A new agricultural partnership in Brandywine, Maryland will create an urban farm focused on producing livestock and fresh vegetables to tackle Prince George’s County’s food desert problem.
After partnering with the University of the District of Columbia and the Anacostia Economic Development Corporation to build community gardens in various DC neighborhoods, urban farmer Mike Jones is now partnering with former banker Desmond Reid on the 36-acre farm at Brandywine.
Urban farmers will use the land to grow vegetables, cows, chickens, goats and sheep using non-traditional methods. Jones, CEO of Fresh Communities Holding Corporation and a Prince George’s County native, said his goal is to produce food 365 days a year.
“We understand that Prince George’s County and Washington, DC, DMV is a major food desert hub,” Jones said. “So how do you fix a food desert hub?” Well, we have to, first of all, manufacture our products that we control, and we market and distribute to the communities that we know are really in need.
Jones said he funds the farm himself through his marketing business.
“Our kale, our cabbage, our cabbage, all the things that, to our community, leafy greens are very important to our diet,” Jones said.
Jones said within the next seven to nine months the area will include hydroponics and aquaponics to grow tilapia and salmon.
“The fish, of course, the waste feeds the plants, the roots of the plants clean the water and the water recirculates. And that’s how the two work,” Jones said.
The system, which Jones practiced in the community gardens he helped develop, allows fish and vegetables to be produced year-round.
While the farm offers an international weekend market, the plan is to expand access to different types of consumers.
“Food deserts actually become food swamps because of the food they eat, it’s not fresh, it has no nutritional value, unless they have everything they need to eat,” said Jones.
Over the next two weeks, the farm will begin offering classes to teach children about agriculture. For more information, visit firstharvestclub.com.
The international farm market is open Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.