By Lauren, Snyder, Leonardo Shibata, Lisa Gee, & Danielle Edwards (service learning students from Johns Hopkins University)
May 28, 2015
At Real Food Farm Clifton Park, fresh air abounds and leafy vegetables grow in abundance across the site’s six acres. As public health students who spend much of our time studying indoors, our weekly visits to Real Food Farm are a welcome escape and change of pace!
We all became involved with Real Food Farm through a Food Systems Sustainability course we are taking at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The course focuses on issues relating to the sustainability of our food systems, and provides us with opportunities to gain experience with organizations working to promote food system sustainability in Baltimore. Food system sustainability is of particular interest to us as public health students, as the environment and what we consume significantly affect our health. In Baltimore, many residents have difficulty accessing fresh fruits and vegetables, which are often not affordable or unavailable at neighborhood markets. These “food deserts” present challenges to residents seeking to follow a nutritious diet. Real Food Farm is working to address some of these challenges by selling its produce at more affordable prices to residents living in and around Clifton Park via the Mobile Farmers Market that reach residents who live in food deserts.
As part of the course, we are assigned the task of helping promote knowledge about food sustainability issues by creating a sustainable eating guide and developing recipes that feature seasonal, locally-grown fruits and vegetables – specifically those that Real Food Farm produces and sells to local residents. We also spend a few hours each week getting our hands dirty and working on the farm. In our short time with Real Food Farm, we’ve pulled out prolific weeds in the farm’s six production high tunnels (which are about ten degrees warmer inside than out), harvested several types of lettuce, sifted compost, planted seedlings, installed hooks and ties for the high tunnel ventilation system, spread stones over French drains for the high tunnel irrigation systems, and staked fruit trees in the orchard. We’ve decided that of these, our favorite activity is harvesting produce like kale flowers, arugula, and leafy greens.
As we’ve spent more time on the farm, we’ve become more and more familiar with the work that needs to be done, and typically jump in without hesitation after receiving a little direction from the friendly Real Food Farm team. We’ve learned a lot about the strategy that goes into what is planted on the farm, and we’ve been introduced to new, unfamiliar tools with interesting names (like the stirrup hoe!). Working on the farm has also helped us to take a second look at what we eat and where our food comes from. We’re inspired to eat more locally and sustainably, and even start our own gardens!