Center for Urban Agriculture & Gardening Education

Mission & Overview

The Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education (CUAGE) seeks to expand academic and public knowledge of sustainable farming techniques that improve food and water security. The center also seeks to improve the health and wellness of people in the local community and around the world through research and education on urban and peri-urban agroecology and gardening techniques.

CUAGE plays a key role in two global challenges: urbanization and urban food and nutritional security. The center contributes to sustainable urban development and the creation and maintenance of multifunctional urban landscapes. In the globally emerging field of urban agriculture, CUAGE collaborates in research partnerships within the university and with public and private institutions nationally and internationally.


Urban Food Hubs

Firebird Research Farm

Firebird Research Farm PictureFirebird Research Farm is formally named the Agricultural Experimentation Station of the District of Columbia and was established by the USDA to research and test techniques in urban agricultural that are consistent with sustainable practices. Agriculture and horticulture are usually associated with rural settings and large open spaces. Our farm focuses on adapting successful, highly efficient farming techniques to small urban spaces. 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. The farm is managed using sustainable systems and methods that reduce strain on the environment. Our customized aquaponic systems allow us to raise fish and grow vegetables in a self-sustaining closed loop system where fish waste is used as plant fertilizer, while the water is filtered and recycled.

Firebird Research Farm
12001 Old Baltimore Pike
Beltsville, MD 20705

Van Ness Urban Food Hub

Van Ness Urban Food HubThe University’s Van Ness campus is located in Ward 3. The food production component of the food hub is a 20,000-square-foot green roof that was installed on an existing roof structure. Eighteen-inch deep planters placed around the perimeter of the roof support the production of a variety of food plants, from tomatoes to peppers, beans, okra, eggplant, and even berry bushes. The interior of the roof is limited to no more than four inches of soil depth, which can support the production of leaf lettuce, microgreens, and herbs. The roof also features a greenhouse and a hydroponic system that is arranged vertically to fully utilize the limited space. The Van Ness Food Hub also incorporates an aquaponics system that combines growing fish (aquaculture) and growing vegetables without soil (hydroponics).

UDC Main Campus (Van Ness), Ward 3
4200 Connecticut Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

East Capitol Urban Farm

East Capitol Urban Farm PictureEast Capitol Urban Farm is one of several urban food hubs pioneered by CAUSES to improve food security and sustainability in D.C. neighborhoods through food production, food preparation, food distribution, and waste and water management. East Capitol Urban Farm is a result of a major local, federal, public and private alliance between CAUSES, the District of Columbia Housing Authority, the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, several District of Columbia government agencies, community organizations, churches, and businesses to transform a vacant, three-acre parcel of land to become the city’s largest scale urban farm of its type. The farm increases access to local and sustainable produce and fish for the Ward 7 community.

East Capitol Urban Farm, Ward 7
5901 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, D.C. 20019

Bertie Backus Urban Food Hub

Bertie Backus Urban Food HubThe Bertie Backus Food Hub is on the premises of UDC’s Bertie Backus Community College. The food hub was built on an underutilized basketball court with grants from the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and Anacostia Economic Development Cooperation (AEDC). The food hub has aquaponic and hydroponic systems, a native plant nursery, a demonstration kitchen, and garden beds. The native plant nursery is a unique feature in this food hub that serves as a space to teach job skills in greenhouse management and plant production. The demonstration kitchen is utilized as a business incubator and a learning space for students and community members on food safety and nutrition. Community members can participate in the food bub by cultivating a garden bed.

Bertie Backus Urban Food Hub, Ward 5
5171 South Dakota Avenue NE
Washington, D.C. 20017

P.R. Harris Urban Food Hub

PR Harris Urban Food HubThe PR Harris Food Hub is located next to the PR Harris Community College site. The food hub is built on an old tennis court with grants from the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) and Anacostia Economic Development Cooperation (AEDC). The food hub has two greenhouses that house hydroponic and aquaponic systems. This location offers garden beds that are cultivated and managed by a Community Garden Committee. The food hub is located next to Oxon Run Park, which has a playground and picnic space.

P.R. Harris Urban Food Hub, Ward 8
4600 Livingston Road SE
Washington, D.C. 20032

Community Education and Trainings

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. 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. In return, participants dedicate volunteer time to teach horticultural information, answer questions, speak at public events and participate in community gardening programs. Upon completion of the program, graduates earn a Master Gardener Certificate. The program provides interested individuals with extensive training in topics such as plant pathology, entomology, urban soils, and plant propagation. For more information, please contact

Sustainable Urban Agriculture Certificate is a certification course that totals 15 contact hours with expert instructors. This course focuses on sustainable agriculture practices in an urban environment and implementing those practices for personal or business opportunities. The content of this course is appropriate for novice and experienced growers interested in pursuing some kind of agricultural business.

Ethnic and Specialty Crop Program 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.

Staff Contact

Mchezaji “Che” Axum
Director, Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education

Dr. Matthew Richardson
Assistant Director of Urban Agriculture Research

Matthew Gardine
Assistant Farm Manager

Diego Lahaye
4H Program Associate for Middle School

Renee Bellis
Staff Assistant


Easy and Healthy Recipes with Lambsquarters (Fact Sheet 011)
Lambsquarters (Chenopodium album) is a Nutrient-Packed Edible Weed”. (Fact Sheet 005)
Easy and Healthy Recipes with Malabar Spinach (Fact Sheet 010)
Malabar spinach (Basella alba) is a Nutritious and Ornamental Plant (Fact Sheet 004)
Framing Materials for Raised Beds or Garden Boxes (Fact Sheet 012)
Harvesting and Cooking Sweet Potato Greens (Fact Sheet 013)
Urban Agriculture and Climate Change (Fact Sheet)
Urban Agriculture Research Partner – Green Waste Mulch Project
Feeding Urban Summer Soils for Maximum Crop Production and Soil Health (Fact Sheet)
How and When To Harvest Fruits for Peak Flavor (Fact Sheet)
How and When to Harvest Vegetables for Maximum Flavor (Fact Sheet)
Parasitic Wasps for Aphid Control in a Greenhouse (Fact Sheet)
Conventional Versus No-Till (Fact Sheet)
Rodent Control (Fact Sheet)
Personal Protective Equipment for Pesticide Applicators (Fact Sheet)
Balancing Aquaponic Systems (Fact Sheet)
Terrestrial Pest Management (Fact Sheet)
Pesticide Surplus and Safe Disposal (Fact Sheet)
Growing Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) for Home or Business Production in the Mid-Atlantic (Fact Sheet)

For More Information: