2017 Week Six: Food Access & the Environment


Though I lived in Indiana for the first 18 years of my life, it took a move to the city of Baltimore to put me in touch with farming.

I’m not sure what I expected out of it, but rarely have I had such an immersive experience. Farming has proved to be more than just a job, it’s a lifestyle that’s shaped my behavior and perspectives in unexpected ways. I wear its marks on my skin, in the tan lines – a literal farmer’s tan – branded into my shoulders and the dirt crusted under my fingernails. My body wakes itself before 8am without fail, an hour previously unthinkably early for me. The food I eat is increasingly comprised of local produce from farmer’s markets, Boone Street, and the window pots I grow. Farming even extends to my social media existence, where I both keep up with local farms and markets and make my own posts about pretty flowers and excitingly large turnips. Outside of the social media world, I feel connected to nature in a way I haven’t before. I started going on runs by a stream through a wooded park and get excited when I can identify a plant growing beside the path. At bookstores I pick up books about food history, the politics of agriculture, and occasionally find references to local Maryland farms whose produce I’ve eaten. Finally I can understand something of what my dad, who works in the agriculture industry, has been talking about my whole life. I feel clean and happy and healthy, miles away from the stressed, overwhelmed premed I was during the semester when I lived with a constant background of toxic anxiety about everything. For my body and my mind, farming has been a detoxifying experience, and if you think this sounds overdramatic for a short two month’s experience, all I can tell you is: just try it. You’ll see.


This week I continued my visits to certain community-managed open spaces, as well as working in a different called Remington Village Green and meeting with Ted Martello, a fellow Baltimorean and employee of the US Forestry Service and TreeBaltimore (where Claire works). Over the internship, I was curious about different tree species and how they interact with urban environments, so Katie connected me with Ted, who is well versed in trees and green spaces, to have lunch with me and talk about his work and trees in urban environments. Specific trees that do well in urban environments (planted by themselves and having almost no care) are willow oak, red and silver maple, cypress and elm trees; these trees are good for urban environments because they grow fast, are tolerable to hard impact and salt (imagine salt sprayed when it snows) and provide good amounts of shade. Ted also expressed sentiments of the native/invasive argument, saying that we as humans shouldn’t really decide what species should and shouldn’t grow in our spaces; although this is a good point to consider, couldn’t it also be applied to what humans do with animals?

On another note though, we did go through the majority of sites that needed to be driven to, and subsequently updated our database. It didn’t really surprise us to see most of the sites (18 out of 20) are now defunct, meaning no one in the community is actively using the site and/or the site has no community use (food, relief from built environment, gathering space, etc). There were a few stand out sites, like Newington Avenue Park, St. Mary’s Park and the Haven of Hope Community Garden (although St. Mary’s Park is city-owned, it’s community-managed). It was also interesting to note how the environment changes rapidly throughout Baltimore; a mere two minute drive south from the Bolton Hill or west of Remington Village areas and you’ll see a drastic change in scenery, quality of buildings as well as more abandoned housing (going southwest from Bolton Hill, a very well-off neighborhood, puts you in Penn-North, in which vacant lots and buildings are abundant). So. overall. it’s pretty interesting seeing how communities interact with these green spaces and how it differs drastically around Baltimore.


T-2 weeks left.

Working at the Joy Wellness Center I have really been able to understand the term “Smalltimore”. This term, for those who don’t know, is just a way to describe how “small” the city of Baltimore feels, mostly in how everyone is so well-connected and how small the city is in comparison to other big cities. This is evident especially in the nonprofit sector.

At the Joy Wellness Center and during my volunteer experience at Shepherd’s Clinic, I’ve experienced moments where I can’t help someone with the clinic’s resources. You’re not a patient here? Well, you can attend our drop-in classes, but you can’t receive private massage appointments. You make more than 40,000? You can’t come to see a provider at the clinic, but we might be able to help you with insurance. Saying no to people like this is difficult. I fear that people will get upset, that they will yell and scream or cry. I fear that they will never get help and they will be sick for a while. However, as a nonprofit in Smalltimore, I’m able to connect people that I meet to other resources we have in Baltimore, from places that will give medicine, to sexual health, to wellness services, or to other places of care. This ensures that I don’t feel like I didn’t help at all. Someone in Baltimore has the resources for this person, and I’m able to help connect them to each other. Having these strong connections in the clinic and throughout the city allows us to improve the health of the community as a whole, something I’ve realized I want to focus on in the future.

When I was at a museum this week, people came up to me on a “scavenger hunt” to try to get know people in the museum. I met someone from my home state, and we had a great conversation. At the Waverly Farmers’ Market, I ran into the Nurse Diabetes Educator at the Joy Wellness Center. While I was at a restaurant, I saw that the dessert on the menu was from a different bakery across town. Baltimore is a place where random people come up to you, where you run into people you know in places you don’t expect, and where everything is connected. Even though it’s a city that feels very large at times when you have to get from Charles Village to West Baltimore or Patterson Park, it still has that small-town feel. I thought that these things would only happen in places like my hometown, but from this summer, I have seen how truly small Baltimore is.


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