The Robert Ware Straus Ecosystem Farm is the Accokeek Foundation's USDA-certified organic vegetable farm. Located on an eight-acre field along the Potomac River, the farm is a model for farming for the future.
The field of the Ecosystem Farm is not ideally suited for growing high quality and fresh market produce. Yet, that is exactly what we do. The historical and archaeological record indicates agricultural activity on the field by Native Americans dating to at least 800 years ago. It has been in continuous production of tobacco, corn, wheat, and soybeans by European descendents for the past 350 years. In addition to poor fertility and loss of topsoil due to the centuries of continuous cropping, field conditions are compromised by poor water drainage.
Challenging as it is, we firmly believe it is imperative to devise innovative farming techniques on this type of marginal soil. In rapidly developing urban areas such as metropolitan Washington, D.C., affordable and productive farm land is practically non-existent. The need for a model of farming for the future–using marginal soils near urban areas–is critical, especially at a time when increasing market demand conflicts with diminishing natural resources.
Accordingly, we embrace this challenge and continuously attempt to improve and refine production methods that maintain, and even enhance, the environment. Our goal is to achieve optimal production per square foot, as opposed to maximum yield per acre. Two passive solar greenhouses are used for winter production of vegetables such as cold-hardy greens, carrots, beets, and garlic and cover crops can be seen growing in the field during winter months. Three different solar panels at the farm provide electricity for a variety of electrical needs at our off-the-grid location, including a unique solar-powered irrigation system.
All produce from the farm is direct-marketed to consumers through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project. Using the CSA marketing model, consumers pre-pay for a share of the farm's harvest. Each week from late-April through early-December, a seasonal harvest of fresh-picked produce is distributed to 50 local households.
A guided tour of the Ecosystem Farm is offered at 11:00 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
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