On 10-acres of land in Northeast Baltimore, kids are feeding chickens, picking strawberries, and experiencing their neighborhood in an entirely new way thanks to one woman. Backyard Basecamp Founder, Atiya Wells, started her nonprofit in 2019 to “introduce, educate, and connect more families in Baltimore, especially those of color, to local outdoor spaces.” As a pediatric nurse and the mom of two young kids, Atiya’s passions for childhood wellness and outdoor education are both brought to life through the organization’s primary project, BLISS Meadows.
“BLISS Meadows weaves together previously abandoned public and private land in Baltimore City,” said Atiya “to provide farming and gardening education, host community science projects and sustainability workshops, and distribute other resources to our neighborhood.”
Near the front of the property sits an abandoned home which Atiya saw not as an eyesore, but as an opportunity. In May 2019, she launched a GoFundMe campaign, raising enough funds to purchase the home in just 26 days. Currently under renovation, this building’s on its way to fulfilling Atiya’s dream of providing classroom space, a kitchen workshop, Backyard Basecamp’s offices, and additional grow space for fruit and vegetable gardens.
Volunteers regularly visit the BLISS Meadows site, most recently to plant fruit trees and build walking paths, but to also share in the camaraderie of shaping this space, together. Seeing the progress they’ve made in just 24 months, the sky is the limit for this team.
“We envision introducing a model of neighborhood-based environmental education centers [like BLISS Meadows] that energize cultural stewardship in urban public natural areas,” said Atiya. “The ideal ripple effect is a reduction in crime, protection and enhancement of urban ecosystems, increased property values, and improved academic achievement for school-aged kids in the community.”
The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation’s donation of $25,000 will support additional construction of the gardens and teaching spaces, helping to introduce learners of all ages to the joys of growing their own food and connecting with the nature.