Arlington, VA

Believe it or not, Arlington County has a working commercial farm.

The farm, which is located in a commercial building along Lee Highway, uses hydroponic technology to grow a variety of edible plants indoors. And it’s about to expand.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced this afternoon that Fresh Impact Farms will be getting a $30,000 grant — half from the state, half from the county — that will help it double production and create six jobs.

Fresh Impact, Arlington County’s only commercial farm, is banking on its restaurant customers ramping up purchases as vaccinated customers flock back to indoor dining. It also launched a direct-to-consumer Community Supported Agriculture program last year.

County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti hailed the business and its expansion.

“Governor Northam’s award to Fresh Impact Farms, Arlington’s only commercial farm, is an innovative way to celebrate unique uses of technology to help a small business pivot during the pandemic,” de Ferranti said in a statement. “I am thrilled that Fresh Impact Farms is growing and looking to the future of a sustainable food supply.”

More on the company’s expansion, below, from a press release issued by the governor’s office.

Governor Ralph Northam today announced that Fresh Impact Farms will invest $137,500, create six new jobs, and more than double production at its Arlington County indoor facility. Operating since 2018 as Arlington’s only commercial farm, Fresh Impact Farms uses proprietary hydroponic technology to grow a variety of specialty herbs, leafy greens, and edible flowers for sale to customers in the Greater Washington, D.C. metro area.

Like many companies, Fresh Impact Farms has pivoted its business model amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Seizing the opportunity created by more people cooking at home, the company initiated a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program targeting area residents. The CSA program, which focuses on leafy greens and home kitchen-friendly herbs, has grown steadily since its establishment in April 2020 and now includes smaller wholesale clients. Now, with vaccinations underway and the restaurant industry poised to rebound, Fresh Impact Farms is expanding, which will allow the company to resume supplying their restaurant customers, while also meeting new demand through their CSA program.

“Agriculture continues to be a key driver of our economic recovery in both rural and urban areas of our Commonwealth,” said Governor Northam. “Innovative, dynamic businesses like Fresh Impact Farms are demonstrating how exciting new opportunities can grow out of pandemic-related challenges. I congratulate the company on their success and am thrilled to award the first-ever AFID grant to Arlington County to support this expansion.”

This expansion by Fresh Impact Farms will include a second grow room, larger production facility, and an educational hub where, post-pandemic, customers will be able to see how their food is harvested. Over the next three years, the company expects to grow an additional 10,500 pounds of Virginia-grown leafy greens, herbs, and edible flowers for restaurant and CSA customers.

“Agriculture is Virginia’s largest private sector industry and the Commonwealth continues to be on the forefront of emerging agriculture technologies,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am inspired by Fresh Impact Farms’ commitment to not only bringing fresh, local produce to Virginians, but also for its commitment to educate our community about how local food is grown.”

“2020 was undoubtedly one of the hardest years in recent memory for many people and businesses, but I’m heartened by the strength and flexibility the entire Fresh Impact Farms team has shown in our deep pivot to consumers and a CSA model to help us get to the point where we are ready to expand our business,” said Fresh Impact Farms Founder Ryan Pierce. “The support and generosity from the Commonwealth and Arlington County will be valuable as we expand our production and move towards a hybrid model of serving both the needs of restaurants and consumers. As the owner of a local food business, nothing gets me more excited than seeing the community come together in support of local food. The future is bright for urban agriculture and this grant will help us make an even greater impact in our community.”

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Arlington could have the COVID-19 vaccine as early as the end of this month, but the first shipment of doses won’t be available to the general public.

Nearly a half million healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents across Virginia at risk of being infected will get the first doses from the Virginia Department of Health, and it is not yet known when the rest of the public will get the vaccine.

Arlington’s Public Health Director Dr. Reuben Varghese told the County Board on Tuesday that there is still a lot of unknown information regarding the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines that are undergoing Food and Drug Administration approval. He said that the number of vaccine doses that will arrive in Virginia (estimated at 480,000) is a moving target, that both vaccines require recipients to get booster shots within a month, and the effect on children and pregnant women is still unknown.

