Sunday, November 7, 2010

The virtues that made Virginia: good food, drink, and people

Okay, it turns out that "Arcadia" is now not only my favorite Tom Stoppard play but also the most exciting new sustainable food project to hit the DC metro area since my return. And I'm not just saying that because of the outstanding local food, drinks, and hand-rolled cigars at last night's kickoff event (but they sure sweetened the deal). "The Vices that made Virginia" was the first major event to raise awareness and garner support for The Arcadia Center for Sustainable Food & Agriculture which will be breaking ground this March on the historic Woodlawn Plantation property (home to Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Pope Leighy house -- see, dad, I pay attention to architecture even when nursing a bourbon slush).

Proud to have been chosen by the farm's manager, Mo, to represent the group at the event's farm information table, I babbled with passersby about the vision for the 100-acre space, beginning with a 3-acre educational garden for school groups and community members to learn about different styles of gardens in all different sizes and shapes. The first order of business, I explained, was to kill the grass. Not using chemicals, but rather a combination of trampling (which is partly why the event was held in tents quite literally on top of the first field to be cultivated, so get dancing) and lasagne composting (which is slated to begin tomorrow and which I've been *dying* to see in practice for some time now... Mo may have been alarmed at how excitable I got talking about composting). We're also seeking used gardening tools and money to buy tools and seeds, I continued, so if you're looking to help out with a little seed money (har, har), a $25 contribution means you can sponsor a row of vegetables. ("The Ibti Memorial Rainbow Chard Garden"? Or, wait, "The J. Olympia Surly Rutabaga Row." Yes. Yes, I like that.) These were the sorts of conversations happening amid live bluegrass and in between mouthfuls of local oysters, sweet potatoes, duck, cornbread, and pints of beer.

Wait, did I mention the event featured chefs from the various Neighborhood Restaurant Group kitchens? Arcadia is actually the brainchild of NRG co-owner Michael Babin (who kindly gave a group of us, including me and Ollie, a lift to the metro afterwards) and former DC Central Kitchen farm coordinator Erin Littlestar. (What's that? Sure, I thought about biking the 24 miles back home, as it'd been a beautiful ride out during the brisk, sunny afternoon. But when things wrapped up around 9pm, it was cold. And dark. And I was underdressed. And maybe the local wines were a little stronger than I realized.)

Right. Back to Arcadia. The vision is to develop a 3-acre demonstration farm, young farmer incubation program, local food hub (where DC-area schools, restaurants, grocers, and other businesses can source local, responsibly grown produce), and, eventually, an on-site restaurant. I know things are still in the early stages, but I can hardly sit still from giddiness!

Here's a pic of Erin (Arcadia's executive director) and farm manager Mo (not in her usual farm gear) -- the dynamic duo who will be managing the exciting new project. (See what I mean about hand-rolled cigars? Don't worry, dad, I saved one for you.) Come join these inspiring ladies in early spring when we'll be building raised beds and planting. You can sign up to be on the mailing list at We're going to need a lot of hands come spring. And there is always the possibility of good food showing up....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment! Just making sure this isn't spam.... Thanks for your patience. :)Ibti