(Updated, 1:50 p.m) A new indoor vertical organic farm has put down roots in Green Valley, looking to deliver Arlington-grown farm to table produce.
Inside of a nondescript warehouse on S. Oxford Street near the Shirlington Dog Park, Area 2 Farms is growing — both produce and as a company. Racks of green-leafed, brightly-lit veggies are stacked on top of each other. Water pipes twist between the planters. The smell of soil permeates the space.
Some of what is being grown is familiar to the average supermarket-goer, like carrots, arugula, and tomatoes. Others not so much.
Co-founder Tyler Baras hands over a green leaf with a warning. It’s fish mint, he says, and tastes exactly what it sounds like it would. He’s right.
The aim of this community-supported indoor urban farm in Arlington isn’t just to deliver freshly-picked produce to customers within a ten mile radius — Arlington, Alexandria, parts of Fairfax County, and D.C. — on a weekly basis. It’s also about fostering a relationship between the community and the farmer.
“People want to know where they are getting their food from,” Baras tells ARLnow. “People can come get a tour of the farm, meet me, and have a relationship.”
Baras and his co-founders aren’t the only ones that think a local indoor vertical organic farm is a good idea. Today, Arlington County and the state announced a pair of $40,000 grants that will provide Area 2 Farms with for a total of $80,000 in public funding.
“It is always exciting when successful entrepreneurs like those behind Area 2 Farms bring their ideas and technologies to help grow Virginia’s largest and oldest industry, agriculture,” said Va’s Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry at the press conference this morning revealing the grant. “This project adds to the region’s growing cluster of innovative, indoor urban agricultural operations and shows us how the Commonwealth’s oldest industry will remain a vital and growing part of the Virginia economy going forward.”
Baras has spent his career being an indoor vertical farmer and has written a number of books about it. His methods are a combination of hydroponics and traditional farming, including using soil, worms, and compost.
It was about a year ago that he moved to Clarendon and realized that Arlington could be a perfect fit to set up an indoor urban farm.
“[Arlingtonians] love their food. So, everyone’s been so supportive,” he says. “I’ve seen vertical farms do really well when they act like traditional farms — when they do farm stands and build relationships with customers.”
The plan is to start slow and let the farm take root in the neighborhood. Area 2 Farms only moved into the warehouse on S. Oxford Street in October, so it’s still growing.
Next week is Area 2 Farms’ first big harvest. It will begin sending out boxes of their produce to the few dozen customers that have signed up so far later that week. At this point, that’s mostly friends and family, but new customers are welcome to sign up for boxes through the company’s website.
Development Proposal for Ballston Macy’s — “The Ballston development pipeline continues to grow as plans come into focus for the Macy’s department store in northern Virginia. Insight Property Group is seeking Arlington County’s approval to raze and replace the Macy’s/office building at 685 N. Glebe Road with a 16-story development, delivering 555 apartments above a grocery store. The project would transfer development rights and density from the affordable Tyrol Hill/Haven Apartments off Columbia Pike.” [UrbanTurf]
‘Arlington Superwoman’ Invited to White House — “Mariflor Ventura, also known as ‘Arlington Superwoman,’ tells 7News she has been personally invited to the White House for July 4th celebrations. The Bidens have said they plan to host first responders, essential workers, and military service members and their families on the South Lawn for a cookout and to watch the fireworks over the National Mall… Ventura was first featured by 7News in April for her tireless dedication to feed, clothe and provide for hundreds of immigrant families.” [ABC 7, ABC 7]
Why There’s a Bit of a Haze in the Sky — From the National Weather Service: “If the sky seems milky to you, it’s probably because of the high altitude smoke which has moved into the area from wildfires in the western US and Canada. This smoke will likely hang around at least through tomorrow.” [Twitter]
Record Year for Local Pet Adoptions — “The Animal Welfare League of Arlington found homes for a record-breaking number of dogs, cats and small animals during the fiscal year ending June 30, the organization announced on July 1. A total of 2,587 animals ‘were adopted into loving families and brought much-needed laughs, love and comfort’ during a tumultuous time, said Animal Welfare League CEO Sam Wolbert.” [Sun Gazette]
New Farmers Market Finds Success — “Vendors from Pennsylvania to the Northern Neck of Virginia traveled to Arlington Saturday morning to sell their vegetables and other goods at the inaugural Cherrydale Farmers Market in Arlington. The customer count was larger than organizers expected, especially from the time the market opened at 8 a.m. until 11 a.m. Some vendors sold out of their goods long before the market wrapped up at noon.” [Patch]
More Libraries Open Today — “Starting July 6, Arlington residents and Library patrons will have access to five open library locations — Aurora Hills, Central, Columbia Pike, Shirlington and Westover libraries. Arlington Public Library will prioritize access to library collections, reintroduce core library services and feature new operating hours across the system.” [Arlington Public Library]
Nats Offer Prize for Summer Readers — “This year, the Washington Nationals are offering each reader who finishes Summer Reading one voucher for an upcoming baseball game. Each voucher is good for two free Nats tickets, while supplies last.” [Arlington Public Library]
Photo courtesy Beth Ferrill
Ahead of the vote, some residents — chiefly worried about noise early in the morning — told Board members the market will be a rotten deal for their neighborhood. The issue drew 14 speakers for and against the proposal and the discussion lasted one hour, prompting some Board members to hasten to a vote and move on.
The new market will attract up to 20 vendors to its location at Dorothy Hamm Middle School (4100 Vacation Lane). Its first day is expected to be Saturday, July 3; starting next year, the market will operate from April through November. Field to Table, an Arlington-based nonprofit that facilitates the markets at Lubber Run, Fairlington and Westover, will manage the market.
Sales will start at 8 a.m. and end at noon. The School Board is set to approve an agreement during its Thursday, June 24 meeting.
Concerned residents asked for a 9 a.m. start time to allow for more quiet time in the morning. While the County Board ultimately sided with an 8 a.m. start time, proposed by staff and requested by Field to Table, they did extend an olive branch to residents in the form of a County Board review of the market in six months.
“Having lived through this with my Fairlington community, there was a lot of concerns about noise, and I would hear about it on walks,” Board member Libby Garvey said. “I have not been hearing about complaints since, and I’m fairly confident that this will work out fine.”
Oh wow there are a lot of speakers here to speak for/against a…*checks notes*
farmers market pic.twitter.com/o5CABcC2Ju
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) June 15, 2021
Local resident Joan Perry predicted that with this level of concern over the impact on the neighborhood, the market will not succeed, just like a community-supported agriculture program in the neighborhood failed.
“The farmers market is supposed to serve the immediate community surrounding the school, the very people opposed to the market who did not support the CSA,” she said.
Neighbor Simone Acha asked for a later start time so her Saturday mornings would not be unduly disturbed.
“We know from having lived through almost four years of construction at Dorothy Hamm Middle School that noise is very disruptive,” she said.
Others were excited at the prospect of a walkable market.
“I can’t think of a better place to hold the farmers market,” said Marcy Gessel.
Neighboring civic associations advocated for starting at 9 a.m. and ending at 1 p.m. The Donaldson Run Civic Association conditioned its support on — among other requests — this start time.
“A farmers market located in this kind of neighborhood setting, such substantial disruption of nearby DRCA residents on a weekend morning is unreasonable,” wrote Bill Richardson, the president of the Donaldson Run Civic Association. “For those living near Hamm Middle School, who have already had to endure many years of construction activity, this burden is particularly distressing.”
In response to the concerns, ahead of the Tuesday Board meeting, staff added language governing noise levels, limiting vendor parking to one road, and suggested both a staff and County Board review.
Attempting to wrap up the discussion and propose a resolution that would work for everyone, Board member Katie Cristol nodded to some mothers and children in the audience of the County Board meeting. They were waiting to speak about a later agenda item: county attempts to improve conditions at the Serrano Apartments, an affordable housing complex in Columbia Pike.
“I’m cognizant that we have some really important items, as I know our chair feels acutely — and it’s bedtime in some cases — so I think we should try to be moving forward,” Cristol said.
By the time the Serrano discussion started, however, those families had to leave, according to Rev. Pete Nunnally, the assistant rector at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
“I wonder what the conversation was between the mothers who brought their kids here but had to wait so long, so long that they had to go home, while white people argued about a farmers market,” he said.
A new farmers market may be coming to Pentagon City.
On Saturday, April 17, the County Board is planning to hear a permit request from the National Landing Business Improvement District about holding an open-air farmers market at the plaza area in the northern portion of Metropolitan Park, about 2-3 blocks from the Pentagon City Metro station.
The farmers market would take place on Saturdays, April through November, from 8 a.m.-noon. However, the market would not start until June this year, National Landing BID spokesperson Ashley Forrester tells ARLnow.
The reason for the delay, writes Forrester, is so that the BID can do more planning in advance and set themselves “up for success in future years” for when there’s a new park.
Metropolitan Park is on the verge of getting a $14 million makeover courtesy of Amazon and its new, adjacent HQ2, with design work from James Corner Field Operations of New York’s High Line fame. That project is expected to be completed in 2023.
The market will be operated by Freshfarm Markets, which runs nearly 30 markets in the D.C.-area including four in Arlington.
If approved, the market would be able to accommodate up to 20 vendors, who would park along 13th Street S. and S. Fair Street.
The staff report notes that the area around Metropolitan Park contains several high-rise, multi-family apartment buildings, so they expect most patrons to the farmers market will likely walk or bike there.
The County Board will review the use permit for the farmers market again in a year, April 2022.
This additional market would give Arlington nine active farmers markets, a number of which have opened or will be opening in the coming weeks.
Pre-ordering is still being encouraged as a safety measure, but all the markets are open for in-person shopping. It’s a change from early last year when markets were briefly shut down due to the pandemic and, then, allowed to reopen only for pre-order sales.
Grab a basket and brush up on your produce-scoping skills, it’s farmers market season once again.
A number of Arlington farmers markets have or will be opening for the season in the coming days, including:
- Crystal City on Tuesdays, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (starting tomorrow, April 6)
- Ballston on Thursdays, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m. (opened on April 1)
Several other farmers markets will be opening in the weeks to follow, including:
- Lubber Run on Saturdays starting April 17, from 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
- Fairlington on Sundays, starting May 2, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Rosslyn on Wednesdays, starting May 5, from 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Three Arlington farmer markets are open year-around, though with shifting hours depending on the season including:
- Westover’s Sunday winter hours of 9 a.m.-1 p.m. will remain until May 2, a market representative confirmed, when it shifts 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
- Courthouse’s Saturday farmers market shifts their hours to 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. on April 17.
- The Columbia Pike market on Sundays is now in the parking lot of the Fillmore Shopping Center and keeps the hours of 8:30-11:30 a.m. year around.
The Courthouse farmers market is the oldest in Arlington, selling produce since 1979. All of the markets will have modified operations, including limited capacity, as a result of the pandemic.
In total, Arlington has eight farmer markets.
The Marymount University farmers market closed last year and is not currently operational, a county official confirms. It opened in 2016, billing itself as the only Arlington market north of Lee Highway.
Despite being encouraged to offer pre-ordering, markets are open for in-person shopping. This is a change from early last year, at the start of the pandemic, when markets were briefly shut down and then allowed to open for pre-ordered sales only.
Through the initiative — part of the council’s pandemic relief efforts — the CCPTA is partnering with FRESHFARM Markets to provide fresh food to about 900 families who have been receiving food through seven PTA and school-based distribution sites. Fundraising will go until Dec. 4, with an extra push today (Dec. 1) for Giving Tuesday.
