Farm Credit Affiliation
MidAtlantic Farm Credit
Farm Alliance of Baltimore's Perspective
Created in 2011 and led by Allison Boyd, the Farm Alliance of Baltimore is a network of urban farmers working to increase the viability of urban agriculture and improve access to city-grown foods.
Collectively, Farm Alliance members farm more than 15 acres of formerly vacant land in the city of Baltimore, predominantly in African-American neighborhoods designated as “food deserts.” Their farms are revitalizing blighted neighborhoods, creating education and job opportunities, and providing fresh, affordable produce to low-income Baltimoreans.
The vast majority of the member-growers – 93 percent – are young, beginning farmers or minority farmers. Among the membership, one-third represents beginning farmers who are minorities, and one member is a military veteran and beginning farmer.
“We are inspired by the potential of revitalizing Baltimore and its communities through sustainable agriculture,” says Allison. “We are equally as inspired by our challenges as we are our opportunities.”
Farm Alliance members are united by practices and principles that are environmentally, socially, and economically just. They aim to act as environmental stewards by protecting the Chesapeake Bay, reducing runoff and erosion, improving soil quality and creating green, lush, pervious surfaces in the midst of the urban landscape. All members sign an agreement when they join, pledging to use sustainable growing practices and best management practices in stormwater and nutrient management.
The Alliance serves as a small-scale aggregator and uses a shared walk-in cooler to sell produce collectively at farmers markets and to restaurants and some small wholesale buyers. In addition to joint "for profit" sales that totaled more than $300,000 last year, they've also sold over $20,000 worth of “bonus produce” to residents who receive federal nutrition assistance. The Alliance also has a robust education program and trains more than 30 young people interested in farming each year through internships and AmeriCorps positions.
“We are creating a model for urban revitalization through food and farming and educating and inspiring the next generation of food producers and advocates,” says Allison.
The Alliance expects to continue to grow and expand, and has plans to build a farm incubator site within the city limits that would serve as a full service farm training site for beginning farmers.
“To create and sustain a vibrant agricultural industry and economy, we must continue to innovate in ways that consider people, planet and profit on equal footing. We see the future of ag being incredibly diversified and dynamic,” says Allison.
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