“The plan is that those health care personnel that directly care for COVID-19 patients, or are in support of that will receive top priority first,” Varghese said. “VDH is working with the Virginia Hospital and Health Care Association to prepare the health systems that have the ultra cold chain storage ability to receive these first shipments, because it has to be done safely and you don’t want to go through the expense of creating all of this, and then not maintain the vaccine at the appropriate temperature.”

On Saturday, the County Board will consider accepting $660,000 in state grants to prepare for mass vaccine distribution. The funds would pay for the hiring of temporary medical and non-medical staff, and cover travel costs, facility rentals and clinic operations, according to Arlington Public Health.

The vaccine will eventually be available at grocery stores, as well as chain and independent pharmacies, according to the VDH COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

Mass vaccine distribution will not necessarily mean that COVID restrictions will be quickly lifted in Arlington, however.

“The fact that we are going to enter a period where vaccination will be available doesn’t mean in any way that all the other precautions for COVID hygiene are going to be relaxed,” County Board member Takis Karantonis said.

There have been 7,062 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arlington since the pandemic began in March, along with 162 deaths and more than 600 total hospitalizations.

Below is Tuesday’s County Board work session discussing vaccination plans.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

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Morning Notes

Restaurants Get Ready for Winter — “On November 6, TTT’s expansive rooftop bar unveiled a permanent structure with a retractable roof and sliding glass walls that can be heated when the air is chilly. Iricanin hopes the addition will keep the rooftop in use during the winter months. The new structure can seat up to 60 diners with social distancing. Ambar, meanwhile, is poised to open a winter garden in its rear parking lot with a similar heated structure that can accommodate 60 to 70 guests, pending final approval from the county. ” [Arlington Magazine]

Leaf Collection Update — The second pass for Arlington County’s vacuum leaf collection is set to begin Saturday and run through Dec. 19. [Arlington County]

New YouTube Channel for 55+ Programs — “The Office of 55+ Programs at the Arlington Department of Parks and Recreation has launched a YouTube channel offering local presentations on everything from fitness to cooking to technology. In addition, members of the 55+ Programs staff host a bimonthly talk show on the channel.” [InsideNova]

Arlington’s Oldest House — “The Ball-Sellers House on Third Street South in Arlington is the oldest building in Arlington County, Va. It was built in the 1750s by farmer John Ball. Later, three generations of the Carlin family owned the house, helping save it from destruction. Today, it is owned by the Arlington Historical Society.” [Washington Post]

Library Offering Book Bundles for Kids — “The Arlington library system is offering ‘book bundles’ for young readers, part of the library system’s outreach effort as its branches remain shuttered. Bundles of 10 picture books or 10- early-reader books are available for pickup at Central Library during the hours of holds-pickup, with a limit of one per library card.” [InsideNova]

Grant to Fund Grocery Gift Cards — “A half-million-dollar grant to… Virginia Hospital Center will help struggling families with $1,200 in grocery store gift cards over the next six months. Health clinics and pediatric units on the front lines of the pandemic are finding a side-effect of the economic crisis: food insecurity and hungry children.” [WJLA]

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Morning Notes

Police Called for Man Spitting on Bus Passengers — An incident on a bus prompted a police response Thursday afternoon. Per ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage: “At approximately 1:38 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a disorderly subject on a Metro bus in the area of Columbia Pike and S. Dinwiddie Street. The suspect left the area prior to police arrival and a search by responding officers returned with negative results… The call for service alleged the subject was acting disorderly and spitting on individuals on the bus.”