The food will be given out at the regular distribution times during the week of Monday, Dec. 14. So far, the council is more than halfway toward its goal: $11,851 of $20,000 has been raised as of publication time.
“We must ensure that children and their families do not go hungry,” said Emily Vincent, the CCPTA President in a statement. “Addressing food insecurity is essential to both well-being and education, as it is difficult for children to learn when they are hungry.”
Families have been able to access food, school and cleaning supplies, baby items and masks at the distribution sites since the spring, Vincent said. During the summer, these sites served approximately 2,500 families.
The work supplements the meal distributions organized by Arlington Public Schools.
“Our volunteer efforts are committed to serving their school communities and they are hopeful for a more sustainable and robust support system coordinated by Arlington County in the new year,” Vincent said.
The drive also supports local farmers, who have struggled to profit from their produce this year due to the pandemic.
In addition to running farmers markets in the D.C. area, FRESHFARM distributes local produce to small institutions such as daycares, which often lack the money and bulk needed to buy from larger distributors.
The arm of the nonprofit responsible for this program, Pop Up Food Hub, will purchase the food for the CCPTA fundraiser. A $22 donation to this food drive covers a week’s worth of produce for a family of four.
“While families have been grateful for the various types of food assistance that are available in the neighborhood, many have requested assistance with obtaining fresh food beyond the non-perishable pantry food products and single serve meals,” the donation page said.
Many food drives focus on packaged goods because they last and can be bought cheaply, said Sebastian Muenchrath, an operations manager for Pop Up Food Hub. But that pushes fresh fruits and vegetables to the side for hungry people who need a balanced diet, too.
The bags will rely on long-lasting winter staples such as squash, onions, apples and potatoes, with some leafy greens, although they are scarcer these days.
The CCPTA has “been great at understanding what the local supply looks like right now,” he said.
Courthouse Wendy’s Project Changing — “A new developer appears to be taking over a Carr Properties’ project in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, queuing up a switch from office to residential in the process. Greystar Real Estate Partners filed new plans with Arlington County earlier this month for a triangular parcel at the confluence of Clarendon and Wilson boulevards… [for] a 16-story residential building with 225 units above 4,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.” [Washington Business Journal]
Opera at Local Farmers Market — Two operatic performance will be held at the Crystal City farmers market this afternoon. The Washington National Opera performances will take place from a converted moving truck. [Facebook, WUSA 9]
Airports See Big Revenue Drop — “The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has seen its year-to-date revenue from airlines decline more than 23 percent, according to new figures, with revenue from sources indirectly related to aviation service declining 46 percent.” [InsideNova]
Dog Hit By Car Gets Second Chance — Thanks to efforts by the Animal Welfare League of Arlington and three other groups, a puppy named Cash had a broken leg, suffered after being struck by a car, saved from amputation. [Facebook]
Alexandria Releases Contact Tracing Info — Alexandria just released an analysis of its contact tracing findings, showing the most common recent activities reported by those diagnosed with COVID-19. Among the top activities reported by COVID patients: living with someone who contracted the disease and going to a workplace. Relatively few reported recently dining outdoors. Arlington has yet to release similar information. [City of Alexandria, Twitter]
McDonald’s Rebuild Decision Delayed — “Action on a proposal to rebuild the existing McDonald’s fast-food restaurant in the 4800 block of Lee Highway has been put off for another two months. Arlington County officials and the applicant had sparred over the plan, which also would include a revamped traffic-circulation design.” [InsideNova]
Bollards Deter Dangerous I-395 Driving — VDOT has installed new bollards to prevent drivers from cutting across northbound I-395 to access the HOV bridge. The barriers appears to be doing the trick, succeeding where orange barrels previously failed. [Twitter]
Crystal City Farmers Market Moving — “Arlington County Board members on July 18 approved the temporary relocation of the once-a-week Crystal City Farmers’ Market, so services could continue to be provided during the COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional spot of the market – the 2000-2100 block of Crystal Drive – does not have enough room to space out vendors.” [InsideNova]
(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) Farmers markets in Arlington closed briefly by the coronavirus outbreak will be allowed to re-open this weekend, but with a catch: vendors can only offer food that’s been pre-ordered before the market.
