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Center for a Livable Future


Food System Lab @ Cylburn

The Food System Lab @ Cylburn is an urban teaching farm in Baltimore City, operated on the grounds of the Cylburn Arboretum by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF). Our diverse educational programs emphasize the important connections among the living components of a small-scale agro-ecosystem and offer a compelling introduction to an equitable, healthy and sustainable food system. Visitors engage directly with a variety of food production practices, including aquaponics, a system of agriculture that combines fish farming with hydroponic plant farming.

Visit Us: The Food System Lab is free and open to individual drop-in visitors for information and tours during the following times:

  • Wednesday, 10am – noon (Holiday Closure - we will not be open to visitors on Wednesday, December 21 or Wednesday, December 28)

  • Sunday, 1pm – 3pm (Winter Closure - we will not be open to visitors on Sundays during the month of February)

Groups of five or more are by appointment only (see below).

School and Group Programs

Group Tour /Program Inquiry Form

We offer tours and longer theme-based programs targeting middle- and high-school students, college students, and adults. Our hoophouse can accommodate groups of up to 25. The Farm Educator will work with you prior to your visit to tailor the program according to your group’s size, schedule, and learning objectives.

  • Tours: Our 45-minute tour explores the operation of our urban farm and the relationship between the fish, plants, microorganisms, worms, soil and water. We also offer an abbreviated 20-minute version.
  • Theme-based Programs: These 90-minute programs examine our urban farm in the context of the broader food system. Students engage in activities designed to raise awareness about the complexities of our food system and encourage a deeper level of thinking about our relationship with food. We currently offer the following themes:
  • Aquaponics and Aquaculture: Fish, Farms, Food: As ocean fish harvests plateau and the population grows, the aquaculture (fish farming) industry continues to expand. We’ll discuss aquaculture and take a look at how aquaponics can offer a sustainable alternative. How does the aquaponics system work? How does it differ from other methods of aquaculture? What are some advantages and disadvantages of aquaponics?
  • Baltimore’s Food Community: Come explore Baltimore’s unique food environment with a visit to our active urban farm. We’ll dive into the Baltimore Food System with maps and activities; and discuss the potential of urban agriculture in our region to improve food systems and address hunger. Ideas welcome!
  • Water Quality and Agriculture: Agriculture is the single largest user of freshwater resources on the planet, accounting for 70% of freshwater use by humans, and agricultural practices can have a large impact on environmental water quality through discharge of pollutants and sediments into local waterways. Aquaponics, as a closed loop water system, can teach us about how to balance agricultural production with water quality. In this activity, we will discuss the water quality parameters for aquaponics systems, including pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and Total Dissolved Solids. We will then take water samples from the system and perform water quality tests for each of these parameters. Lastly, we will analyze the results to determine their significance for the health of the system.

There is no charge for groups of fewer than 25 for the standard tours or 90-minute programs. Please inquire with the Farm Educator about larger groups and expanded programming options.

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For more information, please contact:

Jesse Blom
Food System Lab Manager and Educator

Additional Resources

CLF’s Aquaponics Research: