary Ellen has many loyal customers because she exudes energy and enthusiasm for her business! The day ended with a delicious meal provided by Endless Summer Harvest and great conversation with several special guests in attendance.
Luckily, the forecasted snow-apocalypse was oversold and we plowed ahead with our plans with only minor adjustments. A highpoint of the week was a visit to DC Central Kitchen. This unique organization seeks to fight hunger differently by provided culinary job training, transforming wasted food into nutritious meals, providing healthy school lunches to low-income children, and delivering produce and healthy snacks to corners stores in local food deserts. Not only does the organization have an immediate impact on low-income individuals in their community, but they also support farmers in the region.
We found ourselves in Washington D.C. during a busy time with the new administration ramping up, a healthcare bill in the works, and discussions surrounding a new Farm Bill beginning to brew. These and other topics provided many talking points for our meetings with special interest groups and legislators.
The week closed with a group dinner with Kentucky and Missouri’s adult agricultural leadership programs. This was a great networking opportunity for many and provided insight into other more established leadership programs.
Thank you to all of our hosts in Northern Virginia and Washington D.C.!