2021 Week 2: Environment & Food Access


This week I had numerous conversations with my supervisor on the bigger picture of all we do. She recently asked me to redesign our brochure. She felt, although it was beautiful, it did not portray who we are. I realized that we cannot rely on traditional marketing techniques like using flashy colors because we are not just getting someone to make a purchase. Since members must be just as dedicated to the mission are we are, we need to compel more than just persuade. I feel this plays into how we use social media too. Since so social media popularity is based off shallow appreciation, I was always apprehensive about using it for political action. “THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED” is what I always think.

However, with us living in this digital world it becomes compulsory. So, my challenge is thinking of how we will use social media as a gateway to authentic community instead of a ploy for clicks. I think about all the new systems I have learned about working here such as cooperative economics and I know this challenge will lead me to a new level out of my comfort zone. My supervisor talks about the need for a paradigm shift surrounding our food system and collectivist thinking. Food needs to be something you know where it comes from. It is your connection to the world, and we must be conscious of that connection. Now how do I convey that in our marketing? I shall scour the world around me for answers.


Last week, I had a slow start to my internship. Mostly, I was setting things up, getting projects started, meeting with my co-workers to brainstorm ideas and project and to get caught up on things that I had missed. I was grateful for the introduction — it helped me land on my feet, getting things ready in Baltimore while simultaneously starting my projects. This week, however, my internship really picked up its pace. Right from Monday, I had a ton of projects on my plate, my schedule full of meetings. I had communication projects like email drafting, fundraising, and research, while juggling projects like video editing, resource building, and poster design. At first, it felt like a lot. But as I managed to partition each day, each hour for each project, one thing fell naturally into another — when I needed a break from one thing, I naturally switched to another, and then back and forth until I fell in a comfortable rhythm. By the end of the week, I had completed a lot of the work I needed to and was able to get some helpful feedback from my supervisor.

One challenge I had this week was a particular project I was working on for the Mobile Bike Shop. I wanted to design a more permanent resource that people could consult for further information, and so I designed a large poster that would sit at each Mobile Bike Shop. But I was having extreme trouble with setting the information up. First the colors didn’t work. Then the fonts. Then I had too much information to put on, and then too little. By the end, I hated the colors again. Ultimately, I ended up scrapping the entire poster that I had spent hours on and tried again. At first this felt like a loss, like I was giving up on something. But the next poster design came out so naturally — I had learned from the mistakes on the first poster and was able to find a color scheme and design so much more easily. All the information I wanted to fit fit seamlessly onto the poster, and when I sent it to my supervisor we were much happier with the result. Even though it felt like a loss to scrap all of that work, ultimately it still manifested itself in the new design as I found myself learning from my past mistakes and creating something new and better. I’m looking forward to continuing to learn from my previous mistakes and projects, and using my experience to create something better.


Despite my internship being primarily virtual, I am grateful for the conversations and people I meet even over Zoom. At the Black Church Food Security Network, my role as an intern is to support the operations of the Black Church Supported Agricultural program through its inaugural year. While we did not have a produce distribution this week — thus rendering this week at BCFSN entirely virtual for me — I learned so much.

Through our Popular Education discussion led by Pastor Brown, which is a dedicated hour of study that precedes our team meetings, we talked about solidarity economies and studied one such model in that exists in Jackson, Mississippi. By building an economy anchored on a network of cooperatives, by leveraging the skills and place-specific knowledge that already exists within a community, communities can challenge our current capitalist system of exploitation, exclusion, and destruction. While organizing to this scale in Baltimore may take many years, possibly decades, it is important to envision the ultimate goal for the Black Church Food Security Network, and the Pleasant Hope Baptist Church ecosystem, as not just one that challenges our current food system, but our entire system.

To this end, I attended a meeting with Pastor Brown and my supervisor, Nam, to get mentoring and advice from the founder of Common Market (a nonprofit that distributes regional farm products to communities facing food insecurity) and to talk about the future of the Black Church Supported Agriculture program. It is really amazing to be able to see the practical steps that organizations need to take in order to fulfill our ultimate vision.


My past two weeks have been filled with visits to different member farms, assisting with the Waverly Market produce drop-off at the Avenue Market, and completing administrative and logistical tasks in the Farm Alliance office. I’m super grateful to my supervisor for organizing trips and driving me to different farms, because it’s been a blast touring, helping out with harvesting or weeding, and speaking with the farmers, volunteers, and involved community members. Out of the twenty six farms and community gardens of the alliance, I’ve been able to visit Whitelock Community Farm, Strength to Love II Farm, Hidden Harvest Farm and Dye Garden, Oliver Community Farm, Pop! Farms, Great Kids Farm, and the Greener Garden. It’s incredible to me how unique each farm/garden looks and operates. For example, some member farms like Pop! Farms are collectively run by volunteers in the community, some farms are nonprofits that can receive grants to pay for staff, and some farms are run by individuals who source most of their income from farming. The composition of each farm also differs– some only have fruits and vegetables, while a few also have nonhuman animals like chickens and bees.

