News / USA

Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greens

Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greensi
|| 0:00:00
May 01, 2013 2:07 PM
About two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2030, according to the United Nations. The U.N. says poverty is already growing faster in urban areas than in rural ones, and feeding the world’s hungry urbanites poses a mounting challenge. Experts say cities must grow more of their own food, wherever they can. In the struggling U.S. city of Baltimore, that means turning urban blight into a source of healthy greens. VOA’s Steve Baragona takes a look.
Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greens
On a patch of asphalt on the edge of Baltimore, a row of greenhouses lay like giant white caterpillars across the blacktop.

This one stretch of land is blooming in the midst of a post-industrial wasteland that has lost about one-third of its population since its post-World War II peak, leaving hollowed-out neighborhoods of boarded-up buildings and abandoned lots.

“It was a high-crime area. This vacant lot was a haven for drug activity. But not anymore,” says William Long, a farm manager who works for Big City Farms.

The company was the first to sign a lease to grow food on abandoned land owned by the city.

“We can really create jobs in the city, in an industry that doesn’t exist," said Alex Persful, president of Big City Farms. "That’s the whole meaning behind here. One, having good food. Two, having good jobs. And, all these lots that are just trash heaps right now.”

Turning trash heaps into fresh-food treasure troves makes a lot of sense for a city with 17,000 empty lots and 10 percent unemployment. Baltimore hopes to lease about eight hectares of vacant land to urban farmers in the next five years.

There are multiple benefits, says the planning department’s Abby Cocke. "Decreasing the burden on us for caring for vacant property. Employing more citizens, revitalizing the local economy. Drawing people into the city. I know of a few people who have moved to Baltimore to be part of the urban farming movement in Baltimore. It hits a ton of our goals.”

Farming in the city hits one of Persful’s main goals, too. While most produce is shipped in from across the country, Big City Farms grows its greens within 15 kilometers of the customer.

“I’m cutting it now," Persful said. "It’s getting to your plate within 24 hours. And there’s a big difference between something that was cut a week ago, or two weeks ago, and something that was cut just a couple hours ago.”

Restaurant chefs savor the ultra-fresh taste.

“I had the opportunity to serve carrots that were pulled from the ground less than two hours ago," said Timothy Dyson, chef at Bluegrass Tavern love. "The flavors really pop.”

Persful has shown he can grow fresh food just about anywhere, including this infertile patch of asphalt on the edge of the city.

“It’s been a parking lot for I guess about three years now," he said. "But this used to be the city garage behind us.”

Walking through a green carpet of lettuce inside one greenhouse, Persful digs through the roughly 15 centimeters of compost lining the floor. This is the pilot farm, where the company started out. But Big City Farms is all about growth in unexpected places.

That includes its employees. Farm manager William Long spent time in prison on drug-possession charges.

“This community itself needs a change for the better," Long said. "And me being an ex-offender myself, if they see that I can do it, maybe they will want to make a change as well.”

It's a change Big City Farms hopes to bring to cities across the country.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: FOODYHydroponics from: Orlando, FL. USA
May 05, 2013 3:13 PM
That is fantastic! Great way to help others help themselves and get healthier in the process! Think how much more production you would have if you grew some of the area vertically! All that greenhouse space and 80% is empty air.

Call me for info!

Skip Stein
FOODY Hydroponics Systems

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs