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Want Farm Fresh Vegetables? Head Toward the City

Non-profit Samaritan Women is launching a CSA from its urban farm off of Frederick Road.

Catonsville residents interested in investing in a seasonal supply of fresh produce now have what may be the most local option available: a farm in West Baltimore roughly a mile from the city-county line.

In the past few years, the non-profit Samaritan Women has been slowly expanding the acreage it uses to farm. This year the organization is launching a CSA, which stands for Community-Supported Agriculture.

For $600 from May to October, members get a box of produce every week that has been grown with organic practices on 2.3 acres of land off of Frederick Road.

The Samaritan Women was started in 2007 by Jeanne Allert, who had a vision for the land to be a home for women in crisis. In 2011, the group realized that dream, opening a Victorian home built on the property in 1893.

Sharon Runge, director of devleopment and a Catonsville resident, said the farm had also always been part of the vision.

"Since we had the land, it seemed the perfect use for it," Runge said. "I think people are excited about [the CSA]."

Regular visitors to the Sunday may remember a that was run by the Samaritan Women's former farm manager, Roy Skeen. Skeen used to ride his bike several miles uphill west on Fredererick Road with the produce in tow. 

Since then, farm manager Ben O'Donnell has taken over and expanded the farm.

While the farm is not certified organic, the farmers use organic practices and do not use pesticides, O'Donnell said. 

The 2.3 acres of farmland set atop a hill in West Baltimore is believed to be the largest farm within the city limits. While the northern section of the property borders densely populated city streets, the southern and western border are thick with forests. Workers had to install a solar-powered deer fence to protect the crops.

Thanks to a mild winter and a new green house constructed last year, workers have harvested some arugula and spinach already. Inside the green house there are rows of spinach, arugula, sugar snap peas, romaine lettuce, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

Fruits and vegetables grown on the land include broccoli, zucchini, carrots, watermelon, cantalope, tomatoes and butternut squash. The land will also eventually include orchard trees.

The CSA is meant to be a fund-raiser for the organization and organizers are planning on partnering with other non-profits in Baltimore city to provide free CSA shares to families in need.

Organizers envision offering cooking classes and workshops on eating healthy to the families who are part of the CSA for free.

While the women help with watering and othe chores on the farm, a bulk of the work is done by the small farm staff and dozens of volunteers.

Churches in Catonsville have been volunteering for several years, including , and . Many restaurants have also donated items for years, including and .

There are 25 slots available for the CSA, which will start in the first week of May. Half shares are also available for $300. Produce pick-up will be on Friday afternoons from 3-7 p.m. at the farm.

For more information, email farm@thesamaritanwomen.org or call 410-599-8704.

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