This week’s Bites of Baltimore session covered issues surrounding food access in Baltimore and engaged in the discussion about terminology (food desert vs. healthy food priority areas vs. food apartheid). One interesting point from that discussion that I hadn’t thought about is the accessibility of language. While “food apartheid” might be more of an accurate term, it can alienate and confuse people who are otherwise familiar with the term “food desert,” so context will be important. If I’m speaking with students of the Farm Alliance’s Black Butterfly Urban Farmer Academy, it makes sense to use food apartheid, since everyone has read “Farming While Black” which introduces and goes into detail about the concept. On the other hand, if I’m talking to a general audience, I might use the term food desert followed by a note about what food apartheid is and why it better describes the food insecurity situation. Having conversations has been my favorite aspect of CIIP, and I’m excited for the many more to come!


I was super excited when my supervisor, Nurse Tracy, told me that Shepherd’s Clinic/Joy Wellness was hosting a COVID vaccination clinic this week. I was eager to experience a vaccination clinic from the other perspective and to have any role involved in the efforts to end this pandemic. So, I woke up extra early that Tuesday morning and arrived ready to help. However, things didn’t go as smoothly as expected (at first). When I arrived I was greeted by several volunteers and workers from different health groups and departments, all ready to have a successful clinic. However, we quickly realized that the internet was down just minutes before the first appointments. As a result, they could not start registering the patients who were quickly accumulating in the waiting room. In addition, Tracy was the only person able to distribute the vaccines, as there were only two nurses present and one had to be in the observation room.

Eventually, people began to ask why we were taking so long, and I felt like I could be doing more to help. However, I had no experience running a vaccination site whereas everyone else in the room had done this countless times. The best thing I could do at that moment was to stay out of people’s way and help where I am able to, such as filling out the vaccination cards so they are ready to give out and tell those who were waiting about the programs offered at Joy Wellness. Soon enough, the internet picked back up and we were able to start vaccinating the community.

In the end, the clinic distributed over 30 vaccines–some that were first doses and others that were second doses! It was amazing to see how the members of the team all worked quickly on their feet to get the clinic going smoothly after having a rough start. It was also nice to see that many members of the community were happy and excited to finally receive the vaccine. Many people were also interested in learning more about the classes and programs offered at Joy Wellness. Overall, this was a very memorable experience and I’m grateful for all the efforts of the community to put an end to the pandemic!


It was slower this week at the farm, the weather was not cooperating and sort of got in the way of doing more. A physical challenge I had this week was ripping the kale out of the hoop house on the main lot. There were spiders everywhere and harlequin beetles, which are pests to crops on the farm, and I started this task in the rain on Tuesday. I think I got bit by them, and it was not fun, but I finished it the next day with Raven, the apprentice. However, I witnessed some more intense challenges of running the farm as well that are more serious. We had a wooden palette set out that we wanted to use to hold up anything that needed to be taken to the trash, but it got stolen the day after we set it out. The rain is unpredictable and slowed us down when it came to planting and also harvesting some crops that may have been over-watered or flooded over. Also, some of the crop went bad because of the pesticide we used on the plants and combined with the heat, it dried the crop of choy out. Working in such a natural setting that is so dependent on changing weather and also community input was just very apparent this week, more than others, and I saw it in person rather than just hearing about it from Ms. Kim. It also is interesting because for items to be stolen like that is hurtful, especially to folks that are from the community and put in the work to maintain the farm. I also started doing more virtual things this week so I was adjusting to those tasks. Most of the work is physically at the farm, working on it, but I think the virtual work and learning is just as important.


I’ve had a really great second week at the Baltimore Office of Sustainability. I spent half of the week continuing to read reports and important literature about urban agriculture and best practices for urban farms to engage the neighborhoods and the communities they live in. I also had the opportunity to speak to key stakeholders in urban agriculture in Baltimore and ask them questions about equity and engagement based on their personal experience. I’m writing down lots of notes and will be compiling them into a document for the Office of Sustainability to utilize internally and guide their practices around urban agriculture. I was a bit nervous at first asking questions in my meetings with stakeholders and trying to get all the information down, but now I’m getting the hang of it and really enjoying speaking to people and learning more about what they do.

One thing I’ve been working on this week is managing how I spend my time on the different projects I’ve been given. My work is very independent so I’m using my calendar to organize my time and how long I spend on a given task. I’m really enjoying the different projects I’m getting to work on and having the freedom to choose what I’d like to accomplish every day.

I’m hoping that in the upcoming weeks I will get to visit some of the urban farms in Baltimore outside of work so that I can better understand how they operate in the city and see it all happen rather than just read and hear about it secondhand. Overall, it’s been a wonderful second week and I’m thrilled to continue working on these exciting projects!

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,