While tensions around the world continue to mount, with escalating global conflict, increasing poverty, and an insolvent economy on the brink of collapse, some people are busy fixing up their own neighborhoods, doing what they can with whatever land is available.
The Baltimore Free Farm is a beautiful space of reclaimed earth, tended to by volunteers who are motivated by nothing more than their innate desire to touch the earth and create spaces of beauty. That, and to eat. Eating is good.
The Free Farm is a collective of gardeners in Baltimore who share a love of clean local food, and who believe in the power of non-hierarchical social structures. What started as a community garden grew into a community movement to provide food for those in need, as well as a housing cooperative that reclaimed several run-down, vacant buildings and turned them into beautiful homes for participating members.
Along with the food produced from the gardens (much of which goes to feeding the members of the collective) the Free Farm collects large amounts of food that local industries would otherwise be throwing away and makes it available to those who need food. They call this Food Rescue, a term I like much better than dumpster diving.
“Every Wednesday members of Baltimore Free Farm go to various produce distributors and grocers to rescue distressed goods: items too ripe to sell or on or just past their expiration date. We drive the 300-500 lbs of produce, dry goods, and bread 30 miles back to Baltimore Free Farm for redistribution into the community. This is a direct action against the endemic food waste crisis that faces our society, which pushes 40% of food produced into landfills to rot with the plastics and other non-compostable goods while millions around the world starve.” (From the Free Farm website)
When I first arrived, I spoke briefly with a guy who was working on his plot in the community garden. He was so excited by the prospect of eating from his own garden plot. He pointed out all that he had planted, knowing he was going to save lots of money this year on grocery bills. I asked him if he lived in the area, and he said actually lives some thirty minutes away, but there was no place for him to garden where he lived, and so badly did he want to grow his own food that he didn't mind in the least driving all the way out to where his own plants, sown by his hand, would be producing food for him for the rest of the season. It was very touching to see such passion and enthusiasm.
After I'd walked around a bit, Reagan came out to greet me. Reagan had responded to my request to check out the gardens, and she kindly offered to take me on a tour of the gardens.
If you’d like to learn more about the Free Farm, check out the video tour I took, walking through the Ash Street garden site, followed by a discussion about the project and the larger idea of creating local food resources and building local communities.
It was neat seeing one of the guys there open a bee hive to check to make sure that they weren't getting too full. I always enjoy seeing a working bee hive up close. Also, I remembered all the pigeon pea seeds that I got from Orlando Permaculture, so I we planted some of those, as gift from Orlando to Baltimore, courtesy of Permagora. May the seeds of the future continue to be passed around!
Does your city have anything like this going on? If so, then perhaps it would behoove you to go check it out, maybe see if you can volunteer. If not, then perhaps it’s time to see who else wants to get cracking on all these problems our society is dealing with, starting with our own backyards.