by Tyler Brown, Farm Manager
As the first staff member at Real Food Farm and its Farm Manager for the past five years, it is a tough decision to depart Civic Works and the program. Arriving at Civic Works as an Americorps with more hair and a less developed career plan, I became exposed to the amazing network of gardeners, activists, law-breakers (technically), neighbors, and artists building a new food system for Baltimore. The community has been hugely inspirational and supportive.
The next step for me is a farmer training program at UC-Santa Cruz, started by Alan Chadwick in the 60’s and developed by John Jeavons, two pioneers in theFrench bio-intensive system. The program will focus on the gritty, day-to-day farming that I don’t always get right now, give me a firsthand view of how to train farmers, and help further a vision for a successful urban farm business. I aim to return more prepared, though for now the journey remains open – the opportunity is as much about self-exploration as learning best practices for soil structure.
I’m feeling confident about the state of the Real Food Farm program: a dedicated and expanding staff, a diversity of quality programming, and a recent emphasis on looking inward and consider the racial justice implications of our work. As I reflect on the Baltimore-wide urban farming movement that’s changed so much while I’ve been with Real Food Farm, I’m feeling optimistic: each year there are more farms and farmers, seemingly more opportunities and support, and more ambitious goals to tackle the elephantine problems we see in our food system and our city.
There is, of course, still a lot of work to be done. To build resilient farms and sustaining small businesses, we need to tackle land security. Urban farming is more than a transitional use — it’s a community organizer, grocer, employer, playground, stormwater manager, and after-school program. It deserves to be recognized as a permanent part of the landscape. To dismantle the so-called “food deserts,” we need to tackle history and racism: understanding root causes of inequality and the racist structural underpinnings that remain today in our systems and selves is vital. And we need to continue making farming equitable and more reflective of Baltimore City demographics: more farms run and controlled by the community, opportunities for living-wage jobs, and training programs that reach farmers starting at different skill levels. Luckily, Baltimore has a lot of talent and energy working on these things, but they need more support.
I’ll be leaving in March, so hopefully will be seeing many folks before I depart. And if you’re in Santa-Cruz in the next 6 months, come visit my yurt.*
*(actually a tent-cabin)