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The Power of Hope Garden Contact: Gloria H. Luster St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church 4403 Pimlico Road Baltimore, MD 21215 tel: (410) 542-1782 fax: (410) 367-2874
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The Power of Hope Garden is a neighborhood garden in Baltimore established in 1993 that employs the labor of local homeless and low-income residents to help feed the city's disadvantaged community.
The garden started as a joint venture between Gloria Luster, a Baltimore resident and recipient of a Master Gardener certification from the University of Maryland's Extension Service, and the Reverend Choyce Hall, pastor of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. Since receiving her certification, Luster had been hoping to start a garden for the poor and hungry in Baltimore, but was having little success finding an eligible partner. Hall, who understood the importance of developing an environmental dimension to his inner-city ministry, was looking for an environmental project in which to invest his support. The two met, and shortly thereafter the Power of Hope Garden was born.
To begin, Luster acquired several vacant lots in a particularly rundown area of Baltimore's inner city through the city Adopt-A-Lot program. The program enables individuals and groups to lease city abandoned lots at no charge on a year-to-year basis, with the only requirement that the land be kept free of debris. She mobilized the residents living in the adjacent row houses to garden with her, and established a half-block long urban garden. The garden has recently expanded to cover more than two city blocks.
Using organic mulch as fertilizer and employing the labor of local low-income residents and homeless persons (some of whom are women and their children), the garden is producing fresh peppers, tomatoes, beans, eggplant, cabbage, cucumbers, okra and other produce to help stock the local food kitchens and to feed local residents. Not only that, but the garden has wrought changes in the neighborhood -- and the neighbors -- as well.
"The folks from the neighborhood have started a street association," says Luster. "They are working on rehabbing the abandoned housing that rings the garden. For the garden's opening ceremony, the street -- filled with broken glass and everything else -- was cleaned up. That was a year ago, and it's stayed clean ever since."
The gardeners are learning organic gardening techniques, and they are learning about themselves. "We raise more than vegetables, we raise people's self-esteem," says Luster. "An eleven-year old boy who works with me in the garden can now spell photosynthesis and explain the process."
Benefits of an Urban Garden
- The 5,000 vacant lots scattered throughout Baltimore can cost the city up to $2,000 a year -- per lot -- to keep clean. Urban gardens dramatically reduce the city's maintenance costs while beautifying and revitalizing older neighborhoods.
- Vacant, debris-littered lots are breeding grounds for rats and other pests. Urban gardens remove the rats' habitat and reduce associated health risks.
- Property values around urban gardens rise as the neighborhood becomes a more desirable place to live.
- The garden will soon introduce the concept of community supported agriculture, in which neighbors and others share the costs and risks of producing food by purchasing "shares" in the early spring. The sharers commit to covering the agricultural costs up front, and in exchange receive a bag of organically-grown, just-picked produce every week during the growing season.
- The program will soon adopt a composting program that will collect kitchen wastes from households in the immediate vicinity. Surplus compost may be offered to the public at very low cost.
- Luster and Hall hope to establish a low-cost hydroponic greenhouse for raising vegetables and flowers for the urban market all year.
Program Management/Partnerships: The Power of Hope Garden is managed by Gloria Luster and St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Power of Hope Garden works in partnership with the North American Coalition on Religion and Ecology (NACRE) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Hunger Program.
Budget: The latest figures are available by contacting the program.
Community Served: Low-income and homeless residents in Baltimore.
Measures of Success:
A transformation in the 1200 block of Shields Place (the location of the garden) has occurred:
Streets, yards and public areas that were formerly debris-ridden remain litter free. People who had lived in the same homes for years and had never spoken to their neighbors are now acquainted and enjoy a fellowship. Adults who could identify only the most common vegetables can identify any plant in the garden.
Success stories designed by Mark Nowak
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