Paul Jeffrey

This Farm is Growing a Community

“One penny or one dollar has a rippling effect that is changing lives and communities.” —Rev. Dr. Karen Brown, member of the Presbytery of Baltimore's SDOP Committee

Man bending over while working in a garden

You might not expect residents of a bustling American city like Baltimore to worry about access to food. But like many cities, Baltimore has food deserts — areas with no access to fresh, affordable food. The Sandtown-Winchester and Upton communities of Baltimore are home to more than 50 convenience and corner stores, but residents have little access to healthy food.

Many residents have returned to the area after incarceration with 75% of the community living under the poverty level. The struggle to find employment, and the lack of opportunity, can lead to rising crime and recidivism.

In 2010, a group of community members launched an urban farm to improve access to both jobs and healthy foods. Dubbed Strength to Love Farms, it provides steady employment to previously incarcerated neighborhood residents while supplying healthy produce at a low cost to the community.

Cultivating Hope and Health

The farm’s 18 hoop houses grow greens and seasonal vegetables. In addition to offering produce to the community, the farm also sells its crops to area restaurants, businesses and schools to earn program-sustaining income.

The farm has been able to grow and thrive thanks to local and national Self-Development of People (SDOP) grants. Rev. Dr. Karen Brown, a member of the Presbytery of Baltimore's SDOP Committee, understands the impact of an SDOP grant, especially for underserved populations. “I know the impact having worked with underserved populations as part of my ministry for the last 25 years, coming across one barrier after another,” Brown said. “There are so many good people doing this grassroots, boots-on-the-ground work.”

Strength to Love Farms is an excellent fit for SDOP, using employment and training to help promote justice, equality and human dignity, while bringing a community together around a much-needed resource.

Brown sees the great potential in supporting programs like Strength to Love Farms through SDOP. “One penny or one dollar has a rippling effect that is changing lives and communities.”