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First Lady Yumi Hogan Visits Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative

First Lady Yumi Hogan Visits Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative

Group photo with the First Lady at the dye farm

On June 28, First Lady Yumi Hogan visited Parks and People’s offices to view progress of the Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative, a multi-agency pilot project to create the area’s first natural dye farm and processing site. The Parks and People Foundation is serving as host site for the project at their 9-acre LEED Platinum headquarters and campus in west Baltimore. The initiative is supporting urban farming, economic opportunities, community redevelopment, international relations, and the arts in Maryland.  The meeting followed an initial visit to the site on March 15 of this year.

The Baltimore Natural Dye Initiative is a result of Governor Hogan’s trade mission to Asia and a subsequent visit to South Korea by First Lady Yumi Hogan. The First Lady was inspired to pilot the initiative after touring the Natural Dyeing Cultural Center in South Korea. Parks and People has agreed to serve as host site for the farm, and coordinate partners and activities from March 2019 through September 2020. 

On her visit, the First Lady witnessed development of the farm operation, where grassy meadows and empty planting beds have been transformed into neatly planted row crops that will serve as raw material for educational, artistic and commercial applications. This first spring planting included:

  • 193 Asian Indigo plants 
  • 550 Black Eyed Susans (planted with help from Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development staff)
  • 25 Tropical Indigo plants 
  • 270 Marigolds 
  • Safflower 
  • 76 Woad plants 

In its first growing season, the initiative is working through challenges of a new farming operation, including adapting a variety of crops, and visits by deer, who seem to be particularly interested in the Tropical Indigo varieties.  The visit included a tour of the grounds to see all of the planted beds, a seed starting operation, and a demonstration of the natural dye activity that will be part of Parks and People’s summer youth program. The project currently employs two part-time farmers who are guiding the growth of the crops as well as leading educational activities with local students.  Crops will be further utilized by college students at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) learning about using natural materials in development of inks and textile arts and promoting the use of natural dyes for artistic or commercial applications. 

Annually, the initiative will introduce and engage more than 500 Baltimore City youth and countless visitors to the project through Parks and People educational programs.  High school interns enrolled in Parks and People’s Branches program are helping the farmers maintain the farm as an introduction to careers in agriculture and participated in an all-day dye activity on July 2. Harvesting will begin the second week in July and continue through the summer. The First Lady plans to return in August to help with harvesting.

The funding partners, providing a combined $300,000 to support the pilot project, include the Maryland Department of Commerce through the Maryland State Arts Council, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development (providing $100,000 through the Baltimore Regional Neighborhood Initiative), the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. (MARBIDCO), and the Baltimore Development Corp.