Seeds of Change: Battling Baltimore’s Food Deserts
The Urban Farming Association is one of the most recent student-run organizations to sprout up on UB’s campus. Jordan Borkoski and Christopher Wise, undergraduate environmental sustainability and human ecology students, started the club to assist with maintaining the University’s garden on a small plot of land adjacent to the Jones Falls Expressway. Last spring, both students helped tend the garden as part of an environmental ethics class with Darien Ripple, affiliate faculty and experiential learning program manager.
Borkoski’s interest in gardening stems from her childhood. She grew up in Harford County, Maryland, where she and her family ran a hobby farm; they raised pigs, goats, cattle and poultry and maintained a personal vegetable garden. She participated in a plant-science magnet program in high school and was a member of Future Farmers of America.
Wise, a sergeant in the Maryland National Guard, also grew up in an agricultural area but became involved with gardening only recently. After returning home from basic training in 2012, he needed a job and found a local farmer to show him how to grow corn and raise cattle, he explains. Wise eventually became the caretaker of a local Community Supported Agriculture farm, and three years ago he started a hobby farm with his family in Montgomery County (Maryland), where he currently resides.
Along with Ripple, the club’s faculty adviser, the duo started the Urban Farming Association in part to find additional students interested in maintaining the garden at UB but also to educate the University and the greater Baltimore community about the benefits of growing food. “Whether it’s [growing something] inside in the winter or outside in the yard, we just want people to understand where their food comes from and that they can grow it themselves,” Borkoski says.
Club members are asked to spend five hours a month in the garden, helping with tasks including planting, weeding and watering. Borkoski and Wise plan to organize volunteer events for club members at local food pantries and to arrange seasonal workshops on topics such as composting and hydroponics.
Wise hopes all club members will participate in the planning and setup of the garden as it evolves season to season. “I encourage all members to look at the garden through their own glasses and to use their diverse backgrounds and majors to develop ideas for [it],” he says.
See UB’s garden growing in this video originally produced for the UB Foundation’s FY15 Annual Report.