July Compass - E-News from Baltimore Planning

Compass Logo with Hoop House Picture in Background
The Compass is a monthly eNewsletter of the Baltimore City Department of Planning.

July, 2013

A Message from the Director…

Support for urban agriculture is building across the U.S., flourishing with the energy and passion of non-profits and individual food producers. Urban agriculture presents us with opportunities to address the problems of derelict vacant land, economic under-development, and lack of access to healthy foods, while simultaneously building community and creating a more livable city.

In 2011, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake became the vice-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Food Policy Task Force, which identified “homegrown” strategies as crucial to strengthening our cities.

Over the past year, Baltimore has been formulating its own homegrown strategy, known as Homegrown Baltimore. This strategy not only meets the goals of the Baltimore Sustainability Plan, but also advances the mission of the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative – an intergovernmental collaboration to increase access to healthy and affordable foods in Baltimore City’s food deserts – and the Vacants to Value Initiative, which focuses on rehabilitating blighted properties in Baltimore City.

If you’re not already, I invite you to get involved with Baltimore’s urban agriculture movement – help out at a local farm, shop at a local farmer’s market, and eat more fresh, local produce!

Thomas J. Stosur, Director


Image of Mayor at homegrown Baltimore Announcement

TransForm for Urban Agriculture

Transform Baltimore will lay out definitions and use standards for community-managed open spaces (aka community gardens) and urban agriculture sites (aka urban farms) for the first time.

Community-managed open spaces will be permitted uses in almost all zoning districts, meaning that they will be allowed by right.

Urban agriculture sites will be conditional uses in almost all zoning districts, which means that their impact on the surrounding community must be considered before they can proceed.

The Baltimore City Health Code has allowed for the keeping of chickens and bees for years. In 2012, the Code was updated to also allow the keeping of rabbits and of dwarf, miniature, and pygmy goats. You can read the full text of the regulations for these types of animals here. 

Facebook Logo

Homegrown Baltimore: Planning to Grow Locally

On Wednesday, June 19, 2013, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced “Homegrown Baltimore: Grow Local, Buy Local, Eat Local”, the City of Baltimore’s initiative to support the growth, sale, and consumption of fresh, healthy, local food.

Image of Mayor with Citizens Cutting Ribbon at Big City Farms

Grow Local aims to increase local food production in Baltimore through urban agriculture. Buy Local addresses the sale and distribution of locally produced foods, including the expansion of farmers’ markets, farm stands, community supported agriculture, farm-to-school programs, and the sale of local foods in local food stores.  Eat Local seeks to increase the demand for local, healthy food.

Image of food growing in hoop house.

As the first step in Homegrown Baltimore, the Departments of Planning and Housing & Community Development jointly issued a Request for Qualifications for urban farmers. Through this process, local farmers were qualified to negotiate with the City of Baltimore for five-year leases on vacant, city-owned land.

The first new agriculture site to be created through Homegrown Baltimore is Strength to Love Farm, which is transforming 1.5 acres of formerly vacant land in Sandtown-Winchester into an entrepreneurial venture that trains and employs residents returning from incarceration. Strength to Love Farm is a partnership between Big City Farms, a local benefits corporation that supplies start-up funds, technical assistance, and sales support, and Strength to Love II, a project of Sandtown-based Newborn Holistic Ministries, which provides manpower.

Picture of Farmers Market

With one hoop house (a low-cost greenhouse covered in flexible plastic rather than glass) already in active use and five more currently being built, Strength to Love Farm is already producing fresh, healthy vegetables for Baltimore. Many volunteers and partners have contributed so far to help make Strength to Love Farm a success, including the Parks & People Foundation, which is helping to install a stormwater collection and reuse system on the site.

The second Homegrown Baltimore lease was signed this June with Real Food Farm, a project of Civic Works, for another 1.5 acres of vacant land in the South Clifton Park neighborhood. This site will be a training ground for new urban farmers, and will allow Real Food Farm to experiment with different types of crops. A third and fourth lease are currently in negotiations.

A Grow Local Plan is currently being finalized within the Department of Planning, and will be released for public comment this summer. This plan will lay out specific steps, beyond the Land Leasing Initiative, to support urban farms and farmers in the City of Baltimore.

For More Information:

Voice of America Video: Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greens.

Screen Shot of Video Opening

Baltimore Brew Article:  Fresh produce for Sandtown and a fresh start for ex-offenders. Mayor cuts ribbon on Strength to Love II Farm, first city "farmland" leased through new program.

Visit our Partners:

Baltimore Office of Sustainability

Baltimore Food Policy Initiative

Farm Alliance of Baltimore City  

Big City Farms

Strength to Love II 

Real Food Farm

Future Harvest CASA