Editor’s note: This summer, Audacious Ideas features a series of Baltimore Community Fellows who are working on green issues—from urban farming to gardening inside the prison walls. Check out the entire series.
One Friday afternoon at Whitelock Community Farm I found myself confronted by an 8-year-old who was pushing the carrots on anybody who would listen. Every few minutes, when somebody new walked up to the weekly farm stand, he exclaimed how sweet and delicious the carrots were and proceeded to enthusiastically chomp on a long, slender carrot with the greens still attached. This scene is hard to imagine at a large grocery store, but at the farm in his Reservoir Hill neighborhood he was engaged with seeding, weeding, harvesting, eating, and selling the produce.
Urban farms have the power to not only revitalize neighborhoods and grow healthy produce, but also to teach Baltimore City residents about fresh food and to engage youth right there in their own neighborhoods. However, getting an urban farm started is really hard work and keeping it running is even harder. And yet, many communities and individuals have already come together to build beautiful, bountiful, and strong farms. That’s why the Farm Alliance of Baltimore City knows that we can build a stronger city and grow more farms by pooling our resources and working together.
As a network of growers, we aim to increase the viability of urban farming while increasing access to urban-grown foods. Our member farms are already learning the power of working together with our shared EBT/debit/credit machine, our joint farmers market stand, our collective branding, and our ever-increasing cooperation. For example, many residents in low-income, food desert neighborhoods rely on government assistance to purchase food, but farms lack the technology to accept EBT (formerly food stamps) benefits. Renting a wireless machine for the season costs upwards of $600, which is a significant expense for a newly-formed urban farm, and the paperwork and administration can be overwhelming. Most farms run neighborhood farm stands once a week so by sharing this piece of equipment it can travel the city and be in used throughout Baltimore, helping broaden access to the food being produced by our many urban farms.
This is just one of the many ways we are coming together to bring more farms and more food to Baltimore. Learn more at farmalliancebaltimore.org.