In 2010, Civic Works began building a farming operation for food production and access, workforce training, and education of Baltimore City school children on six acres in Clifton Park called Real Food Farm. Farm operations have grown to include seven production high tunnels (or hoop houses), three acres of cultivated fields and a fruit tree orchard. Real Food Farm brings freshly harvested produce directly to the underserved communities surrounding Clifton Park through a mobile market truck. The mobile market sales comprise approximately 30 percent of all sales, and these are balanced with revenue generation from restaurants sales and farmers’ market sales. Real Food Farm accepts SNAP payments (food stamps), WIC benefits, and Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers, as well as incentive, one-for-one coupons that stretch federal nutrition benefit dollars. From 2012 to 2013, SNAP purchases increased 50 percent, to comprise 30 percent of all purchases in 2013 and in 2014.
In 2012 and 2014, the Abell Foundation made two-year grants to Civic Works for farm infrastructure improvements and staffing. The farm relies on a strong team of AmeriCorp members and hundreds of volunteers. In 2012, Real Food Farm nearly doubled the amount of food produced from the previous year, and increased harvests in 2014. Real Food Farm cultivated 17,000 pounds of food produced in 2014 using no chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
The farm offers unique learning opportunities for Baltimore City school children in keeping with Civic Works’ primary mission to provide skills development and community service. Programming has expanded to include a Young Farmers Club for elementary school students, a Farm Club after-school program for middle school students, a Farm Lab for high school students, paid high school internships and summer programs for 31 students. In 2014, the education team hosted 41 field trips of 1,120 students and 18 community service opportunities for 630 participants at the farm, for hands-on learning about sustainable food production and nutrition education.