ABOVE: The Hillen Homestead, farmed by Maya Kosok
Meet Our Farm Alliance Summer Interns!
Ga'Nyah Minor is a student at the University of MD, College Park. She is majoring in Agricultural Business Management at the Institute of Applied Agriculture. Please say hello to her at our Waverly market stand!
Nora Abdiruhman is a rising junior at the University of the Virgin Islands. She is excited to be working with the Farm Alliance this summer!
Note: Several of this month's newsletter articles were written by Nora Abdiruhman, one of our two awesome Farm Alliance summer interns!
Another Note: We will NOT be at Waverly Farmers' Market this Saturday, July 4th. Please relax at home, enjoy the holiday safely, and we will see you back at the market July 11!
Urban Agriculture Resilience Fund Distribution: What Are Farms Getting?
As many of you may already know, the Farm Alliance recently announced the creation of an Urban Agriculture Resilience Fund, the total being $92,000 established with the generous support of the Baltimore Community Foundation (BCF), the Abell Foundation, the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, the Rauch Foundation, the Bernard Family Fund at T. Rowe Price Charitable, and the France-Merrick Foundation. The Farm Alliance has established this fund to support farms and gardens in the city who are doing the critical work of building food security during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the creation of the fund in late May, farmers have received a variety of different goods, equipment, and infrastructure repairs to assist them through the pandemic. Some of these materials include: ground stakes, air conditioning units, produce scales, drip tape, tents, and some of the most exciting equipment, Post-harvest Handling Stations! Now, as farmers prepare for market, or any other time they may need to process fresh produce they able to do so in a sustainable, COVID-safe, and hassle free way. Those wishing to contribute to the Urban Agriculture Resilience Fund may make checks out to:
Farm Alliance of Baltimore, 4709 Harford Rd, Baltimore MD 21214. Please put COVID Fund in the memo line. If you would like to make a one time or monthly recurring donation to the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, please use this link.
Announcing the FAB COVID Resilience Fund for Black Farmers
Many of you have been asking: What is the best way to support Black-led farms in Baltimore during these tough times? Good news: There are several ways! You can start by contributing to our new fund (LINK HERE) for Black-led farms that is part of our Urban Agriculture COVID Resilience Fund. Our first round of direct assistance checks went out to these farms in June. Your support will allow us to write a second round of checks to these farms as the harvest season gets under way this fall. You can also support these farms directly with your dollars using the links in the flyer below. Or volunteer your time!
Giving thanks this season!
The Farm Alliance would like to give our heartfelt thanks to Greg Strella, Chief Stewardship Officer of The Pearlstone Center. This season Greg was kind enough to donate almost 400 strawberry plants to the Alliance that he has been growing by hand for the past year. We are very excited to see the fruits of his labor. Thank you again to Greg and the Pearlstone center!
Farmer Profiles! All the things you may not know about the Hillen Homestead…
What do we think of when we hear the combination of words “urban farm”? The intersection of “urban” and “farming” is highlighted by this month's farm and farmer profile. Maya Kosok, the lead farmer at the Hillen Homestead, has been farming here in Baltimore since 2012 when a friend of hers, named Ben Meyers, purchased a plot of land close to his childhood home and planted several berry bushes, marking the beginnings of the Hillen Homestead. A year later, in January of 2013, Ben passed. Since then Maya and her team have been working on his plot growing and selling sustainably sourced flowers, whilst providing those same berry bushes and a few new fruit trees as offerings to the neighborhood and surrounding community.
When visiting the Homestead one can't help but imagine it as a sort of urban oasis, an escape from city life whilst still being nestled just a few minutes from downtown Baltimore. However, that is not the case. The goal of Hillen Homestead is not to be something separate from the city but to be a normal functioning part of urban life. It is not spared any of the day to day noise of the city, every few moments cars, trucks, and buses are speeding by, honking, spewing co2 emissions; this, in tandem with local community members coming to check out what is going on, creates a thick layer of noise you wouldn’t find on your traditional farm. Communication can become quite difficult in this setting especially whilst wearing a mask and weeding on either end of the property. Despite these challenges work on the farm persists and flows quite smoothly. Talking to Maya whilst trimming away some unwanted mint on the farm one can very easily pick up what keeps her here day after day.
“I really value community. The reason that I grow in the city and enjoy the business that I run is because I value my relationships with neighbors and other urban farmers, and is the reason I farm in the city and not 20 miles up a dirt road somewhere. For me, the flowers, the business-- it's all a vehicle for community building and social engagement. Sustainable practices are also very important to me, I also value the artistic element the fun thing about growing flowers is that I get to think in color and texture and shape and mostly I don’t do my own floristry work instead I sell to other people who do its just what’s worked for me as a business focus. But I really enjoy all of those relationships.”
“I don’t use synthetic fertilizer or herbicides, and I source my compost locally-that’s my main source of fertility. I don’t till the ground. There are different ways of tilling the soil or turning it in, but you disturb the soils structure and microbiology. I source my seedlings locally from an organic nursery and I sell locally so things are traveling less distance.” As we talk more and more people begin to pass by and seem to take an interest in the four people knee deep in herbs and flowers. One man in particular starts a dialogue to see if he can get some compost for his garden.
“I wanna know if I bring my truck around here could I get a half a wheelbarrow of compost?” The man asks, “You can charge whatever you want for it.” “Well you can have it for free,” Maya responds.
Although it's not much more than 1/3 of an acre, there is still the hustle and bustle of farm life, from weeding and pruning to harvesting and watering to the constant need to redirect and shift volunteer energy from task to task. As we talk, my mom and Maya and I are trimming away some mint that has begun to develop white spots. (Although they aren’t harmful to us when consumed, they pose an issue for floral arrangements as there is a need for a cosmetic or aesthetic appeal.)
“In general I’m really cognizant of being in the middle of a neighborhood. I didn’t fence anything off or get rid of the path here that everyone walks through. The fruit trees are mostly an offering to neighbors, Just to try to keep it as a welcoming space, I also do a couple times a year a cookout and volunteer day but we open it up to neighbors. I do run it as a business so its not a full fledged community garden but I also think that there’s value to running business on green spaces." The Hillen Homestead's mission is to build community and relationships by growing high quality flowers using sustainable methods in urban areas. Their work has the power to shift our preconceived notions on what it is to farm and where and how a farm should be run. By creating a sense of community centered around fresh sustainable produce, green spaces, education, and so much more, the Hillen Homestead is growing a greener, healthier Baltimore for us all.
Community Cooking Demonstrations are Happening--on Facebook!
Our wonderful community partner, Chef Crystal Forman of Holistic Wellness and Health, is back -- only instead of using her mobile kitchen, she is giving daily 5pm cooking demonstrations on Facebook Live video in her home kitchen, using fresh in-season produce from our member farms. Please join us for one of these upcoming demonstrations for an enjoyable, informative learning experience. You can also tune in to see her previously recorded demonstrations!
Please check our Farm Alliance of Baltimore Facebook page for additional dates and details about community cooking demonstrations and other events. Addresses of all our member farms can be found on our website.
Thank you to all of our volunteers, donors, and supporters who feed us, compost with us, garden with us, donate books and artwork, and give generously of their energy and money to support our work. We are grateful and excited to be growing in our ninth year with you!
Support Our Work
If you would like to make a one time or monthly recurring donation to the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, please use this link.
If you shop at Amazon and would like to make sure a little money comes to the Farm Alliance from every purchase you make, click here.
We've moved! The Farm Alliance's new home is Function Coworking Community, 4709 Harford Road, Baltimore MD 21214. Make an appointment to come and see us!