Baltimore has a rich history of urban agriculture dating back to the 1890s. In 2013, the Baltimore Office of Sustainability formally adopted an urban agriculture plan, and the city has been instrumental in backing a number of agriculture projects. Food Tank has highlighted 10 Baltimore urban agriculture projects worth checking out.
Baltimore Free Farms: A “horizontally organized collective” where all decisions are a group effort, the Baltimore Free Farms operates the Ash Street Garden. Originally part of Baltimore’s “Adopt-A-Lot Lease Program,” the lot that Ash Street Garden sits on was cleared of debris and underwent soil testing in 2010. Deemed safe for gardening, the lot was transformed into an urban garden with plots available for public use.
Baltimore Orchard Project (BOF): BOF plants fruit trees for community use, both for the fruit the trees produce and to beautify neighborhoods. One of their projects, the Genesee Valley Pear Orchard, began with restoration efforts in 2013 and will provide both fruit and a location to train Master Gardeners. The BOF is also willing to work with local school districts to create a Living Ecosystem Classroom.
Baltimore Urban Gardening with Students (BUGS): This after school and summer program uses urban gardening, in addition to “cooking, creative arts and movement, and entrepreneurial projects,” to provide children from low-income neighborhoods a safe place to go after school and help improve math and reading skills. Kids have the opportunity to visit local farms, to garden, and try new foods.
Blue Water Baltimore: A merger of five separate organizations in 2010, all doing similar work, resulted in Blue Water Baltimore. Their goal “to restore the quality of Baltimore’s rivers, streams, and harbor” means they advocate for laws that would help eliminate water pollution, promote tree planting, and operate the Herring Run Nursery, “selling native plants and providing landscaping and design services.”
Chesapeake Composting Works: Concern over soil quality and wasted food led to the creation of Chesapeake Composting Works by a group of farmers. By “closing the loop in the waste stream,” Chesapeake Composting provides contact information for waste pick-up. The waste material is then shipped to Chesapeake Composting, where it is composted and sold to gardeners and farmers looking for a sustainable and green method to revitalize their soil.
Community Greening Resource Network (CGRN): Launched in 2008, CGRN supports urban agriculture at every level, from individuals to organizations, recognizing that “urban greening and gardening can play a significant role in revitalizing communities and reducing the impact of poverty.” With this in mind, CGRN looks to develop networks for collaboration across the urban agriculture sector as a form of community development.
City Farms: The City of Baltimore has taken measures to include urban agriculture in their sustainability plan. Part of this initiative includes City Farms, “a Recreation and Parks program.” City residents can rent a plot in over a half dozen city parks. In addition to offering a water source, gardening tools, and manure, new gardeners can take advantage of mentoring programs and seminars.
Power in Dirt: Attempting to solve problems associated with vacant lots, Power in Dirt is a Baltimore City project that assists city residents in adopting city-owned lots. Boasting numerous benefits, including higher property values, better looking neighborhoods, and less crime, the project has led to the adoption and increased functionality of over 1,000 plots throughout the city.
Real Food Farm: A project of Civic Works, the Real Food Farm’s mission is to “work toward a just and sustainable food system.” The organization’s goals include increasing the availability of nutritious foods, supporting agriculture initiatives, educating students, and preserving the environment. The Real Food Farm holds an annual Urban Farm & Food Fair, hosts workshops, and maintains a “mobile market classroom,” in addition to many other projects, to provide education and to engage with the Baltimore community.
Whitelock Community Farm: Started in 2010 in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood of Baltimore, Whitelock Community Farm’s mission partners food production and employment opportunities and the goal to “revitalize the neighborhood through greening and positive community activity.” Produce from the garden is sold at both a farm stand and bicycle-enabled mobile market. The garden continues to be a gathering place for the community and is an active member of Baltimore’s Farm Alliance.