Tha Flower Factory, Changing A Vacant Lot One Sunflower At A Time

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“I smile every time I pass your space. Sunflowers are happiness.”

Posted on Tha Flower Factory’s Facebook wall, this message sums up Walker Marsh’s flower garden in Broadway East. Tha Flower Factory is also the latest example of Baltimore’s improving public, private, and nonprofit collaboration that’s creating a better city. And, yes, it’s Tha, not the. As Marsh explains, “it’s a nod to the culture that I grew up in. I wanted to have fun and challenge peoples’ perspectives.”

Marsh’s Flower Factory is one of the seven winning Baltimore City 2014 Growing Green Design Competition projects. The competition tasked entrants to revitalize vacant lots by developing sustainability-minded ventures. Walker Marsh won a $63,800 grant and the project is supported by the Environmental Protection Agency, Chesapeake Bay Trust, Baltimore City’s Department of Planning, Office of Sustainability, and Department of Public Works. “It’s been unreal to go from a flower farm dream to a an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.”

It's official. Tha Flower Factory is open. Credit: Baltimore City Mayor's Office.
It’s official. Tha Flower Factory is open. Credit: Baltimore City Mayor’s Office.

As an Americorps service member for Civic Works’ Real Food Farm, Marsh found his passion for urban agriculture.  Tha Flower Factory not only beautifies an unused lot in east Baltimore, but the “Garden of Ali” also includes stormwater management. The farm’s next phase includes a rain garden to manage polluted runoff, new evergreen trees for year-round beauty and an arbor.

Marsh sells the farm’s cut flowers to stores, restaurants and businesses. Cut flowers are also available for sale to the public between 9 a.m. to noon most days, and Monday, Wednesday and Thursday between 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Tha Flower Factory is the latest sustainability project on a growing list of collaborative efforts between government, nonprofits and communities. Intended to improve all city neighborhoods, each group brings their area of expertise to the table and works together as one team. 

Similar to the Civic Works’ Solar Training Program, Tha Flower Factory will offer job development opportunities in urban agriculture. Mirroring Baltimore City’s expanded Kayaking program between the Department of Outdoor Recreation and the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, nonprofits and governmental agencies join forces to provide the skills and financing needed to help make a good idea become a reality. “We’re excited about not only how the physical space that has been transformed to bring beauty to the community, but also the opportunity and resources it provides to those working and benefiting from Tha Flower Factory,” said Dana Stein, Civic Works’ executive director.

Check out Tha Flower Factory’s Kickstarter campaign‘s cool video if you’re looking for a smile-worthy online break. Visit Tha Flower factory at 1433 N. Gay Street, Baltimore, MD. 21213 (443) 502-0840.

It's sunflower harvesting time.
It’s sunflower harvesting time.

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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the monthly environmental GreenLaurel column. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting. She co-wrote the Abell Foundation Report detailing Maryland's dysfunctional energy supplier marketplace and the negative outcomes for low-income households.
Laurel Peltier
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