By Reverend Darriel Harris
Where: Baltimore, Maryland
What: A community-based urban production farm
Mission/Vision/Principles: Provide hands-on training for individuals returning to the community from incarceration; provide workforce development; confront food apartheid; be a visible symbol of transformation in the neighborhood
The Story of Strength to Love II
Strength to Love II (S2L2) began as an initiative of Newborn Community of Faith Church in the same way that many of our initiatives start: community listening and partner building. The community where the church lies and focuses its interest is called Sandtown-Winchester—a west Baltimore community named, in part, after the quarry on the edge of the neighborhood. As people from around the city would visit the quarry and purchase rock deposits for building projects, deposits would spill onto the street and appear as sand.
Our neighborhood has many assets: impassioned people, historical legacies, and a number of caring churches.
However, we are a historically redlined community that still suffers from neglect, which has contributed to our having some of the largest arrest and recidivism rates in the state of Maryland. S2L2 was created to support any member of the community whose arrest record stifled their opportunities. The program sought to support returning citizens through a barrage of services primarily centered on gainful employment.
S2L2’s farm began with one hoop house. In 2013, we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was my first interaction with the farm. I had recently come back to the area after spending three years in North Carolina at seminary, followed by 18 months as a missionary to South Sudan. The mayor was in attendance, along with several other high-profile personalities. The community was present in droves and media outlets were snapping pictures and taking notes. It was a great day for our community.
A dream began to take form and the potential for our neighborhood created excitement for everyone.