Urban Farming in Baltimore

urban farming in baltimore: a hoop house at real food farm
Inside a hoop house at Baltimore's Real Food Farm

Editor’s note: This is the final post in our series on urban farming success stories in the United States.

While my previous post in this series may give the impression that the Midwest dominates the urban agriculture scene, I don’t know that for a fact… and do know that coastal cities such as San Francisco and New York have also seen tremendous growth of small-scale food production within their urban cores. Baltimore hasn’t received as much attention on this front, but it appears that local entrepreneurs, non-profits, and the city government have jumped into city farming in some relatively big ways.

Relatively, Baltimore is new to the movement… while places like Detroit and Chicago got going in the early to middle part of the last decade, Charm City’s efforts seem to have been more concentrated in the last 2-3 years. That doesn’t mean they’re behind, though… with one or two elements, Baltimore strikes me as out in front in terms of innovation. Among the elements contributing to the city’s success in urban agriculture:

  • City planning: It looks like Baltimore, another city that’s seen better days economically, is working on a massive master plan. Urban food production and community gardening are central parts of neighborhood preservation initiatives outlined in that plan.
  • A bit more scale: One thing the city’s done is open up ten acres of land for farming lots (which will be leased in one-acre plots). This will allow for some upsizing of some current operations, including Five Seed Farms, a for-profit effort. The largest urban farm in the city is the six-acre Real Food Farm, run by Civic Works (“Baltimore’s service corps”). While these aren’t huge by rural farm standards, they are impressive for inner city efforts.
  • An educational commitment: Perhaps the coolest thing I discovered going on in Baltimore is Great Kids Farm, a thirty-three acre farm owned by the Baltimore Public Schools. It’s not technically an urban farm (it’s just outside the city’s beltway), but it’s the first example I’ve found of an urban school district creating a working farm for student education.
  • OpennessΒ about pollution threats: I thought Steve Savage brought up an excellent point when he asked about contamination in urban lots… and found direct mention of education about, and handling of, pollution threats from lead and other toxins in the Baltimore Sun article about the city’s land program. I doubt these efforts represent the end of the threat, but it is good to see them being discussed openly… no one wants to poison anyone with city grown food.

Know more about Baltimore’s efforts to accelerate food production and community gardening within the city limits? Tell us more…

Image credit: jenna.kaminsky at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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