Monday, August 11, 2008

Urban Farms Bike Tour

On Saturday morning we rode on a bike tour led by Roy Skeen and Gregory Strella of five different community gardens and urban farms in Baltimore City. It started at the Rawlings Conservatory in Druid Hill Park. Unfortunately, between Adam and the kids' trailer, we got two very flat tires within a mile, about a quarter of the way into the ride, so we packed up and drove the rest of the route in the car. It was definitely worth the effort.

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The gardens were amazing. Huge plots in the alleys of these neighborhoods, places where any green was in stunning contrast to the continuous gray of concrete. One of the gardens we visited was one of the "city farms" where people have the 10' x 15' leased plots. The rest were just huge hidden gardens where neighborhood volunteers coaxed the earth to produce tons of food.

One of them extended more than a whole city block in length, back in an alley where garages had been torn down. In the middle of boarded up houses, old men playing cards in the alleys, trash everywhere, there was this enormous growing sanctuary. It had huge fruit trees, huge berry bushes, vegetables, herbs, corn, with a shady path up the middle with picnic benches and tables. Harvested vegetables were laying in big piles to be eaten by anyone. Here was life.

Very inspiring. Also inspiring were the people we met: the people on the ride and the gardeners we met at each spot.

Doug Retzler of GreenCityBaltimore rode along recording the gardens in photos.

I found this website about community gardens through one of the folks we met. He recently started a half-acre organic farm somewhere in the county, while still living in the city.

Several of the folks we rode with had completed the Master Gardener program through the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension. From listening to them talk about it, it seems as though it is a fast overview of a wide variety of gardening topics, not particularly addressing any in depth, but it provides a fantastic opportunity to connect with other gardeners in the area and learn about what is happening in Baltimore's gardening community. That is just what I would like to do.

As a bonus, at each site we visited, we got to eat something that grew there. In several cases it was a edible native perennial weed. We tried sorrel, lambsquarter, tiger lily, and purslane. I would like to learn more about edible weeds. Sounds like a good topic for a guerrilla gardening night.

1 comment:

******************************* said...

wow that tour sounds AMAZING!! I'm going to spend a while now checking out all your links :) I've only been to the community garden off of Fox Street in Remington. I'm sad now that the growing season is coming to a close (but at least it's harvest time for now!). HOpefully winter will be a good time to do research and then I can get a lot done in the Spring! Great post.