Dreaming Out Loud – a food justice nonprofit – is partnering with the city of Washington D.C. and a half-dozen other organizations to run the Kelly Miller Farm in a way that generates revenue while also meeting the community’s unique needs. The ward has a population of more than 70,000 residents, yet is served by only two grocery stores. The farm aims to offer youth programs, a community garden accessible to seniors, and a commercial kitchen from which area residents can launch food-based businesses.
“It’s like a food system in a box — in one space, in one community,” said Christopher Bradshaw, executive director of Dreaming Out Loud.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has provided $150,000 in startup money and the project has also received local grants. The designers plan to build such structures as hoop houses and a greenhouse and transform a gutted shipping container into the commercial kitchen space. Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring and be completed by midsummer. The USDA expects that the farm will serve as a model for organizations across the country that want to help consumers understand how their food is produced, especially in urban settings.
Bradshaw brings a good deal of experience to The Kelly Miller Farm project. In the past, his nonprofit started a school garden and then a farmers’ market. Bradshaw started the Kelly Miller Farm project by asking people who live in the community what they want. It quickly became clear to Bradshaw and other organizers in the community that residents wanted and needed food options beyond corner stores.
“A lot of times, organizations will use these poor communities and their statistics to get grants to do work that the community never wanted in the first place,” Josh Singer, a community garden specialist with the district’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said. With the Dreaming Out Loud project, however, “we have a whole coalition focused on making this space serve the local community.”