Arlington Company Is Among Fastest-Growing — Ballston-based Hungry is the fastest-growing technology firm in the D.C. area and the 18th fastest growing tech company in the nation, according to a new list from Deloitte. Another Ballston tech company, Evolent Health, ranked No. 402 in the U.S. [Deloitte]

NAACP Statement on H-B Incident — “We are pleased that the principal took swift action to notify families and meet with affected students and that the Superintendent followed up with a letter to APS families with an honest depiction that did not minimize the significance or harm it caused. This act of racial violence is the latest and most egregious in a progressive pattern of racist incidents occurring within our schools.” [Press Release]

Grant to Help Local Tourism Recover — “Arlington Convention and Visitors Service has received $10,000 from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Recovery Marketing Leverage Program, designed to help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging limited local marketing dollars through a local match of state grant funds.” [Arlington County]

ACFD Hosting Kids’ Bedtime Stories — “We are extremely excited to host our 4th Virtual Bedtime Story/ Fire Engine Tour! Spots are limited and previous events have maxed out quickly. If you are interested in joining please email [email protected] Can’t wait to see you Monday night.” [@ArlingtonVaFD/Twitter]

More County Website Problems — Arlington County’s website again suffered technical difficulties yesterday afternoon. The issues were resolved within a few hours. [@ArlingtonVA/Twitter]

Gondolas Gaining in Popularity — “Air gondolas — ski-lift-type conveyances that have become common sights in South American cities like Medellín, Mexico City and La Paz — could one day dot the U.S. urban landscape, some transportation planners say.” [Axios]

Nearby: Car Plows Into CD Cellar — The CD Cellar store in Falls Church was damaged after a car came crashing through one of the front windows earlier this week. “Someone thought we were a drive-thru record store,” CD Cellar quipped on social media. [Facebook]

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Morning Notes

More APS Tech Issues Reported — Several people contacted ARLnow yesterday to report more technology issues involving remote learning. While Wakefield High School’s principal posted a possible fix on social media, APS spokesman Frank Bellavia said that any remaining problems were isolated: “At last check this morning, there were 25,273 APS-provided student devices active on our network. There are some issues at the secondary level, but we are working directly with those students to reset their devices.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Sept. 11 Commemoration Tomorrow — “Arlington County will commemorate the lives lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and express gratitude to all those who responded that day with a virtual event. To ensure everyone’s safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, the public will view the event online or on the County’s cable channels.” [Arlington County]

State Grant to Boost COVID Testing — “The Virginia Department of Health has provided the Department of Human Services with $320,287 to increase COVID-19 testing capacity. The grant award covers the period August 1, 2020 through December 30, 2020. Grant funds will support operations and logistics at testing sites.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Holding Virtual Career Day — “Amazon is looking to build on the success of last year’s Career Day events across six U.S. cities that hosted 17,000 job seekers with over 200,000 people who applied for jobs in the week leading up to the event. The new completely virtual event will open Amazon Career Day 2020 to everyone, regardless of their location. Some of the new employees will be placed at Amazon’s HQ2 in Arlington, Virginia, which is continuing to expand following its opening last year.” [Good Morning America, Amazon, WTOP]

Progress on DCA Expansion — “Project Journey is well on its way. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority this week offered an update on its two-pronged, roughly $650 million modernization program at Reagan National Airport. The final product will deliver a new north concourse, replacing the oft-maligned Gate 35X, and new security checkpoints. The former is expected to open in July 2021, and the latter by the fourth quarter of 2021.” [Washington Business Journal, NBC 4, InsideNova]

Wide Pedestrian Bridge Proposed — “The final EIS for Long Bridge recommended building 14′ wide pedestrian and bike bridge connecting Long Bridge, the MVT and East Potomac Park. Governor Northam committed to funding pre-COVID. This will be huge for regional trail connectivity.” [Twitter, Friends of the Mt. Vernon Trail]

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Morning Notes

ACLU Suit Names ACPD Captain — Arlington County Police Department Captain Wayne Vincent has been added, in his personal capacity, to the ACLU lawsuit over the actions by police to clear protesters from Lafayette Square ahead of President Trump walking from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Some twenty ACPD officers, who are not named, are also being sued over the use of force and chemical irritants. [WTOP, ACLU]

Where APS Students Are Going to College — “The following is a list of the colleges and universities where Arlington Public Schools high school graduates (Class of 2020) applied and where they were accepted.” [Arlington Magazine]

Sen. Kaine in Arlington Today — “On Thursday, September 3, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will host a socially distant conversation in Arlington with local leaders to discuss the work being done to support the Latino community in Northern Virginia, as reports show Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” The closed event is taking place at an apartment building near Columbia Pike this afternoon. [Press Release]

