wjfarm

The Rest is Silence

In Uncategorized on May 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm

This will unfortunately be the final entry on this blog as it is clear that promises made were hollow and apparently just political rhetoric designed to put off answering difficult questions in the build-up to the City’s mayoral primary last month. Since the very successful Community Action Day on March 8th which demonstrated the groundswell of community support for the Farm and more importantly for our students and their families, there has been zero communication from the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, zero communication from the Chief of Staff for DC Public Schools, zero communication from the Instructional Superintendent for the cluster of schools overseeing the Walker Jones Education Campus, and zero communication or action by the Principal of the school, despite repeated requests for information, decisions, and action.

All the seed for the some 100 different crops that are normally grown on the Farm needed to be purchased in March; the early Spring direct seeded crops such as peas and beans planted, and the mid-season seedling crops such as tomatoes peppers, eggplants started by April; and the deadline for other major crops such as collards and kale (that needed to be planted in time for harvest prior to the end of the school year so students could take their produce home) was past due last week. None has been purchased, let alone planted; no students for the school have had a chance to work on the farm.

Unfortunately too, several important tasks needed to be done in order to preserve our organic designation (composting, hand weeding in accordance with the minimal-till regime, beneficial organism breeding and release, non-chemical pre-season maintenance of fruit trees and soft fruit gardens, etc.) but have not been and so even if work was started tomorrow, we will no longer be permitted to hold the organic-squared designation we earned last season.

As with the South Central Farm of Los Angeles which was in operation between 1994 and 2006 when urban farmers were evicted but with promises of “relocation” that have yet to be honored, so seems to be the fate of the Farm at Walker Jones. As of April 2014, the site of the South Central Farm is still a derelict lot. The only real difference with the Farm at Walker Jones is that this 1-acre site will soon hold the retail/residential space that has now become the symbol of gentrification in DC where the concepts of affordable housing and food justice are ignored in the face of the tax revenue that will swell the City’s coffers.

URBAN GARDEN

 

 

Community Action Day, Saturday March 8th, 9am to 3pm!

In Events, Improvements, Partners, Uncategorized on February 22, 2014 at 7:34 am

By now you will have heard that the farm has something of a reprieve in that talk about “relocating” has also included an understanding that if any construction and development is indeed going to take place at the farm site (still an ongoing discussion, including the illogicality of moving to a possible adjacent space), it may take 12 to 18 months before anything happens.

What does this mean? It means that we can move ahead and prepare the farm for the upcoming 2014 season and further consolidate the farm’s importance as a community hub and unique opportunity for our students to be empowered by growing and eating their own food!

As many gardeners know, Winter is hardly a time for sitting back and waiting for Spring, but should be the period when much of the needed repairs, renovations, and maintenance are completed prior to the Spring surge. While we have moved the debate from shutdown towards reprieve, much of this needed work was not completed so in order to re-energise our initiative we are asking everybody to recruit, cajole, bully, bribe, or otherwise encourage all your groups and supporters to volunteer for a massive Community Action Day on Saturday, March 8th from 9am to 3pm.

We have a ton of work to do which will primarily involve spreading compost, and weeding and tilling all our fields and peripheral areas. We will arrange for the school building to be open to cater to bathroom needs, and we will provide tools and gloves for all.

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Green Tomatoes in November

In Recipes on November 25, 2013 at 3:19 pm

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Inevitably, gardeners are faced with the “green tomatoes in November” dilemma and inevitably the majority will attempt to defy the Laws of Nature (and in this case, those of a zone 7 climate) and hold on for them to ripen, but just as inevitably the first hard freeze, in November, will quash any sense of green-thumb megalomania and render the possibilities merely fantasy, or… with a sprinkling of corn meal, we can Bobby Flay them!

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With the formation of the Junior Chefs this year, harvesting green tomatoes for the creation of salsas, pickles, and relish nudged us away from the temptation to hope for a warming spell and provided us with plenty of healthy, yet unripe, fruit to use, especially with many of the herbs still available.

greentomatorelish

Green Heirloom Tomato Relish

6 cups green heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 cup savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 medium red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tabasco peppers, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup (2 stalks) celery, coarsely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. thai basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. African blue basil, finely chopped
2 tbsp. salad burnet, finely chopped
1 tbsp. mustard seed
1 tbsp. celery seed
1 tbsp. salt
2 tsp. winter savory, very finely chopped
2 tsp. freshly grated turmeric
1 tsp. lavender leaves, very finely chopped

Following the standard pickling procedure, everything goes into a non-reactive pot, is brought to the boil, simmered for 5, then jarred!

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The question still remains as to how to dispose of the old vines. There is some debate concerning how to get rid of old, and possibly diseased tomato vines, with burning and trashing considered better choices than composting, however even though our heirloom vines probably do have the range of fungal diseases prevalent in tomatoes (septoria, alternaria, anthracnose, fusarium, verticilium, and phytophthera all common to mid-Atlantic farming), as we have a strict crop rotation plan, we’ve decided to follow our minimal-till protocol and use the old vines, well-chopped, as a compost layer knowing that we’ll not be planting any solanaceous crops in the same field for another 5 years.

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