Public housing residents will receive food, training at Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden in deal with Housing Authority of Baltimore City

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The more than 3,000 residents in Baltimore’s largest public housing complex will be offered leftover produce and training in urban farming under a deal allowing the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden to remain on Housing Authority of Baltimore City property through the end of the year.

Housing Authority President and CEO Janet Abrahams said the agency’s six-month postponement of the farm’s eviction from the property at 900 Cherry Hill Road “responded to our residents’ needs.”

The 3,042 Cherry Hill Homes residents “will now receive produce from the farm and be offered the opportunity to volunteer there,” Abrahams said in a statement Wednesday. “We look forward to having the Black Yield Institute [the farm’s steward] view our residents as partners for the remainder of the year, as the group looks for a permanent location.”

Jordan Taylor, the Black Yield Institute’s communications organizer and archivist, said the July 8 meeting with the Housing Authority about the farm’s future “went well.”

”We will remain at the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden site for the next six months,” he said in an email. “We will work with HABC and community members to continue our Sovereignty work and we are hopeful for this opportunity to continue our work against Food Apartheid in Cherry Hill.”

Started in 2010 by Juanita Ewell, a lifelong Cherry Hill resident, the half-acre farm has provided nutritious food to neighbors for more than a decade, including through the COVID-19 pandemic. But Ewell died in 2015, and the land is slated for affordable housing development by Housing Authority.

The Black Yield Institute, which has taken care of the farm since 2018, launched a petition to keep the farm on the land, and then agreed to an extension through the end of the year while it seeks a new location with the help of Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.

Eric Jackson, founder and servant-director of the Black Yield Institute, said the organization is “grateful for the opportunity.”

“We’re clear and committed to a long-term solution, so to have HABC and the mayor commit to that publicly gives me reason to believe that will happen,” Jackson said in a statement.

Under the deal, the Black Yield Institute can continue its operations seven days per week and sell its produce both on- and off-site, according to the announcement.

But the group “must donate excess produce to residents of Cherry Hill Homes” and “will establish times and days for volunteers to assist the work and for Cherry Hill residents and other members of the community to tend plots in the Garden,” the Housing Authority’s announcement said.

The Black Yield Institute has also agreed to teach residents how to garden and how to cook the produce they grow, the Housing Authority said.

“Our mission is providing affordable housing and services to our residents and the communities in which they live,” Abrahams said in the statement. “Fortunately, Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration is working on a solution for a long-term site for the Black Yield Institute to operate their farm. In the interim, this agreement is a win for all sides, most importantly the HABC residents we serve.”

Scott, a Democrat, has pledged the city’s assistance with relocating the farm.

“The mayor’s administration will work with residents and the Black Yield Institute to develop a long-term solution,” said Cal Harris, communications director for the mayor, in a statement last week.

The Housing Authority has declined to respond to questions about how soon it plans to develop the site. The agency said it would “announce its development plans for Cherry Hill Homes in the future.”

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