Tuesday, June 8, 2010

No gods, no master gardeners: The Baltimore Free Farmers try growing mutual aid, from the bottom up.

The Ash Street Community Garden nestled in the Hamden neighborhood, is a project recently launched by the Baltimore Free Farms Collective. Despite the organizations relative immaturity the ambition of the group is most impressive. Even the amount of work thats already been done is pretty astounding having applied for the land through the cities adopt-a-lot program, a garbage dump has become a terraced community garden with plans to expand into a vibrant social center including an infoshop, bike maintenance collective, and community computer repairs center. Because of the projects youth foraging materials is a priority and a deal has been worked out with the loading dock: labour in exchange for access to warehouse loot. The Finding and exploiting of free resources was a point stressed again and again during the visit,people will hook you up if you ask and overall it was pretty inspiring to see a group of folks applying the tried and true diy ethos to fairly monumental project. As for the collective itself, although seemingly plagued by a bit of nascent although probably unintentional manarchism, strives for non-heirarchical decision making and uses an informal democratic process with hopes that the action itself will inform the structure of the organization. Other issues that where touched on included the dubious ownership of one particular plot where an orchard has been planted, the city sold it out from underneath the free farmers to a developer. The farmers attitude on the matter echoes Zapata's age old moniker “the land belongs to those who work it”. Also security is an issue but the organization seems have situated itself well in the local community by building on pre existing relationships in the neighborhood as well as measures such as a no hard drugs policy that have been taken by the collective, local issues are resolved informally and police collaboration is avoided. As for the future, the free farmers are shooting for inclusion in the cities five year plan land trust program.

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