“To limit the exposure to COVID-19, vendors are not permitted to display food or on-site shopping,” Arlington County said in a press release. “This guidance enables markets to remain open giving Arlingtonians access to fresh, locally-grown food while promoting social distancing.”
While others will be opening later this spring, three Arlington farmers markets are currently in season and expected to reopen for order pickups:
Each of the markets will be limited to no more than ten customers at a time, and customers are being asked to comply with social distancing guidelines to prevent the person-to-person spread of the virus. Food orders will be boxed and the press release said customers are asked to avoid touching or inspecting their orders on-site.
Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish said that some of the vendors have options to place orders online, while others might have to be contacted directly by phone or email. While the process may be cumbersome for the first weekend, Kalish said that should be ironed out over the coming weeks.
The Columbia Pike Farmers Market announced today that it will be taking online orders for three vendors.
“To ensure we can continue to support our local farmers and provide the community with needed produce and goods while complying with state-wide guidance on distancing and gathering restrictions, we have temporarily moved our Farmers Market to the web,” said the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. “Customers will now order from our vendors online and pick up their orders at the market on Sundays. We currently have 3 vendors prepared to take orders for pick-up THIS Sunday, March 29. Please note that orders MUST be placed in advance, unless otherwise noted. There will be no shopping at the market.”
The nearby Falls Church farmers market is also reopening this weekend with similar rules in place.
Resources to Assist Those in Need — Arlington County has created a list of food, financial and medical assistance that is available for neighbors in need during the coronavirus outbreak. [Arlington County]
Vihstadt Stands Up for Farmers Markets — “At Saturday’s County Board meeting, former board member John Vihstadt rapped the state government for lumping in farmers’ markets – of which Arlington has nearly a dozen operating throughout the week – with restaurants (which for the most part are now closed to dine-in service and in many cases are shuttered completely) rather than treating them as supermarkets (which remain open and running at full strength).” [InsideNova]
Giant Adjusting Store Hours — “Effective Friday, March 27, most Giant Food stores will adjust hours of operations to be open from 6:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m… The first hour of operations, 6:00-7:00 a.m. is reserved for senior citizens and immunocompromised individuals, including pregnant women and caregivers shopping for the immunocompromised, so that they may shop and practice safe social distancing.” [Press Release]
Va. Liquor Stores Limit Hours — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority (ABC) will reduce operating hours at all of its stores statewide beginning Friday, March 27, due to the expanding nature of the COVID-19 outbreak… stores across the commonwealth will be open from noon to 7 p.m., seven days a week, starting Friday, March 27.” [Virginia ABC]
County to Help Hospital with Bond Sale — “Continuing a 42-year tradition of collaboration, the Arlington County government will assist Virginia Hospital Center in issuing bonds to support new construction. County Board members on March 21 authorized the government’s Industrial Development Authority, or IDA, to issue up to $300 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to support the effort.” [InsideNova]
Local Catholic Schools Embrace Distance Learning — “The Catholic Diocese of Arlington’s Office of Catholic Schools announced the successful stand-up of distance learning in all 41 parish schools and high schools in the Diocese. Distance learning is now in place, offering interactive, personalized instruction to students through the remainder of the academic year.” [Press Release]
Local Leaders Urge Rent Leniency — “There are new calls for landlords to freeze [rent] payments to help mitigate the economic fallout of the pandemic… ‘We need them to show compassion on the front end, and we’ll work to make sure they’re made whole on the back end,’ said Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey.” [Washington Business Journal]
Tomb Sentinels Are Still Guarding — “There is a sacred duty not even a pandemic can stop: a rite of continuity still carried out in Arlington National Cemetery even as much of the country shuts down. The sentinels who guard the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier recently marked more than 30,000 days of constant watch over the remains of unidentified U.S. service members — a streak persisting through the pandemic.” [WUSA 9]
Update at 11:20 p.m. — The Westover Farmers Market announced that it is now “closed until further notice.”