Bus Project Likely to Be Funded — “A project submitted by the Arlington County government remains in contention for Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) funding, even as a number of other regional projects have been delayed for consideration due to sharp dropoffs in available funding. As a result, the Arlington project — an HOV- and bus-only lane on Route 29 in Rosslyn during rush hour — is likely to receive the $710,000 in regional funds being sought to help with the overall project cost.” [InsideNova]

Local Group Supports Eviction Moratorium — “Leaders of VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) cautiously welcomed the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a nationwide eviction moratorium through Dec. 31, but noted that Congress and the Administration still need to work together to provide significant funding to prevent huge rental housing market instability after the ban expires.” [Press Release]

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This column is sponsored by BizLaunch, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

By Tara Palacios

After experiencing a global health pandemic during the last several months, the one thing we’ve learned is the importance of community.

Arlington is made up of dynamic communities bound together and committed in their support of one another, and the local businesses that make up the woven fabric of diverse neighborhoods. Surviving a health crisis is challenging as our way of life as we know it is so vastly different.

In BizLaunch, we are currently working on designing curriculum this summer for our small business community to help aide with challenges facing businesses as we work through this international health crisis. We are committed to introducing the latest round of funding sources offered by the Commonwealth of Virginia and organizations that support small businesses. The following are potential grant opportunities for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

On Monday, the Commonwealth of Virginia announced its RebuildVA Small Business Grant. The Grant has $70 million for small businesses and nonprofit organizations whose normal operations were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will be made available through Rebuild VA, a new economic recovery fund, and grants of up to $10,000 will be awarded to approximately 7,000 applicants to cover eligible expenses. The application opens August 10, 2020 and you can find specific details about the program here.

Rebuild VA will be administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD). Eligible businesses and nonprofits must be in good standing, have annual gross revenues of no more than $1.5 million, and have no more than 25 employees.

Eligible organizations include food and beverage establishments, non-essential retail, exercise and fitness, entertainment and public amusement, personal care and personal grooming services, and private campground and overnight summer camps. Businesses must also certify that they have not received federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds or other funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as local government funding.

Information sessions will be held on July 31 at noon and, August 4th at 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

The following grant opportunities have been compiled by the BizLaunch Team and are available for eligible small business funding. Click on the hyperlinks below for more details:

  • LISC — Small Business Grant. Applications accepted through August 3, 2020.
  • Red Backpack Fund — Applications open August 3rd and are specific grants for women entrepreneurs .
  • VISA and IFundWomen expanded their GRANT program for Black women-owned businesses through July 31, 2020.
  • Nav Small Business GRANT

Another summer opportunity is BizTalk. BizTalk is a new series of webinars hosted by BizLaunch which features hot topics of interest. Please join us on August 20th at 10 a.m. as we feature Arlington’s own Alan Zucker who will speak on “Adjusting to Uncertainty.”

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Morning Notes

County Getting $10K Tourism Grant — “‘Arlington will use [state tourism] grant funds to showcase outdoor adventures in an urban setting to East Coast road trippers,’ said [Arlington Convention and Visitors Service] Director Emily Cassell. In addition… ACVS will commission a photography and video shoot to expand its collection of images reflecting the County’s cultural diversity.” [Arlington County]

Marymount Signs Mutual Aid Agreement — “Marymount University has become a member of the National Intercollegiate Mutual Aid Agreement (NIMAA), one of more than 100 signatory institutions across the nation that pledge to support each other in the event of a natural disaster or civil emergency.” [InsideNova]

USA Today Editor Recalls Racism in Arlington — A top former USA Today editor recalls, in an opinion column, how he was pulled over multiple times by an Arlington police officer in the mid-1980s. The traffic stops appeared to be the result of racial discrimination and intimidation. “I stopped going into Arlington proper,” the editor says of the impact of the incidents on him. “It was a small sacrifice, but it’s one of those things that you sometimes have to do when you’re black in America.” [Hot Springs Sentinel-Record]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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Arlington County and the City of Alexandria are applying for a pair of grants that would bring significant changes to the Mt. Vernon Trail and a portion of King Street near Fairlington.

