For the Love of Legumes: Sustainable Urban Micro-Scale Grains and Dried Beans On a Demonstration Farm in Baltimore City

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2022: $29,806.00
Projected End Date: 03/15/2024
Grant Recipient: Farm Alliance of Baltimore
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Denzel Mitchell, Jr.
Farm Alliance of Baltimore

Information Products


  • Agronomic: corn, oats, peas (field, cowpeas), peanuts


  • Crop Production: application rate management, beekeeping, biological inoculants, conservation tillage, continuous cropping, contour farming, cover crops, crop rotation, double cropping, drought tolerance, fallow, food processing, food product quality/safety, no-till, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers, pollination, stubble mulching
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: apprentice/intern training
  • Pest Management: integrated pest management, mulches - killed, soil solarization, trap crops
  • Production Systems: dryland farming
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships, urban agriculture, values-based supply chains

    Proposal summary:

    Farm Alliance of Baltimore will help our 37 Black member farmers and 10 Black Butterfly Urban Farmer Academy trainee farmers to reduce their risk and boost their economic viability by demonstrating how to grow sustainably grown, culturally relevant small grains and legumes in urban soils and bringing them to market. We will conduct this two-year trial demonstration on 0.5 acres of our teaching farm in South Baltimore, to show farmers how these crops might fare on their similarly-sized micro-scale farms, without them having to take on this risk and expense. This reduces a significant barrier for these urban farmers in bringing new products to market. Along the way, we will host field demonstration days for all the farmers in our membership networks to show the methods and results of our growing of these crops.

    By growing 2 crops of oats and 2 crops of dried beans without chemical sprays or fertilizers, without tilling, and without irrigation, we will mimic the conditions under which our member farms sustainably grow their diversified vegetable crops. By testing our soils between crop rotations, we will track the changes in nitrogen loads, thus measuring how well these crops help to conserve soil health. Yields of both crops will be compared to the typical yields from conventionally grown versions of these crops at similar scale. Finally, while most of our yields will be sold direct-to-consumer, some will be used in our community cooking demonstrations to educate community residents use of beans and grains.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to explore and demonstrate the profitability of sustainably grown dried beans and oats over two years, and whether they can be grown with enough yields to be profitable in the direct-to-consumer and wholesale markets in Baltimore City. This will show the 37 Black farmers in our existing Farm Alliance membership and the 10 trainee farmers in our 2022-23 cohort of the Black Butterfly Urban Farmer Academy whether it is economically viable for them to devote their own farms' resources to growing these crops at their micro-scale urban farms. Using our teaching farm in South Baltimore to teach Black urban farmers to grow these crops, some of which are African American heritage crops, our objective is to help these farmers adopt new crops that will improve their sales, conserve their soils' health, and thus improve economic outcomes on their urban farms in the long term.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.