WC-11 Urban Food Systems

This session will explore the nexus though various approaches to urban food systems in Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Tallahassee, Florida.Case studies will include;

  1. Indoor vertical farming at Tower Garden with a demonstration model in the session;
  2. the The Urban Food Hubs concept of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC); and
  3. the Tallahassee Food Network and community engagement.

All three example illustrate ways of providing urban communities with fresh produce which conserving water and energy.

Moderator: Sabine O’Hara, Dean and Director of Landgrant Programs, University of the District of Columbia (UDC)


  • Mchezaji (“Che”) Axum, Director, Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education
  • Stephanie Berardi, Principal, Sustainable in the City
  • Tolessa Deksissa, Director, Water Resources Research; Director, Professional Science Master’s Program in Water Resources Management and Environmental Quality Testing Laboratory, University of the District of Columbia
  • Richard Gragg, Associate Director and Associate Professor, Florida A&M University
  • Dwane Jones, Director, Center for Sustainable Development, University of the District of Columbia
  • Thomas Kakovitch, Chairman, KI International
  • Duane McCarthy, Founder, Land Design & Construction Mgrs., Inc.
  • Bakari McClendon, Florida State University and Network Director, Tallahassee Food Network

Sabine O’Hara is responsible for academic, research, and community outreach programs in the tradition of the landgrant university, and is leading UDC’s efforts to build a cutting-edge model for urban agriculture that improves the quality of life and economic opportunities for urban populations. Dr. O’Hara is a respected author, researcher, and higher education executive well known for her expertise in sustainable economic development, global education, and executive leadership. Dr. O’Hara was previously President of Roanoke College, and also served as Executive Director of the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, which administers the Fulbright Scholar Program. She is the founder of Global Ecology, LLC. (202-274-7011; sabine.ohara@udc.edu)

Mchezaji “Che” Axum leads a team of researchers at the UDC Research Farm in Beltsville, Maryland, and oversees UDC’s Master Gardening, Specialty, and Ethnic Crops programs. He spent 20 years with the USDA Agricultural Research Service Plant Sciences Institute, has taught middle school, and has worked as a successful farmer and sustainable farming consultant. He is also a certified nutrient management consultant for the state of Maryland. (202-495-8990; mchezaji.axum@udc.edu)

Stephanie Berardi holds a Masters Degree in Sustainability from the University of Pennsylvania and Bachelors Degree in Communications from Temple. She studied commercial vertical farming across the globe and offers a tangible incite to an innovative aeroponic garden system. Sustainability in the City leads the way on alternative growing methods commercially viable to urban landscapes and non traditional locations. She demonstrates how to grow a lot of food in a smaller space, in half the time of soil-based agriculture, using a fraction of the water with cutting edge technology. Stephanie is a Future Leader and Sustainability expert driven by making positive environmental impacts. (215-884-5962, Berardi.Steph@gmail.com)

Tolessa Deksissa’s research expertise includes: water quality assessment and modeling; emerging contaminants; GIS-based modeling of green infrastructure; trace metal analysis in urban soils; fate and transport of organic contaminants in water; modeling integrated urban wastewater systems; adaptive water resources management; and fostering significant learning in sciences. Dr. Deksissa is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Research and Outreach Collaborative Steering Committee. (202-274-5273; tolessa.deksissa@udc.edu)

Richard Schulterbrandt Gragg is an environmental science and policy professor at the Florida A&M University (FAMU) School of the Environment. He is engaged in the nexus through community-based participatory research in environmental justice and health disparities, the Tallahassee Food Network, and the FAMU Energy-Water-Food Nexus International Summit, held in March 2015. Dr Gragg collaborated with others across disciplines and sectors in applying the economic, social, and environmental principles of sustainability supported by the conviction that food is the foundation of sustainable communities. (850-345-8468; richel225@gmail.com)

Dwane Jones is a nationally recognized expert in low-impact development. His research interests include complete streets, active transportation, public health, and social interaction in public spaces. He has also taught and conducted research in the areas of water quality management, urban planning and design, low impact development, conservation design, and urban sustainability. The Center for Sustainable Development also includes a world-class water quality research lab as part of its Water Resources Research Institute. (202-274-7182; dwane.jones@udc.edu)

Thomas Kakovitch, Chairman of Kakovitch Industries, LLC (International), holds 26 patents whose uses enhance environmental productivity, measurement, and remediation. His inventions range from air ejectors for power plants to top-efficiency fish farming and aquaponics, to injecting oxygen into large bodies of water, including oceans. Kakovitch, a former UDC professor, is the Principal Investigator of an NSF grant and author of four books: The Fifth Force, Collegium, Anthropogenics, and Physics and Economy, co-authored with Sabine O’Hara. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Terra Forma and Director of Applied Sciences of the distinguished McLean Project. (703-869-2076; tkakovitch@yahoo.com)

Duane McCarthy is a graduate Landscape Architect from Penn State University and the founder of Land Design & Construction Mgrs., Inc. During the past 30 years Duane’s company (LDC) was a major exhibitor in the Philadelphia Flower Show, has built rooftop landscapes in New York City and has been recognized for numerous awards throughout his career. Duane is National Marketing Director for the Tower Garden Company, a state of the art Aeroponic Vertical Garden. Technology developed at Epcot, Duane supports Tower Gardens in Schools, Restaurants, commercial facilities, and Private homes across North America.


  • Sabine O’Hara, Dean & Director of Landgrant Programs, College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES), University of DC
  • Richard Gragg, Associate Director and Associate Professor, Florida A&M University
  • Bakari McClendon, Network Director, Tallahassee Food Network, Florida State University
  • Stephanie Berardi, Sustainability Consultant, Sustainable in the City
  • Duane McCarthy, National Marketing Director, LDC – Juice Plus+

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