Mayor of Baltimore Tweets About How Civic Works Helps "Grow Baltimore For Real"

From the Civic Works Facebook page

The Mobile Farmers’ Market – a refurbished newspaper delivery truck equipped with display counters – allows Civic Works to distribute fresh produce from their Real Food Farm to a diversity of people throughout Baltimore. One of the Market’s recent customers was the mayor of Baltimore, the Honorable Stephanie Rawlings Blake. What did the mayor think about the fresh, locally-grown collard greens she purchased? Check out this Twitter conversation…

Real Food Farm Tweet:
@MayorSRB how were those collard greens you got from our Mobile Farmers' Market? #getreal

The Mayor's tweet:
@realfoodfarm fantastic. Thanks. I was just bragging about your farm to my colleagues. Said you help me "Grow Baltimore" For Real.

Tangible Health Benefits of Community Gardening

The farm operated by SEEDS of Traverse City, Michigan

Information taken from UPI, United Press International

Many Corps – including Civic Works, NYRP, Conservation Corps North Bay, and Vermont Youth Conservation Corps – operate extensive community gardening and farming programs. These farms and gardens provide their communities with healthy food and are often used by Corps to help educate people about the food cycle and proper eating habits. It’s no secret that getting regular exercise and eating fresh, sustainably grown fruits and vegetables can be good for both people and the environment, but what are the specific health benefits of involvement in local food production processes?    

A new study from the University of Utah finds that people who participate in community gardening have significantly better odds of not being overweight or obese than people who are not involved in community gardening.  

The Key findings:

  • Female community gardeners had an average BMI 1.84 lower than their neighbors who didn’t garden (this equals an 11 pound weight difference for a 5’5” woman)
  • Male community gardeners had an average BMI 2.36 lower than their neighbors who didn’t garden (this equals a 16 pound weight difference for a 5’10” man)

Click here for more details

2013 Project of the Year, Real Food Farm of Civic Works

Before Civic Works broke ground on their Real Food Farm in October 2009, Baltimore, MD had no significant urban farms. Because of its history with youth development and community outreach, Civic Works was selected by the Baltimore Urban Agriculture Taskforce as the perfect organization to operate a “demonstration farm.” Now, just a few years after they planted their first seeds, the Real Food Farm has inspired the creation of numerous urban farms and reached thousands of Baltimore residents through educational programs and efforts to increase access to fresh food.

Real Food Farm continues to grow, but for now it covers about six acres of land in Baltimore’s Clifton Park. The farm is comprised of high-tunnel hoop houses made from steel pipes and plastic sheeting, as well as open fields with trees and rows of vegetables. In 2012, Real Food Farm harvested nearly 15,800 lbs. of food, established 6 beehives, planted 60 fruit trees, installed 2 rain gardens & 1 berry patch, began the process of producing mushrooms, and expanded a composting project.

The mission of Real Food Farm is fourfold: make fresh fruits and vegetables more available to low-income Baltimore families; help grow Baltimore’s urban agricultural sector; provide experience-based education and leverage the farm as a learning tool; and promote sustainable land use. Civic Works uses various methods to achieve the Farm’s first goal of improving food access. The Mobile Farmer’s Market, a converted Washington Post delivery truck, makes home deliveries and pre-arranged stops in and around the Clifton Park Neighborhood. The Mobile Market accepts EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) payments made with Independence Cards, with additional incentives for those using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funds. Real Food Farm also runs a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program with adjustments that allow low-income families to join.

The main way the farm achieves its second goal of inspiring more urban farm development is by getting the community involved. This past year, 457 volunteers spent 1,292 hours working on various farm projects. Additionally, Real Food Farm held events and training sessions that attracted nearly 600 people. A number of former Corpsmembers have gone on to work at or start urban farms, with one former Real Food Farm AmeriCorps VISTA starting the Farm Alliance of Baltimore; a collective of small urban farms that share tools and hold joint community markets.

Internships for high school students, demonstrations, field trips for school groups, and after-school programs are ways Real Food Farm achieves its third goal of educating people about sustainable farming and where food comes from.  In 2012, 883 students from 13 local schools visited the Farm during field trips and 43 students regularly attended educational programming. Through the Farm Lab program, the farm has developed curricula for math classes, to art classes, to English classes. Kids in grades K-12 have all enjoyed field trips at the farm.

Real Food Farm’s fourth goal is realized through the farm’s use of sustainable practices. The farm is built on what were once underutilized sports fields next to two schools. They use rain gardens and are constructing a bioswale to reduce runoff and improve groundwater quality. The property now has a large composting project underway, and the farm recently acquired an industrial-sized freezer for preserving food.

Before 2009, Civic Works – and Baltimore itself – had little experience with urban agriculture. Corpsmembers and staff attended workshops, conferences, and training sessions to learn how to make the farm successful. Now, through plenty of hard work from Corpsmembers, Civic Works staff, and Baltimore volunteers, Real Food Farm is giving back to the community in big ways.

Governor Visits Vermont Youth Conservation Corps

Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin met the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Farm Crew on August 2nd during Farmer's Market Week. The Governor stated, “Farmers’ markets reflect the best of Vermont—hard working people, a healthy lifestyle, and strong communities. They are a part of our lifestyle across the state, and this week is a great opportunity to honor the hard work of the market managers and producers.” The VYCC Farm Crew certainly felt honored to talk with the Governor and tell him about their hard work.

LA Conservation Corps Plants Garden at Mayor’s House

From the LA Conservation Corps Newsletter

On August 7th, the LA Corps participated in a garden dedication ceremony at Getty House, the residence of Mayor Antonio Villarigosa in Los Angeles. One of our Young Adult Corps crews helped build and plant a small vegetable garden that included six dwarf fruit trees, tomatoes, squash, peppers, basil, cilantro and other edibles. The Mayor expressed his thanks for the collaborative effort, which involved the City of Los Angeles General Services Department, Department of Engineering, Recreation and Parks, Getty House Foundation, LA Neighborhood Land Trust, and the LA Conservation Corps.

2010 Project of the Year: Workstudy Program - Go to College, Work on an Organic Farm

Winner: Conservation Corps North Bay

Through the Conservation Corps North Bay's (CCNB) partnership with College of Marin and UC Cooperative Extension Marin, Corpsmembers can attend the College of Marin and receive work study for their field work at the Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden. The Farm, located on the College of Marin's beautiful Indian Valley Campus, enables CCNB to expand its program to include post-secondary students, Corpsmembers who are interested in pursuing a college education and/or receiving a specialized certificate in Sustainable Horticulture.

At the 5.8 acre organic education farm and garden, the first education and training center of its kind in the region, CCNB Corpsmembers receive valuable year-round field study, job training, and education in preparation for jobs in Marin's fastest growing green jobs and sustainable agriculture sectors. As a part of this innovative program, the College of Marin will create a Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture program and also will align its curriculum with Agriculture and Environmental Sciences degree programs offered at the University of California Davis and Santa Cruz campuses. In this way, CCNB Corpsmembers can seamlessly transfer to four year colleges to continue their studies in this field.