While the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) has a long list of sustainability related projects, the focus of this Trailblazing activity is on the creation of a downtown Farmers’ Market. UMMC partnered with University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) and the local community to offer a weekly farmers’ market on Baltimore’s West Side, providing fresh produce, artisan cheeses, baked goods, eggs, sustainable meats and seafood, soups, spreads and sauces, and desserts — all right across the street from the hospital’s main entrance!


Coordination was a key ingredient to success. UMB was eager to participate — having recently formed a Sustainability Council, the farmers’ market aligned with their vision. As such, UMB offered the use of the park and security personnel during market hours.


The Downtown Market Center, which serves the community of Baltimore’s West Side, designed a market logo, provided table tents for the cafes at UMMC and the V.A. Baltimore Medical Center to promote the market, and gave away free re-usable grocery bags when the market opened. Information about the market is included on their website and articles about the market were sent to their entire list serv.


Once a month at the market, UMMC and VA dietitians provide education to market customers on eating healthy and distribute recipes using seasonal foods. The UMMC dietitians partnered with the UMMC Food and Nutrition Department so that the café features a meal prepared with local produce once a month.


In addition to signage placed in the café, marketing is ongoing. Signs advertising the market are posted throughout UMMC and the UMB campus. Articles are placed in UMMC employee publications and on the Downtown Market Center website and the market is listed on the MD Department of Agriculture’s website. The market has been featured in WJZ TV news and in local newspapers. The market initially started with six vendors, and now proudly boasts 13 vendors. Most recently, the vendors of the University Farmers’ Market were invited to participate in UMMC’s Annual Health Fair and UMB’s Fall Festival.


By hosting a farmers’ market, UMMC and its partners not only support the local economy, but help to decrease “food miles.” Food travels on average 1500 miles from farm to plate. However, when purchased “locally”, food travels an average of 60 miles. This decrease in distance traveled cuts down on fuel consumption, greenhouse gases, air pollution and the likelihood of related diseases, including asthma, lung disease, lung cancer and heart disease. It also cuts down on the use of plastics used in packaging and allows farmers to pick their food when it’s ripe, maximizing the nutrient content in the food and providing fresher food that tastes better.


The establishment of the University Farmers’ Market has significantly raised awareness about the importance of purchasing sustainable foods. Since the market began, UMMC has participated in Governor O’Malley’s Buy Local Challenge and served one local food per day in the café for one week. UMMC signed the Healthy Food in Health Care pledge, committing to providing more local, nutritious and sustainable foods. Additionally, UMMC signed a letter of support encouraging major food distributors and group purchasing organizations to phase out dairy products containing recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a synthetic growth hormone given to cows to promote milk production, and linked to adverse health problems in animals and humans.


Contact: Denise Choiniere, Sustainability Manager, dchoiniere@umm.edu