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Md. to try growing dye crops in west Baltimore

7-15-16 BALTIMORE, MD- Yumi Hogan, the first lady of Maryland, visited Make Studio at the Schwing Art Center in Hampden, which provied work space and other support for emerging artists with disabilities. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

7-15-16 BALTIMORE, MD- Yumi Hogan, the first lady of Maryland, visited Make Studio at the Schwing Art Center in Hampden, which provied work space and other support for emerging artists with disabilities. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

The state of Maryland will launch an urban farming pilot in Baltimore aimed at growing natural dye crops next year, the fruit of past Asian trade missions.

The project will turn part of a vacant lot in west Baltimore into a garden. Planned crops include indigo, beets, onions, marigolds and Black-eyed Susans, which will be used to make dyes.

The urban farming initiative is the result of Gov. Larry Hogan’s 2015 trade mission to Asia and first lady Yumi Hogan’s 2017 trip to South Korea. In Naju, South Korea, the first lady toured the Natural Dyeing Cultural Center, an inspiration for the farm.

“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,” the governor said in a statement. “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.”

The farm will be located on Ashburton Street. The plot of land there is held by Coppin State University.

The dyes generated from the farm’s harvest will be used for artistic, educational and commercial use. The Maryland Institute College of Art is developing a curriculum to teach and better understand the natural dyeing process. It will also use the curriculum to promote the benefits of natural dyes and engage people who may want to use the dyes.

Yumi Hogan, an artist herself, said she was excited to bring the tradition of natural dyeing to Baltimore.

“As an artist, I know how much our local arts community recognizes the beauty and uses of natural dyes,” she said in a statement. “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.”

Other partners in the project include the Maryland State Arts Council, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corp. and the Baltimore Development Corp. They will combine to provide $300,000 to support the project.

The first crop planting is expected next spring.

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