Growing and Working for Food Justice in Baltimore

COVID-19 has been devastating for poor people and people of color. Systemic racism and economic inequality have resulted in higher death rates for Black and Hispanic people. Food insecurity is twice as likely to affect Black and Hispanic households as White households and the Maryland Food Bank estimates that one in seven of our state’s children suffers from food insecurity.

As individuals we can volunteer for community kitchens and food banks, donate produce from our gardens, support local farmers, and learn about the root causes of these problems and disparities. We can also support the awesome groups that are educating, organizing, and growing food to address food apartheid and food insecurity. Here are a few outstanding examples with Baltimore roots:

Black Church Food Security Network

Black Church Food Security Network logo

Our mission: The Black Church Food Security Network (BCFSN) utilizes an asset-based approach in organizing and linking the vast resources of historically African American congregations in rural and urban communities to advance food and land sovereignty.

The Black Farmer Directory was created by BCFSN to connect Black Farmers to African American churches, other faith-based institutions, and all who wish to support them.

Articles, blog posts & interviews

YouTube gardening & food preservation tutorials

Donate Link

Black Farmers’ Resilience

The Black Church Food Security Network (BCFSN) Logo

This fund is a special project of the Farm Alliance of Baltimore and supports 10 Black-owned farms and Black-led food and farming organizations in Baltimore.

Denzel Mitchell, Deputy Director for the Alliance, says “2020 has been stressful but work has ramped up. On top of organizing and assisting farmers we’re dealing with racial tensions and pandemic issues. How do we help farms succeed and how do we move as an organization in this current climate of fear and anxiety?”

He noted that the City has provided support for the Alliance and donors helped get the Resilience Fund started mid-year. Farmers in need receive cash assistance, tools, and equipment.

Donate Link

Great Kids

Friends Logo

Great Kids Farm is a 33-acre educational farm operated by Baltimore City Public Schools’ Office of Food and Nutrition Services. The farm is home to goats, chickens, turkeys, sheep and a lot of veggies and fruit.

In the 2020/2021 school year, we are offering virtual field trips for any Baltimore City Public Schools’ class ( ), a pre-recorded virtual program for 2nd grade students (, and agriculture-based activity kits for students to gain hands on experience in their own homes. Great Kids Farm also offers youth employment to high school students, and we are looking forward to hosting our 2nd annual African American Foodways Summit for high school students this February (a virtual event). For more on our programs, contact:

Do you have gardening supplies and tools to donate or would you like to become a volunteer? Contact

Donate Link

Let’s all pledge to do more in 2021 to learn from one another, feed one another, and work for a more healthy, equitable, and just food system.

Best wishes for a safe and peaceful holiday season!

By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist. Read more posts by Jon.

What’s Growing in Baltimore? Community Gardens!

On July 21 I grabbed my umbrella and joined three UME faculty (Wanda MacLachlan, Sara Via, and Kelsey Brooks) to judge seven community garden finalists in the Charm City Farm & Garden Contest, sponsored by the UME Master Gardener program in Baltimore City. We spent an amazing day zig-zagging through the city and visiting gardens, ably guided by MGs Robert Cook and Derek Joost. We were all in awe of the creativity, skill, perseverance, and resourcefulness of the gardeners.

Here are some gardening tips and photos from four of the gardens:

Conkling St. Garden

Conkling St. Garden

Murals are a common sight on walls next to gardens. This garden serves Highlandtown and the Baltimore-Highlands neighborhood. There are 20 large raised beds, plus flowers, herbs, fruit trees.

Conkling St. Garden

A majority of Baltimore community gardens are located on vacant lots with no topsoil. Raised beds are typically filled with compost (often mushroom compost) or mixtures of compost and topsoil. High quality growing media combined with deep beds produces large, healthy plants and high yields. Electrical conduit is used to support clear plastic to extend the season.

Harwood Community Garden

Harwood Community Garden

Love the artwork in this Adopt-a-Lot community garden in East Baltimore. People garden collectively and share the harvest, a growing trend among community gardens.

Harwood Community Garden
These tomato plants, planted as a double row, are over 6 ft. tall and loaded with fruit.

They used the “Florida-weave” method to support plants between runs of heavy twine or string. Tie off on the end post and wrap around each post in the row, and then repeat on the other side, tying off where you started.

Our Community Garden

Our Community Garden

This amazing West Baltimore garden is really a series of gardens created over 25 years on vacant lots that had been a dumping ground. Hard work, community organizing and many truckloads of city leaf mold made it a success.

Our Community Garden
Garden leaders recognized on wall of the Memory Garden: Justine Bonner (center, deceased) was the garden founder and a Master Gardener. Hannah Trent (right) is a Master Gardener and the current garden leader.

Victorine Q. Adams Memorial Garden

This garden started as a project to clean up two vacant lots. It’s now a beautiful and productive garden, a source of community pride, and this year’s winning garden in the Vegetable/Ornamental category!

Mega-healthy purslane grown as an “under crop” beneath collards.

Clever use of a plastic pallet to support winter squash plants, saving garden space.
Clever use of a plastic pallet to support winter squash plants, saving garden space.

Community space next to the garden features a stage, barbecue pit, and African-American history.

We got wet on that Saturday but left inspired and better educated about community gardening in the city. I hope I get invited to judge next year!


By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist