The only entity of its kind in Prince George’s County, ECO is an urban teaching farm that grows great food while restoring the environment and the health of local communities. In two working-class Port Towns neighborhoods, where healthy food is scarce, ECO converted neglected lands into community assets: farms that provide affordable, fresh produce through a Community Supported Agriculture program (a weekly, in-season “farm share”) and at the Riverdale Farmers Market. It also offers a host of programs to inspire the next generation of urban farmers, eaters, and activists: children from 10 area public schools engage in on-farm environmental education; teens gain valuable skills through a summer employment program; aspiring urban farmers receive training and support through ECO’s apprenticeships and certification coursework. Year-round, hundreds of people attend events and activities, learning the benefits of locally-grown, chemical-free food … and responsible stewardship.
The farm has instituted strict regimens for maintaining health and hygiene for all food production staff, ensuring the cleanliness of all tools, implements, and surfaces, and keeping the handling of fresh produce to a minimum. The regimens also include implementing social distancing, permitting fewer people to work on the farm at any one time, and constraining them to work in separate areas. Previously distributed in an open market, community-sourced agricultural products are now bagged to minimize the handling of food. The Beginning Farmer Training Program has switched to on-line classes and individual hands-on training sessions that maintain social distance.