Earlier: At least one Arlington farmers markets is still, as of Friday afternoon, scheduled to be held over the next week, despite calls for closures.
While grocery stores remain open, Arlington County on Friday issued a press release calling for the closure of the open air, weekly farmers markets.
Arlington County is committed to the health and safety of our community and our employees. On March 17, 2020, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and the State Health Commissioner issued a Joint Executive Order restricting the number of patrons allowed in restaurants, fitness centers and theaters to 10 or less.
The Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services has interpreted this to apply to farmers markets as well. While Arlington does not have the authority to close all farmers markets, we ask organizers to take responsible action and suspend their operations this weekend, Saturday, March 21, and Sunday, March 22. The County is awaiting further guidance from the Commonwealth regarding mass gatherings and food sources.
The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for your cooperation.
Please continue to practice social distancing and wash your hands frequently. To stay updated on the status of COVID-19, visit arlingtonva.us/coronavirus.
The Arlington Farmers Market in Courthouse is set to be closed this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak, while the Lubber Run, Fairlington, Ballston, Crystal City, Rosslyn and Marymount markets have not yet started up for the season. But Westover farmers market, at last check, was still slated to be held on Sunday.
The organizers of the markets posted on social media, asking customers to sign a letter of support for keeping farmers markets open and making the case for why they’re both safe and essential.
We believe farmers markets are essential to our community food security. Please consider signing this letter of support to keep farmers markets.
Arlington playgrounds, athletic courts and dog parks, meanwhile, remain open — despite the concerns of some residents, expressed in emails to ARLnow, about a lack of social distancing.
“I live right by Rocky Run Park… I walked by tonight and could not believe how many people were out playing basketball,” one concerned resident said Thursday. “I get little kids having to get out and run around but one court was packed with adults! These people should know better. There are so many old people in this neighborhood — the basketball court looked like the Florida spring break beaches.”
From Arlington Dept. of Parks and Recreation spokeswoman Susan Kalish:
Arlington’s parks, fields, playgrounds, dog parks, courts and trails remain open for self-directed recreation and leisure. These spaces provide a critical connection to the outdoors and green space as well as opportunities for physical activity, which studies demonstrate reduces stress and improves mental health.
While our outdoor facilities are open, we encourage residents to stay home if they don’t feel well, avoid non-essential gatherings of 10 or more people, practice social distancing by maintaining six feet of personal space and to wash their hands often or use hand sanitizer. If they plan on touching equipment, we asked that they wipe it down with disinfectant wipes before and after use.
We are posting signs in English and Spanish in our public spaces over the weekend to emphasize this message.
These are challenging times. The health and safety of the Arlington community is our highest priority and we are grateful for their cooperation. The County continues to monitor recommendations and best practices, and will make adjustments as necessary.
In nearby Falls Church, the city has suspended its farmers market and also closed playgrounds due to concern about community spread of coronavirus.
Due to evidence of COVID-19 community spread in our region, all playgrounds & play facilities in City of Falls Church Parks are now temporarily closed (as of 3/20 3PM) until further notice. The parks themselves will remain open at this time. Full details: https://t.co/aK6TDOpubJ pic.twitter.com/sql9lRCGBV
— City of Falls Church (@FallsChurchGov) March 20, 2020
We're suspending the Falls Church Farmers Market for this Saturday, March 21 as we're awaiting further guidance from the Commonwealth regarding mass gatherings and food sources. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/wHuB67jgYy
— City of Falls Church (@FallsChurchGov) March 19, 2020