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ECO City Farms Spreads Organic Farming Gospel To Urban Residents

Photo Courtesy ECO City Farms

To most Americans, a farm is something you only see way out in the country. Research conducted in the last decade by the United States Department of Agriculture found that 444 American counties were classified as farming-dependent, and 391 were rural. However, agriculture is also important to urban areas, especially when ensuring that households get healthy food with minimal environmental impact.

Photo Courtesy ECO City Farms 

One organization that supports urban farming is ECO City Farms. The Maryland-based nonprofit provides agricultural educational resources to city dwellers and grows food using regenerative and certified organic practices. ECO got its start a decade ago in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Today, it operates urban farms in Hyattsville and Bladensburg and an urban farm incubator in Upper Marlboro.

Photo Courtesy ECO City Farms

According to its website, ECO specializes in growing “nutrient-rich” vegetables, herbs, and fruit in places where “good food is scarce.” The nonprofit then sells its food directly to community members through affordable weekly farm shares, on-farm stands, and at the Riverdale Park Farmers Market. In addition, it distributes sustainably grown produce from other small farmers.

ECO puts a keen focus on sustainability by composting food waste and using natural processes and “thousands of worms to rebuild healthy soil and restore the environment.”

Part of its mission is to advocate for a locally based and “just food system” by partnering with government agencies, schools, other nonprofits, and businesses.

“We envision a just, vigorous, and sustainable food system in the Chesapeake foodshed with ample fertile soil, quality environments, livable incomes and decent working conditions for farmers and food workers, and nutritious, high-quality food for all,” ECO states as its vision on its website.

Photo Courtesy ECO City Farms

The organization serves the “working class inner beltway” of Prince George’s County along with neighboring Washington, D.C. In addition to providing food, ECO offers the following education and training programs:

  • Beginning Farmer Training Program: This free program is designed to help beginning farmers learn about crop production, resource management, and administrative skills necessary to become successful. ECO provides hands-on training and one-on-one mentoring in partnership with Prince George’s Community College (PGCC). The program entails 27 hours of classroom learning. Upon graduation, students are awarded a Certificate of Urban Commercial Agriculture and continuing education credits. 
  • Urban Farm Incubator: Located at Watkins Regional Park, the Urban Farm Incubator is a collaboration between ECO City Farms, the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District (PGSCD), Prince George’s Food Equity Council (FEC), The Capital Market of 20743 at Mary and Main, and the M-NCPPC Parks and Recreation Department. As part of the incubator, county land is opened up to smaller-scale farmers, with the goal of helping them launch new farm-based businesses in Prince George’s County. The emphasis is on using regenerative, certified naturally-grown, and organically-grown agricultural best practices.  
  • SEED 2 FEED Summer Youth Program: Teens in Prince George’s County can participate in this program, which provides hands-on instruction in urban farming, composting, nutrition, and healthy living. Students also assist with cultivating vegetables at the Edmonston Farm and then cooking it.

Nutrition Education Program: This program involves a partnership between ECO and the Maryland University of Integrative Health to teach community members how to integrate healthy food choices into their lives. The program includes two-hour sessions that aim to promote good health habits and a healthy lifestyle for children and adults.

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