Landmark Partnership Agreement Signed to Grow Natural Dye Crops in West Baltimore
Governor Larry Hogan today announced a multi-partner agreement to establish a pilot urban farming initiative in Baltimore City. The project aims to transform a portion of a vacant lot in West Baltimore into a garden which will produce crops such as indigo, beets, onions, marigolds, and Black-eyed Susans to make natural dyes for artistic, educational, and commercial use. The natural dyeing process has attracted recent attention and popularity in textiles and art for its ability to produce richer colors, softer fabrics with antiperspirant and antimicrobial qualities, and greater safety for the environment.
The initiative comes as a result of Governor Hogan’s trade mission to Asia in May 2015 and a subsequent visit to South Korea by First Lady Yumi Hogan in September 2017, where she toured the Natural Dyeing Cultural Center in Naju and began to establish plans for the pilot program. A delegation from the Natural Dyeing Cultural Center visited Maryland earlier this year where they were introduced to a number of potential partners interested in learning more about the natural dyeing process and its commercial uses.
“Our trade mission to Asia yielded many positive results, and we are proud to work with our partners in Korea to bring this innovative initiative to Maryland,” said Governor Hogan. “This urban garden will have a tremendous impact towards the community revitalization of West Baltimore and our economy – from the natural dyes produced by the crops to the unique apparel which will be manufactured for the marketplace.”
“As an artist, I know how much our local arts community recognizes the beauty and uses of natural dyes,” said First Lady Yumi Hogan. “In Korea, natural dyeing techniques are handed down generation to generation, and we are excited to introduce this tradition to our citizens, including students hoping to advance their artistic and business dreams.”
The agreement between the state, Baltimore City, and academic institutions has been signed by six parties. The funding partners in the initiative are the Maryland Department of Commerce through the Maryland State Arts Council, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. (MARBIDCO), and the Baltimore Development Corp., providing a combined $300,000 to support the pilot project. Additional key partners include the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), which is developing a curriculum to teach and better understand the natural dyeing process, promote the benefits of natural dyes, and engage those that may be interested in using the dyes for artistic or commercial applications as well as Coppin State University, which is the landholder of the parcel where the urban farm will be developed.
MARBIDCO and Baltimore City will serve as the project facilitators and work with the Maryland Department of Agriculture to select a local farmer to grow and harvest the crops.
The urban farm will be located on Ashburton Street and is currently being prepared for the first planting by the Parks and People Foundation of Baltimore. The planting of the natural dye crops will begin in Spring 2019.