It’s pretty simple, really: growing or raising food in and around cities. Given the space limits of cities, “urban agriculture” probably doesn’t look like barns and vast stretches of corn fields. Instead, urban agriculture sprouts up in places wherever city residents can find space: vacant lots, schoolyards, rooftops, balconies, apartment windows, backyards, community greens. Individuals, families, city planners, community groups, non-profit organizations, schools, gardening experts, and people with no previous gardening experience grow food within city limits all over the country and the world. 
Urban agriculture is a vibrant and creative approach to community revitalization and healthy living. There are many reasons people grow their own food: home grown food is cheaper than buying fresh produce at the store; gardening is excellent and rewarding physical activity; gardening encourages relationships between neighbors and is a great activity for kids and adults; home grown food is more nutritious than store bought food and of course, it tastes a whole lot better!  Additionally, for many residents of low-income city neighborhoods, fresh food is hard or impossible to find without traveling miles to a nearby grocery store (neighborhoods without a grocery store are called food deserts).  Urban agriculture exists at various scales in cities around the world – including our own Washington, D.C. – and creates beautiful spaces for residents to share and connect to their food sources.      
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Community Food Projects (CFP) are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to establish linkages that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.  While at their root Community Food Projects feed people, but the mission of these projects is much wider in scope in that the project also empowers participants to use food as a mechanism for creating positive change both individually and for the whole community. CFP’s meet the needs of low-income people by increasing their access to fresher, more nutritious food supplies, increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues.

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A lot of people live in cities, and those people need to eat! Unfortunately, most food consumed in cities is grown thousands of miles away. The average food on our plates travels over 1500 miles to get there - and some travels even double that.  It takes a lot of fuel, time, emissions, packaging, preserving and cost to get this food to us.  By the time it's traveled such long distances, it has lost a lot of its flavor and nutritional value. Plus, it is nearly impossible to know where it grew, how the growers were treated and paid and what kind of process it went through to be stored for the long trip. 
Urban agriculture flips this scenario upside down. By growing gardens, city residents are able to take matters into our own hands and eat fresh food straight out of the ground – skipping all the packaging and pollution associated with transporting food huge distances. Urban agriculture connects city residents with an affordable source of nutritious and high-quality food, and can offer people a great source of exercise, fresh air, and recreation. Growing, sharing and enjoying food with your neighbors is a great way to foster community, teach kids a new and fun skill, and revitalize and beautify the neighborhoods we live.
Community gardens have other benefits too: they improve air quality, reduce summer temperatures, create habitat for insects, pollinators, and birds, teach people important lessons about ecology, and improve overall quality of life. What could be a better way to eat well, strengthen your community, and help the environment?    
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 There are many organizations in the DC area working on urban agriculture! Lots of them work to connect residents with resources to grow their own food. The following list is made up of good places to look for ideas, information, classes, and workshops, and other local resources:    
  • America the Beautiful Fund, encourages volunteer citizen efforts and to protect the natural and historic beauty of America.
  • City Blossoms, Baltimore and DC organization which connects children and youth to gardening, emphasizing environmental, cultural, and nutritional aspects.
  • City Farm DC, DC urban gardening collective which connects private landowners with outdoor growing space to willing gardening partners.
  • Master Peace Community Farm, a half-acre youth garden and farm in Riverdale, MD, (just over the DC line).
  • Neighborhood Farm Initiative, a project to improve under-utilized green space in the city, and increase the number of urban gardeners in DC.
  • Rooting DC, a free annual urban gardening forum.
  • Washington Youth Garden, at the U.S. National Arboretum with a unique hands-on environmental science and food education program for local youth.
  • White House Garden, Video from August 31, 2009. (we can't not mention this one ;)
Don’t have yard or space to grow your own? Not a problem! There are plenty of community gardens in DC where you can get a plot for yourself, your family or share with a friend. Due to the popularity of urban gardening, you may encounter waiting lists, but don’t let that deter you. Here are several lists of community gardens in DC for you to look into:

Don't know how to grow food, where to start, or want to learn more? Not a problem! There are great DC specific resources and many places to take classes and workshops all year round. 

  • City Blossoms offers monthly classes for kids and adults from June - November.
  • Common Good City Farm offers workshops and multi-day courses on urban gardening, permaculture, nutrition and more.
  • DC Urban Gardeners is an excellent up-to-date resource on how-to, events and offers an active listserve.
  • Rooting DC, a free annual urban gardening forum.
  • The Food Project (Boston)
  • Green Guerillas (New York City), organization which uses mix of education, organizing, and advocacy to help people cultivate community gardens.
  • GreenThumb (New York City), program of the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation which supports community gardens in NYC through materials, technical assistance, and educational workshops.
  • Growing Power (Milwaukee)
  • Just Food (New York City), organization to develop a just and sustainable food system in the New York City region.
  • Rochester Roots (Rochester, NY) is creating a locally sustainable food system that ensures community food security.
  • The Vermont Food Bank (South Barre) gathers and shares quality food and nurture partnerships that will end hunger in Vermont.
  • A Community of Gardeners, Throughout Washington, D.C., people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities are gardening side by side, growing vegetables, fruits and flowers in community gardens.  Some are looking for basic sustenance, others for a way to remember their homelands, still others for a place to find a respite from their troubles.  “A Community of Gardeners,” will explore the vital role of seven urban community gardens, not only as sources of fresh, nutritious food, but as outdoor classrooms, places of healing, centers of social interaction, and oases of beauty and calm in inner-city neighborhoods. 
  • The Garden, Academy Award-nominated documentary film about a community’s struggle to maintain their right to grow food on a thriving farm in a run-down 14-acre lot in South Central Los Angeles.
  • Women’s Garden Cycles, film about 3 friends biking from Washington, DC to Montreal and back, visiting urban farmers committed to sustainable agriculture.
  • Urban Gardening 101:
“Vegetable Gardening in Containers” is a fantastic article written by Diane Relf, Retired Horticulture Specialist at Virginia Tech, which provides all the necessary information to set up a container garden, indoors or out.
"Learn Stuff About Vegetable Gardening" provides easy-to-read directions on garden preparation and maintenance.
Raised beds are freestanding garden beds constructed several or more inches above the natural terrain. Written by a group of Texas A&M professors, “Building a Raised Bed Garden” provides information on planning, constructing, fertilizing, and maintaining a raised bed garden.
“” is a fabulous source for articles covering topics such as modern urban gardening trends, indoor gardens, urban rainwater collection, and pest control, to name a few.
“Urban Agriculture: A Guide to Container Gardens” provides information on using non-traditional containers, such as old tires, wading pools and feed sacks, to create an urban garden.
  • Food Security Blogs:
  • This site has a comprehensive list of blogs that cover issues related to food security:
    • Organizations:

    • Blogs:
    DC Food For All. The DC Food For All is a forum for eaters and advocates, growers and wonks. It's about shelves and menus, gardens and bloggers working to bring healthy, sustainable and affordable food to all.

    The Locavore’s Garden. A HomeGrown Food Blog.
    • In the News: