Budget cuts hit City Hall vegetable garden

Loss of funding could end master gardeners' tending of crops

  • Spring crops have been planted for the City Hall vegetable garden, but their tending by master gardeners is in doubt because of proposed budget cuts.
Spring crops have been planted for the City Hall vegetable garden,… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
April 08, 2010|By Susan Reimer

Proposed cuts to Baltimore's budget would put the second season of the City Hall vegetable garden, which produced more than a ton of food for the homeless last year, in danger of an early frost.

Cuts to the University of Maryland Extension Service in the city would likely eliminate the service altogether, and with it the Master Gardeners Program, which provided most of the labor and expertise during the garden's first year.

Bill Vondrasek, chief horticulturist for the City Department of Parks and Recreation, which is in charge of city gardens, said he would still plant a vegetable garden around War Memorial Plaza, "but it probably wouldn't be done as well."

Vondrasek said he has to maintain the city gardens anyway. "I used to plant flowers. I might still try to plant vegetables. But it would be a lot more difficult without the master gardeners." His department is facing a 54 percent budget cut, from $1.5 million to $700,000 in the mayor's proposed 2010-2011 budget.

Angela Treadwell-Palmer, who designed the vegetable garden, said spring crops have been planted and seedlings started for the summer vegetables. But without the master gardeners, maintaining the 1,100-square-foot garden would be difficult.

"The master gardeners are a lifesaver," she said.

Dorothy Wells, president of the Baltimore City Master Gardeners, said volunteers spent about 300 hours over three months last summer, planting, weeding, watering and harvesting.

More than 2,000 pounds of produce was donated to Our Daily Bread, which feeds Baltimore's poor and homeless.

The University of Maryland Extension Service in Baltimore City is funded by the city, the university and the federal Department of Agriculture.

If the city withdraws its $204,678 contribution, as is proposed, money from the university and federal government would disappear, too, said director Manami Brown. That would leave the city without an extension service for the first time since 1942. The extension service also provides 4-H programs for about 5,000 young people, nutrition education for families, financial education and life skills for young people.

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