Center for Urban Agriculture & Gardening Education

Activities and Accomplishments


The Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences of the University of the District of Columbia seeks to expand academic and public knowledge of sustainable farming techniques that improve food and water security, health and wellness by providing research and education on urban and peri-urban agroecology and gardening techniques to residents and organizations in Washington, DC, and beyond.


Program Overview

The Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education (CUAGE) plays a key role in two global challenges: urbanization and urban food and nutritional security.  The Center contributes to sustainable, resilient urban development and the creation and maintenance of multifunctional urban landscapes. In the globally emerging research field of urban agriculture, CUAGE will seek collaborative research partnerships within the university and other institutions.  An intensive research approach to urban food and nutritional security is being created. CAUSES on a mission to make the residents of DC healthier and more food secure. Food security refers to having access to a steady, dependable supply of nutritious food that supports a healthy and active lifestyle. The Greater Washington Metropolitan area is one of the wealthiest in the world, yet there are people in our communities who have no access to fresh, nutritious food. This population is food insecure.

CUAGE focuses on a multifunctional approach to food production activities, as well as herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants for home consumption and for the market.  CUAGE contributes to fresh food availability of urban dwellers, as well as to the greening of the nation’s capital and teaches the productive reuse of urban waste. CUAGE will seek global relationships in urban and peri-urban agriculture. In developing countries urban agriculture is recognized for the provision of local food, as well as recreational, educational and social services.  An important aspect of urban and peri-urban agriculture is that it provides income and employment and contributes to local economic development, poverty alleviation and the social inclusion of the urban poor and women.  CUAGE describes this system as urban agroecology.

Firebird Farm

The Firebird Research Farm focuses on adapting successful, highly efficient farming techniques to small urban spaces; whereas, our urban agriculture program focuses on techniques to increase productivity in small urban land areas, soil management and remediation, energy and water saving techniques, and high value ethnic and specialty crops. Our hydroponic systems explore techniques to grow a wide variety of vegetables in nutrient enriched water rather than soil. This growing method can generate exceptionally high yields, and is no longer limited to only microgreens, but can be used for vegetable varieties including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash.
Beyond the research farm, CUAGE offers programs in home gardening and urban forestry, providing District residents with information and training to support gardens and promote tree health, with special consideration given to the unique challenges and opportunities of the urban context. Our programs relay the significance and many benefits of urban food production as well as the array of ecological benefits provided by city trees. Through demonstrations, technical assistance, consultations, workshops and publications, residents are educated about community gardening, tree care, forestry niche crops and invasive species that threaten the city and region.

The DC Master Gardener Program

The Master Gardeners Program is active in all 50 states and Canada. The DC Master Gardeners Program was established to assist Cooperative Extension in reaching the consumer horticulture audience. Master Gardeners, revitalized in 2002, is a volunteer program affiliated with land-grant universities through the Cooperative Extension Service. DC’s Cooperative Extension – our community education programs – is housed under CAUSES. Washington, DC and Baltimore City host the only metropolitan, inner city MGPs on the east coast of the U.S. Volunteers use research-based information to educate the public on best practices in horticulture and environmental stewardship.

The UDC Extension Agent /Horticulturalist, Sandy Farber Bandier, is the Environmental and Natural Resources Extension Agent and Master and Junior Master Gardener Coordinator. The program has 226 active Master Gardeners in D.C., and Ms. Farber trains participants to go out in the field and teach plant clinics. The program also has beautification projects in all eight Wards of DC including schools, places of worship, nursing homes and parks. The Master Gardeners give back 9,000 hours back to the city annually. The program provides interested individuals with extensive training in topics such as plant pathology, entomology, urban soils, plant propagation, pollinator education and pruning clinics. In return, participants dedicate volunteer time to teach horticultural information, answer questions, speak at public events and participate in community gardening programs.

Ethnic and Specialty Crop Program

Our farm uses sustainable growing methods to produce a range of fresh herbs and vegetables that are rare in area supermarkets. Many of them are known as “ethnic crops” that do not originate on the American continent, but can be grown locally. As defined by the USDA, specialty crops are fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops that are cultivated or managed and used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification to be considered specialty crops. Firebird Farm is the home for many herbs and spices from Ethiopia and several species of vegetables from West Africa. Located just north and east of the District, the farm enjoys a humid subtropical climate that allows us to grow ethnic crops.

The UDC Ethnic Crops program was established to meet the needs of the rapidly changing ethnic makeup of the region’s consumers. Our Ethnic and Specialty Crop Programs will continue to address the needs of the rapidly changing ethnic make-up the region’s consumers. We will look to expand upon our Ethnic Crop Program this year by experimenting with a few of ethnic crops to determine their ability to grow in Washington, DC. Ethnic and specialty crops are in high demand in a diverse metropolitan area like Washington, DC. This is, in part, why CAUSES entered into ethnic crop production. In making these products accessible and affordable, we are helping to connect most consumers to new types of food. We are also giving native born and local immigrant populations a taste of home, right here in the Mid-Atlantic. Yao Afantchao is our ethnic crop development specialist. He works closely with local community gardeners and advises residents how to grow and cook a variety of flavorful international menu options.

UDC Campus Green Roof and Rooftop Food Production

As the world’s population increases and people continue to leave rural life for city life, it is of utmost importance to meet the needs of urban areas. Many of the urban food production techniques taught at the farm as part of our Sustainable Agriculture Certificate Program are replicated on the roof. In 2015, CAUSES inaugurated a 20,000 square foot green roof on top of Building 44 on the Van Ness campus. Green roofs promote energy efficiency, helping to cool buildings and reduce stormwater runoff. Also a showcase for green infrastructure, a stormwater harvesting system has been installed to collect rainwater in two 500-gallon cisterns. The system is designed to capture water which is then circulated through hoses embedded throughout the rooftop, embedded in the plant boxes and beds. In addition to the outside green space, the roof includes a greenhouse and classroom for research purposes.

Gardening and Urban Agriculture

DC Master Gardener Program seeks to enhance the ecological health and aesthetics of the urban environment by training District of Columbia residents to become Master Gardeners. Expert horticulturists and plant scientists teach the eight-week educational program, which includes a 50-hour service learning requirement working under a professional gardener. Upon completion of the program, graduates earn a Master Gardener Certificate.

Urban Gardening and Forestry Outreach provides District residents with information and training to support food gardens and promote tree health, with special consideration given to the unique challenges and opportunities of the urban context. Our programs relay the significance and many benefits of urban food production as well as the array of ecological benefits provided by city trees. Through publications, demonstrations, technical assistance, consultations, and workshops, residents are educated about community gardening, tree care, forestry niche crops, and invasive species that threaten the city and region.

CAUSES Academic Programs

RN to BS in Nursing – Dr. Pier Broadnax, Program Director
Nutrition and Dietetics - Dr. Prema Ganganna, Program Director
Urban Architecture and Community Planning - Dr. Susan Kliman, Program Director
PSM in Water Resources Management - Dr. Tolessa Deksissa, Director
Health Education - John Slack, Program Director

CAUSES Land-grant Programs

Center for Urban Agriculture & Gardening Education – Che' Axum, Director
Center for Sustainable Development & Resilience – Dr. Dwane Jones, Director
Water Resources Research Institute – Dr. Tolessa Deksissa, Director
Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health - Dr. Lillie Monroe-Lord, Director
Institute of Gerontology - Claudia John, Director
Center for 4-H and Youth Development – Rebecca Bankhead, Director
Center for Architectural Innovation and Building Science (CAIBS) - Clarence Pearson, Director

News Archive

CAUSES TV Broadcast Schedule