Urban Farming in the District
Jun 30, 2016 04:46PM
A Spotlight on Good Sense Farm
by Robin FillmoreSince 2013, Good Sense Farm and Apiary has been on a dual mission: to provide locally produced delicacies, like gourmet mushrooms and fresh honey and hive products, providing culturally appropriate points of access to food and all its wonders and work from a strongly held belief in the inherent wisdom of everyone who eats, particularly communities which are targeted with "nutrition education" rather being given resources to self-determine their food sovereignty. Helping to fill a need for creative commercial food enterprises in the District, founder and CEO, Zachari J. Curtis, had the vision to turn a background in agriculture into a way of life.
The farm is not a set place in the traditional sense of the word, but like other urban farmers, Curtis has used privately held land in the District and Maryland, including backyards, to grow mushrooms and support bee hives. “There is a network of trust between the farm and those who provide the land,” notes Curtis. With many years of relationships built up, Curtis has been able to acquire the resources to launch the growing farm. Even without a physical farm building, Good Sense offers tours, workshops, as they are able, and provide consultations for those eager to learn more.
Curtis notes that becoming a mushroom grower was to serve a need in the community. “I like mushrooms but it wasn’t necessarily about mushrooms. It was about finding a high-value crop that we could grow that other people weren’t growing. There are only a few other mushroom growers in the area.”
Likewise, the love for bees came when Curtis worked alongside a Haitian family who shared their knowledge about the operation to maintain a healthy and thriving hive. With a few more classes after that experience, Curtis started a hobby operation, which eventually grew into a major portion of the farm’s work. “We produce honey and also work with other hobby-scale producers to increase our supply—all D.C. based. We have never been able to meet the needs for honey so we are connected a network of hobby-scale honey producers to extend our offerings of small batch honey.”
They offer a range of products for sale at weekly farmers’ markets in Petworth, Columbia Heights, Takoma Park, Brookland, Mount Pleasant and at the USDA Farmers’ Market near the Smithsonian. Their products include vegan mushroom jerky, DIY mushroom growing kits, an umami spice blend, in addition to mushrooms and honey. They also run an Etsy shop where the non-perishable items can be purchased at any time.
Curtis and the team of 4 part-time staff members recently acquired a hybrid urban growing space called The Perch on Georgia Avenue in the District. The building, formerly a grocery store, will enable expanded mushroom growing and be open for community events and classes. Their soft opening in June included a celebration of Good Sense Farm’s three-year anniversary as well as an invitation to see what urban farming can bring to a neighborhood.
To learn more about Good Sense Farm and Apiary, visit them at GoodSenseFarm.com.