The county and the city are supporting each other’s grant applications to the Virginia SMART SCALE transportation funding program.

Alexandria is asking the Commonwealth for up to $40 million for what it calls the Upper King Street Multimodal Improvement project. The project “would fund design, right-of-way and construction of traffic/multimodal and streetscape improvements along King Street (VA 7) between Quaker Lane / Braddock Road and Menokin Drive,” adjacent to Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood.

The car-oriented stretch is nonetheless a key pedestrian connection between Fairlington and the Bradlee Shopping Center. It has seen a number of significant crashes over the past few years.

“Today, there is a significant lack of multimodal facilities, contributing to safety needs along this corridor,” notes a county staff report, attached to a resolution supporting the application which will be considered by the Arlington County Board this weekend.

Also this weekend, the Board will consider its own SMART SCALE application, which asks for $20 million to widen and reconstruct 6.5 miles of the Mt. Vernon Trail between Roosevelt Island in Arlington and Jones Point Park, at the bottom of the Beltway, in Alexandria.

More from another county staff report:

This project would provide funding to the National Park Service (NPS) to improve and reconstruct approximately 6.5 miles of the Mount Vernon Trail in Arlington and Alexandria, from Roosevelt Island to near Jones Point Park. A portion of the 6.5 miles is within the District of Columbia; the SMART SCALE application is only for the portion in Virginia, with the District of Columbia portion funded separately. The National Park Service (NPS) will manage the project across all jurisdictions. The project widens the trail’s paved surface from between seven and eight feet to 11 feet where feasible, and makes other associated improvements including striping center and edge lines, signage, improved bridges, and realigned trail intersections. On June 23, 2020, the Alexandria City Council approved a resolution of support for Arlington to submit one project application for the trail portions in Virginia.

A recent National Park Service report recommended a widening of the trail due to heavy use and crash risks.

The county is also asking for $29.1 million in SMART SCALE funding to build two new street-level elevators to the Courthouse Metro station, including a replacement of the existing elevator.

The staff report, however, notes that the odds of any project being funded are relatively low.

“For this round’s pre-application cycle, 484 pre-applications were submitted for a total project cost of $7.5 billion, with nearly $3.1 billion in costs attributable to the VDOT Northern Virginia District,” county staff wrote. “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately $700 million to $800 million in funding statewide was expected to be available for award in this round of SMART SCALE.”

“Generally, large projects that expand highway or transit capacity score well, with smaller projects scoring less well, but remaining competitive due to their comparatively lower costs,” the report adds.

Both the resolution and the application authorization are on this Saturday’s County Board agenda.

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Morning Notes

Va. to Step Up Restaurant Enforcement — “Recognizing an increase in COVID-19 cases in parts of the state, particularly in the Hampton Roads area, Gov. Ralph Northam is increasing enforcement of the state’s rules around the coronavirus… State licensing agencies will be conducting unannounced visits to establishments, as needed, and the state health department is shifting an additional 100 staff members to its existing team of 500 inspectors.” [InsideNova]

Barrels Fail to Stop Rogue I-395 Driver — Someone stopped their car on a highway, got out, and moved an orange barrel in order to avoid a slight delay while driving from Arlington to D.C. on I-395. [Twitter]

County Board to Approve Arts Grants — “Arlington County Board members on July 18 are slated to approve approximately $216,000 in annual grants for arts organizations… Each of the 21 organizations that requested funding saw at least part of their request fulfilled; in addition, two of four individual artists seeking funding garnered a grant.” [InsideNova]

Local National Merit Scholars — Nine Arlington students are among the National Merit Scholarship winners for 2020. [Patch]

Arlington Students Ace Latin Exam — “According to Arlington Public Schools about 130,000 students across the country take the [National Latin Exam] which focuses on vocabulary, grammar, Roman cultural history and mythology. Nineteen students in the school system were among the few who achieved perfection.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Vincent

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