Hyattsville resident Margaret Morgan-Hubbard, founder and CEO of ECO City Farms (short for Engaged Community Offshoots, Inc.), meets me on a humid summer day in front of the vibrant entrance mural at their 2-acre Edmonston location to show me operations there. Later we’ll head to their 4.5-acre farm in Bladensburg. (Their third location, the Urban Farm Incubator at Watkins Regional Park, in Upper Marlboro, opened this year.)

Farm Stand
(left to right) Tolu Igun, Autumn Herbert and Linda Jones sell produce at the ECO City farm stand in Bladensburg.
Courtesy of Felix Wien

It’s the second day of the SEED 2 FEED Summer Youth Program, and the Edmonston location is buzzing with people. Twelve students from Bladensburg High School are spending six weeks among fruit trees, vegetable beds and hoop houses to learn about farming, cooking and food justice outreach. Food justice is the “right to grow, sell, and eat healthy food,” according to ECO City’s website

When Morgan-Hubbard and I peek into the kitchen — a bright space with a big stove in the middle — we are greeted by the delicious scent of coconut curry with garden-fresh collard greens that several students are preparing under the supervision of Deputy Director Kayla Agonoy. Others are tending the vegetable beds outside.

According to Morgan-Hubbard, ECO City Farms was founded in 2013 as an offshoot of Master Peace Community Farm — the county’s very first urban farm — which Morgan-Hubbard established in 2010, while working at University of Maryland’s Engaged University, an effort to link the campus with the lives of local people.

ECO City Farms, a nonprofit, subsists mostly on grant money. Sustainability and thriftiness are both ethical goals and necessities. Morgan-Hubbard explains that they use recycled material wherever possible. An old shipping container serves as the processing kitchen where the produce gets rinsed in a large sink and is made ready for sale. An old washing machine has been repurposed as a salad spinner to dry leafy vegetables.

Due to stringent county regulations, urban farming can be an uphill battle. According to Morgan-Hubbard, several county laws had to be changed for ECO City Farms to become the flourishing place it is today. Previously, for example, areas zoned residential and multifamily did not allow farming and converting shipping containers into coolers would have been impossible. 

At our next stop, ECO City’s Bladensburg farm, I walk through the vegetable beds and the native plant food forest with its pawpaw and persimmon trees — it’s hard to imagine that a mere 34 years ago, three multifamily houses and a parking lot occupied this space. 

The farm’s success primarily relies on creating the most nutritious soil possible by adding homemade compost. Local food scraps, wood chips and leaves are used for both hot composting, during which the material breaks down using an aerobic process and can reach up to 130 F,  and for vermicomposting, which uses worms to break down the organic matter. The end product is a fine, earthy-smelling material that doesn’t even stain my hands. And the produce is thriving on it: During the summer, garlic and onions, tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, summer squash, string beans and okra, as well as several herbs and greens like bitter leaf that are commonly grown in West Africa, are available. 

Tomatoes growing at the ECO City Farms Bladensburg location
Photo credit: Imke Ahlf-Wien

In addition to growing produce and educating the next generation of urban farmers, ECO City Farms also supports regional food security efforts through donations to organizations including Hyattsville Aging in Place and Meals on Wheels College Park.

Okra growing at the ECO City Farms Bladensburg location
Photo credit: Imke Ahlf-Wien

From July 13 to mid-November, you can find their produce every Thursday between 4 and 6 p.m. at their Bladensburg farm stand (6100 Emerson Street) or by signing up for a seasonal CSA share that can be picked up every Thursday between 3 and 5 p.m. at the Edmonston farm (4913 Crittenden Street).

Simple Coconut Okra Curry (serves 4)

The moment I smelled the curry and coconut in the ECO City Farms teaching kitchen, I knew which recipe to include in this column. But since collards are not in season in August, okra will have to do. This fascinating vegetable that enslaved people brought from West Africa to the Americas can get slimy when the pods are cut into smaller pieces. But the mucilage acts as a thickener here and will contribute to the creamy texture of the sauce.



  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger
  • 1 quart okra
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon each: ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, chili powder and paprika powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 13.5 oz can coconut milk 



Peel and mince onion, garlic and ginger. Remove the ends from the okra, and cut into ½-inch pieces. Stem and core the tomatoes, and dice into ½-inch chunks. Heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and ginger. Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once these start to brown, add the spices, and simmer for another minute. Add the okra and simmer for another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt and coconut milk. Mix well and let come to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 25 minutes until the okra is soft. Serve with rice of your choice.


Imke Ahlf-Wien is a nutrition educator with a passion for fresh, locally procured foods.