Golden Radish Award: Kirsten Conrad

Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture on December 12th will present Kirsten Conrad with our 2019 Golden Radish Award to recognize her significant contributions to growing urban agriculture in Arlington. RSVP today!

Kirsten Conrad joined the Arlington Office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension in September of 2007. As the Extension Agent for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Kirsten leads these programs in Arlington County and the City of Alexandria. She trains and supervises the efforts of two volunteer organizations: Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia and Arlington Regional Master Naturalists and supports Tree Stewards of Arlington/Alexandria with technical and training opportunities. She has lectured and developed workshops on many horticultural topics including, xeriscaping, IPM, invasive species management, basic garden design, pesticide safety, poisonous plants, tree and herbaceous plant selection, pruning, and plant propagation. Her professional interests include ethnobotony, school gardening, forensic botany, and sustainable landscape design.

Before coming to Virginia, Kirsten spent four years in southern Delaware advising homeowners on sustainable design and horticultural best management practices. Before moving East, Kirsten spent 12 years in Bloomington, Indiana where she owned and operated a landscape services business, revamped Indiana University’s Tree Donation program, and served on the Board of Directors of Hilltop Garden and Nature Education Center. She held a Visiting Lecturer position in the School of Recreation and Park Administration at Indiana University and received Advanced Master Gardener status while serving as President and Vice-President of the Monroe County Master Gardener Association.

Kirsten has provided significant leadership in advancing urban agriculture issues, programs and enterprises in Arlington.

Beginning in 2009, the Arlington Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension developed a Sustainable Urban Agriculture Lecture series that offers educational “how to” workshops on topics like urban aquaculture, chicken keeping, mushroom production, organic labeling, vegetable gardening and demonstrations on how vegetable gardening can be a viable means to obtaining better nutrition and to stretching a food budget.

In 2010, Arlington VCE brought the Growing Communities workshop here from the American Community Garden Association to promote understanding and awareness of community garden development. In 2012, in collaboration with the Arlington Healthy Community Action Team and Alexandria Childhood Obesity Action Network, VCE organized and led 2 workshops on community garden leadership. In 2014, a pilot Garden Coaches program began to provide direct support to community garden grant recipients and the Big Book of Gardening Knowledge was created as a resource for community gardeners in both paper and electronic versions. Today, informal support is provided to 5 community gardens and 8 school gardens throughout Arlington and Alexandria via Master Gardener volunteers and VCE agent site visits.

Master Gardener volunteers are highly trained and motivated participants and educators in support of Urban Agriculture promotion efforts. Master Gardener volunteers maintain a public garden at the Organic Vegetable Garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park in North Arlington. It is open daily and hosts monthly events that are advertised to the public. In its 40th year in Arlington, the Master Gardener program also helps provide 4 public programs per month on some aspect of urban agriculture, vegetable/herb culture, plant disease, and soil fertility management at Arlington and Alexandria libraries and community centers, and have been a partner with Wednesday Garden Talks program since their inception.

Master Gardener volunteers staff 2 Arlington plant clinic locations (5 total in the region), weekly from April through October and staff a daily horticulture help desk at the Fairlington Community Center. In addition, during the growing season, Master Gardener volunteers conduct weekly Plant Clinics at Arlington Central Library and Arlington Courthouse Farmers Market (plus two weekly plant clinics in Alexandria). In collaboration with the Arlington Extension 4H program, 6 schools host 6 week Junior Master Gardener education programs.

In 2012, Kirsten Conrad provided support and advice to Arlington County’s Urban Agriculture Task Force and provided information and recommendations for its Food Action Plan report submitted to the County Board in 2013.

In 2015, Arlington VCE created and implemented the first urban agriculture symposia. Repeated in 2017 and 2018, these day-long workshop style public education offerings brought regional urban agriculture experts to Arlington and showcased the County’s steady growth in urban agriculture infrastructure as well as the Extension Master Gardeners education skills and the work of Virginia State University and Virginia Tech.

In 2017, Arlington was the site of the state-wide Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit at George Mason University. Arlington VCE played a significant leadership role in planning and implementing this Summit.

In 2018, and 2019 as part of an urban agriculture exchange program, Professor Celso Albuquerque of UNISUL in Tubarao, and Professor Leo Rufato of UDESC in Lages, Santa Catarina, Brazil visited Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria urban agriculture programs and sites. These visits followed Kirsten Conrad’s visit to Brazil in 2017.

In 2019, in partnership with Friends of Urban Agriculture, Arlington Food Assistance Center and Marymount University, Arlington VCE helped plan and supported several events during October Urban Agriculture Month.