The Seminar IV trip to Northern Virginia/DC was a unique experience. We learned about the challenges that come with urban agriculture and some of the unexpected benefits of serving an affluent population. We saw both ends of the spectrum in terms of accessibility to nutritious food.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Endless Summer Harvest. Owner, Mary Ellen Taylor, is a delight and provided a lovely tour with a delicious dinner. I learned so much about hydroponics which was very timely since I had just returned from Disney the previous week. Mary Ellen was inspired by the “Land” attraction in Epcot which features the benefits of hydroponic agriculture. During the ride I remember my husband asking me why more farmers didn’t grow crops this way. I assumed it was due to costs. Mary Ellen admitted that her costs were significantly higher than traditional farms but she has the good fortune of being located near a suburban area. Some of the best chefs in the country are in DC and they demand high quality, local produce. She is able to sell her vegetables at a premium. I also discovered something I had never thought much about when we tried the microgreens straight from the greenhouse. Microgreens are young vegetable greens that have the same flavor and nutritional value of a fully matured plant. They were delicious! Mary Ellen has found a niche market and seems to have perfected her production throughout the years.
Another stop that I found to be particularly enlightening was visiting the DC Central Kitchen. Like so many urban areas, DC has a significantly underserved population that do not have access to nutritious meals. DC Central Kitchen trains individuals in culinary careers who might otherwise have challenges finding a living wage job. The mission is to focus on the cause of hunger and create pathways out of poverty. This a model that truly works as they have proven that it is sustainable and self sufficient. Other areas that have high rates of poverty and are considered food deserts could benefit from emulating this organization.
As always, the professional development segment of the seminar was very engaging. Taking dedicated time to think through upcoming crucial conversations has been extremely helpful. A large part of my job is moving conversations forward in a productive manner. Being thoughtful and intentional with how I approach various topics and personalities has been invaluable.
I learn so much from this group. I can’t wait to see everyone in SC & GA.