News / USA

    Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greens

    Baltimore's Empty Lots Bloom With Healthy Greensi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X
    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.

    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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
    http://foody-hydroponics.com/

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora