Strange Folks at Ash Street Garden


Photo by Matt Kelley

Urban gardens are sprouting up all over Baltimore. If you don’t have a small plot of land for growing food, I recommend acquiring one immediately. It saves money, promotes nutritional- awareness, self-sustainability, and community. You can apply with the city to use vacant lots for free as long as you can show that you intend to use it for the greater good. And as we all know, produce you grow yourself almost always tastes better than produce bought from a store.

Recently, word got out that one of these gardens was implementing non-traditional tactics such as playing music in order to stimulate growth. It worked so well that the local farmers decided it needed to become a regular tool for produce production and that’s how ‘Strange Folks’ at the Ash Street Garden came to be.

Photo and story by Matt Kelley.

Photo by Matt Kelley

“I started Strange Folks a month ago when I got all of these friends and musicians together that I’ve met over the last two years while playing music in Baltimore,” explains Jan of the Baltimore String Felons. “We’ve all played bars and house parties together but now we have this fantastic free farm that is willing to let us gather here and share music.”

Performing can leave you completely vulnerable. Getting up onstage and giving into that vulnerability is one of the hardest first steps to take as a musician. Strange Folks has made available a venue where first time musicians don’t have to walk into an open mic or compete with the cappuccino maker. The great thing about Strange Folks is that the age and experience level of the musicians is easily a 50-year spread with all egos checked at the gate.

Photo and story by Matt Kelley.


Photo by Matt Kelley

All of the musicians were kind enough to perform for the plants in each of the plots nestled in the garden bordering Ash Street. Some of the serenaders were
Thimble Wit , Macgregor Burns and Happy Haines, to name but a few.

Photo and story by Matt Kelley.


Photo by Matt Kelley

No explanation necessary, other than saying that this is the cutest thing I have seen in a long time. I don’t know what was in that box that that little girl is holding. I don’t care. I do know the name of the woman sitting on the stone wall. Her name is Elanor and she is just as lovely as this photo portrays her.

Photo and story by Matt Kelley.


Photo by Matt Kelley

“It was last winter and we had just learned about this adopt-a-lot thing. We
wanted to garden, we wanted to farm. I found this block using Google Earth and scanning around. We ended up coming out here; it was trashed, there were briar bushes and weed trees. It was all awful and inhospitable. It was perfect,” says Billy.

In the course of a planting season the volunteers managed to turn what was an abandoned lot – overgrown and filled with garbage – into a sustainable farm using little to no money. They have managed to turn on residents in Hampden with the idea of going local with their food as well as to create a venue were the playing field is level and the door is always open.

From left to right founders and volunteers of Ash Street Garden Billy Thomas, Allison Guitard and Donald Barton III.

Photo and story by Matt Kelley.

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