There’s good news for fans of the Druid Hill Farmers Market who feared that Baltimore had lost the beloved Wednesday evening tradition forever.
Yes, following a pandemic hiatus, volunteers closed the market after 11 years of providing a mellow mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, crafts, flowers, honey and yoga on the grass.
Fortunately, the market is back this summer under new management as “The Agrihood Baltimore Farmers Market.”
The focus is on urban farming, but it still offers the same fresh fare and chill vibe.
“It’s all local,” said Bria Morton-Lane, a junior farmer at Plantation Park Heights Urban Farm. “We work hard to make all this food, and we want to share it with our people.”
Morton-Lane was one of about a dozen vendors set up in the market’s traditional spot on Swann Drive near the Rawlings Conservatory, the green expanse of the park on one side and busy McCulloh Street and Druid Hill Avenue on the other.
Before her was a colorful table arrayed with produce from the farm: purple eggplant, yellow squash and green scallions, zucchinis, cucumbers, peppers and more. A basket of brown eggs was enticing.
Other farmers came with their vegetables as well as fruits, flowers and herbs. There were cooking demonstrations. There was jewelry, art, incense and crafts for sale.
On the grass, people were prone on their mats as part of a yoga class. Others put themselves in the hands of the market’s cheerful masseuse and climbed up onto her massage table.
Food for the Community
To Jamie Barton, the location of the market is important, making it possible to offer fresh, healthy food to city residents who don’t have much access to it in their neighborhoods.
“We sell our stuff here because it’s a good spot, we can reach a lot of people in the community,” said Barton, a Caroline County farmer who helped bring the market back.
Also on hand was the dynamo who has been leading the charge to revive the weekly event, Richard Francis, who goes by “Farmer Chippy.”
Chippy, who moved to Baltimore from his native Trinidad, has dedicated his life to teaching young people the importance of urban farming.
He’s the founder of the Plantation Park Heights Urban Farm, so named to be intentionally provocative. “We have to remind children of the colonizers,” he likes to say.
A farm, a marketplace and a community-shared agriculture and training resource institute, Plantation Park Heights, at Springhill and Cottage avenues, also is a gathering place for the Caribbean diaspora in Baltimore.
“I came from a community in Trinidad and Tobago where when we cook up our food – don’t cook for one or two, we cooked in case somebody else comes to the team,” Chippy said.
“I want my kids to become self-sustainable urban farmers, but with their community always in mind,” said Chippy, whose project receives support from Park Heights Renaissance.
For Chippy, the farm, and by extension, the farmers market, are a chance not only to bring homegrown healthy produce to city dwellers, but to cultivate youth from the community to build a self-sustaining network of urban agriculture.
Chippy sees the revamped Druid Hill event as a staging ground to showcase the work of his junior farmers, giving them the opportunity to see the results of their hard work.
“The objective was to onboard them at the farm, teach them the basics, show them the way food moves through the system and then come to market and earn the revenue for the work that they’ve been doing all this time,” he told The Brew.
“The next phase would be taking this to every corner of Baltimore, and then taking it to every corner of the United States of America,” Chippy said, mentioning Detroit, Chicago and other cities.
Morton-Lane, who serves as treasurer for the farm, agreed.
“We want to build and educate our community on the importance of urban farming and supporting the local economy,” she said.
“We’re training up all these junior farmers so we can build together and thrive as a healthier community.”
The Agrihood Baltimore Farmers Market is open Wednesdays from 3:30-7:30 p.m. next to the Rawlings Conservatory. Free community yoga happens weather permitting at 5:30 p.m. To reach the market manager: PlantationParkHeights@gmail.com.