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Neighborhoodsby Fern Shen3:07 pmJul 9, 20210

Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden gets a reprieve

The garden’s steward, the Black Yield Institute, will be able to remain on the land through the end of the year, HABC says, after a meeting with its founder.

Above: Black Yield Institute’s Eric Jackson provides a video update on the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden. (@BlackYield)

Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden will be able to continue operating through the end of the growing season, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) said today, following a meeting with the leader of the group that has been stewarding it, Black Yield Institute.

After BYI founder Eric Jackson said he received emails informing him that the garden’s lease for the HABC-owned parcel had expired and they would have to leave, he rallied support on social media, collected more than 30,000 signatures on a petition and held a rally at the property.

Yesterday afternoon, he met with agency officials.

“We have agreed to give the Black Yield Institute the remainder of the year to continue its programming on our property while they work to find a new site to continue their good works,” HABC president and CEO Janet Abrahams said.

Her statement also noted that Mayor Brandon Scott’s administration “is working on a solution for a long-term site for BYI.”

Community garden in Cherry Hill, “a church without walls,” faces eviction (7/1/21)

In a video posted on social media, Jackson called the meeting with HABC and other community groups constructive and “if nothing else, a point of clarity.”

“We have a very promising opportunity to stay on the land at 900 Cherry Hill Road and to continue our work for the next six months on that land,” he said.

Lingering Questions

There is less clarity about other aspect of the episode, among them why HABC moved this spring to displace the garden, a fixture in the community since it was started, under a lease with HABC in 2010. How long the lease has been expired remains unclear.

Run by BYI since 2017, the garden has been producing thousands of pounds of fresh produce annually, recently distributing boxes of food to families and seniors amid the pandemic.

The 1.5-acre spread features hoop houses, community gardening plots, an apiary and more. On a recent visit, reporters saw tomatoes, okra, onions, peppers, broccoli, cabbage and squash.

Asked previously why the garden must go, HABC has said that its “longer-term plans call for building badly needed affordable housing on the property.”

Asked today, spokeswoman Ingrid Antonio had no further information on what kind of housing is specifically envisioned there and could not provide a timetable for when any construction might begin.

Tomatoes growing in one of the Cherry Hill Community Garden's hoop houses. (J.M. Giordano)

Tomatoes growing in one of the Cherry Hill Urban Community Garden’s hoop houses. (J.M. Giordano)

Antonio yesterday denied The Brew permission to attend the meeting with Jackson and other community leaders. Asked why, she said, “Because it’s a business meeting.”

In the video, Jackson was upbeat about the group’s plans to continue its mission of addressing food insecurity and empowering the community.

“We are addressing food apartheid in Baltimore City, in Cherry Hill and for Black people,” he said. “There is no question about that.”

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