A $60,000 federal grant announced Thursday will allow the South Baltimore neighborhood of Cherry Hill to grow several new community gardens.

Three-quarters of the U.S. Department of Agriculture money will be divided among community groups that will create and run the gardens, said grant administrator Nadine Braunstein, an assistant professor in Towson University's College of Health Professions. The remaining $15,000 will go to Towson to manage the program, she said.

"Why were we inspired to do this in Cherry Hill? Because the community was in need," she said. The gardens are intended to improve the neighborhood's access to fresh, healthful food, she said.

The Cherry Hill People's Garden project will conduct information sessions in January for groups interested in applying for funds to start a garden, Braunstein said. To improve each garden's odds for success, she said, at least two collaborating groups will need to be part of every application.

The project's goal is to create at least four school gardens and four community gardens and educate at least 200 residents about gardening and nutrition, Braunstein said.

Juanita Ewell, the manager of the Eat Healthy Live Healthy Urban Garden in the 900 block of Cherry Hill Road, intends to apply for a grant.

"Anything we get from the grant will probably go to educating the community," said Ewell, who just pulled up the plants from 14 raised beds in the urban garden and planted winter cover crops in their place. "We anticipate working closely with any community groups who apply and start their own garden."

Ewell, who helped launch the Eat Healthy Live Healthy Urban Garden's first growing season this year, expects to offer advice, lend her garden's tools and share in the cost of buying supplies with the new gardening groups. She hopes her experience in getting the Cherry Hill Road garden started will help others.

"When we started, it was a weed-infested, trash-littered field," Ewell said. Green peppers, string beans and Swiss chard were all harvested until a week ago, she said.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan spoke Thursday in Baltimore to announce the Cherry Hill grant, one of 10 nationwide. In addition to the Cherry Hill project, funds were allotted for gardens in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan and Ohio.

The grants nationwide totaled $725,000 and are expected to support more than 150 community gardens. The USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture received more than 360 applications for the grants, requesting upward of $4 million for gardens.

Towson's Cherry Hill proposal was a successful grant applicant, Merrigan said, because the neighborhood has already launched a community gardening project and there are many groups interested in participating, which improves the likelihood of gardens being maintained.

Community groups interested in learning more about the Cherry Hill People's Garden can go to .

steve.kilar@baltsun.com

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