How do we visit Freetown Farm?
Freetown Farm is a small, private, heavily programmed property. Therefore, all visits are by appointment, event, program, etc. only. If you would like to schedule a tour, we would love to show you the property and share our work with you. We have three standard times that are available for tours: Wednesdays between 3pm and just before sunset; Thursdays between 10 and 1; and the second Saturday (and sometimes fourth) Saturday of each month between 11 and 2. To schedule a tour, please contact email@example.com and expect to need to schedule at least two weeks in advance.
Can we volunteer?
Yes, volunteers are essential to our work! We have two pathways for volunteerism at Freetown Farm:
*individuals, families, or groups that would like to become regular volunteers
*one-time (at least initially, most folks come back) group days of service or scout projects
For those that would like to become regular volunteers, we offer two new volunteer orientation sessions each month, on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays. After orientation, people can schedule to come out Tuesday through Saturday 10-3 and Wednesdays until sunset. Group volunteer days can be scheduled at least two to three weeks in advance and are typically set for Fridays or Saturdays. More volunteer information can be found at Get Involved - Community Ecology Institute and/or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
How can I donate to support your work?
Thank you, our work depends on the support of people who value its benefits! You can make your donation online on this main page Donate - Community Ecology Institute or make a check to The Community Ecology Institute and mail it to 8000 Harriet Tubman Lane, Columbia, MD 21044.
Can my group come out for a field trip?
Yes. We offer field trips primarily on Fridays. Our parking at Freetown Farm is limited to groups of no more than 15 cars or one bus. The details for field trips are planned on a case-by-case basis depending on the number and age of people involved and the extent to which the request requires additional preparation by our staff. Please email email@example.com to request a field trip and expect to need to schedule at least two to three weeks in advance.
Do you all do speaking engagements?
Yes. Members of CEI board and staff are able to do speaking engagements on a variety of topics at the many intersections of education, environment, equity and health. We are able to speak within Howard County in person and virtually outside of our hometown. Details for speaking engagements are planned on a case-by-case basis. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a speaker and expect to need to schedule at least three weeks in advance.
In recognition of the acute nature of the racial injustices occurring in our country, CEI joins the call for a more equitable, inclusive, peaceful and just future that reaffirms dignity and ensures safety for everyone. The following resources facilitate listening, learning, communication, and effective action towards racial justice.
On Being Anti-RacistOn Teaching and Talking To Kids about Race
Further your knowledge with these articles and scholarly publications!
Nature Connection, Sense of Place & and Pro-Environmental Behavior:
A Walkable Watershed integrates the flow of water and people into a cohesive strategy to improve the overall health of a community and the surrounding watershed. The concept is based on the idea that high-quality water goes hand-in-hand with a high quality of life, supporting access to the outdoors, enhanced community infrastructure and services, and stronger health outcomes.
A Walkable Watershed process:
CEI's Freetown Farm is located less than a mile from the Middle Patuxent River within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Currently stormwater from neighboring Atholton High School is directed onto the farm via a culvert and underground pipe and the previous farm owner piped this water to the edge of the property, resulting in flooding and erosion for residential neighbors. Stormwater runoff from the school also flows across the road and a bus yard and on to the farm causing flooding for the farm as well as surrounding properties. CEI and Atholton High School are in a unique position to support the health of the Middle Patuxent watershed through treatment of a significant volume of stormwater runoff as well as model how homeowners and commercial properties can address stormwater issues in a socio-ecologically beneficial manner.
From 2019 to 2021 CEI implemented a series of three Chesapeake Bay Trust (CBT) grants called “Water F.O.R.C.E.” to address the stormwater from the high school that flows on to our farm. We completed an ecological master plan of the property and developed a plan to implement best management practices in the northwest field of the farm that will slow the stormwater down, spread it out, and allow it to soak into the ground. A second series of CBT grants through the Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns is focused on mitigating the runoff from the high school by developing a green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) concept plan for the high school using a selection of integrated best management practices (BMPs). These projects will begin the “walkable watershed” by developing connected projects between the school and CEI’s farm property to provide students access to outdoor environmental education opportunities. Once implemented, these two connected projects will provide a highly visible demonstration of BMPs such as bioretention areas, infiltration trenches and dry wells, berms and swales, rain gardens, urban tree canopies, conservation landscapes, and rainwater harvesting. In addition to the demonstration value of the project, the installation of the BMPs will achieve reductions in nutrient and sediment loads in Middle Patuxent Watershed.
The work at Freetown Farm and Atholton High School will be the beginning of a larger community Walkable Watershed initiative supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that will address stormwater management issues while simultaneously addressing community needs and neighborhood quality of life goals – such as improved neighborhood connectivity and better access to vibrant outdoor spaces – and integrating different assets within the community including CEI’s environmental learning center, Atholton High School, Robinson Nature Center, and the cultural heritage of Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad route. CEI is leading this initiative because we are connected and committed to the community and the different stakeholders associated with this work while also being nimble enough to take a leadership role in encouraging and pursuing innovations. The Freetown Walkable Watershed Initiative report is available here.
The University of Maryland Extension and the Howard County Watershed Stewards Academy are key partners through all the phases of the walkable watershed initiative. CEI worked with Biohabitats to develop the design to address the stormwater flowing onto Freetown Farm. We are working with Skeo Solutions on the walkable watershed design plans for Atholton High and the surrounding Hickory Ridge community. They completed their first Walkable Watershed pilot in early 2012 in a community in Richmond, Virginia. They have since led Walkable Watershed projects benefiting communities with environmental justice concerns in more than seven locations across the country. We worked with Howard EcoWorks and Triangle Contracting on the BMP installation elements at Freetown Farm and are bringing this team back for the installation of BMPs at Atholton High School, new work which is being overseen by Coastal Resources Inc.
You are invited to be a naming sponsor of our modern-day barn raising, in which we transform Freetown Farm’s 4,000-square-foot, timber-framed barn (which was constructed in 2009 by the previous owner) into our Community Engagement Center! Naming rights level gifts are a substantial contribution, and we want to be sure we connect with you closely about this opportunity.
All the details for naming rights level gifts are available for download below.
Please email Chiara D'Amore at email@example.com with any questions and to review current naming rights availability and room name preferences. Contributions can be made by check, transfer, and other formats.
This sturdy building was very thoughtfully designed with a number of green-building features, but it was never completed. It still lacks electricity, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. Bringing this building into its full potential is essential to accomplishing CEI’s mission of cultivating communities where people and nature thrive together.
With sweat and joy, the Community Ecology Institute has turned Freetown Farm into a flourishing hive of community activity. In the past two years–-without any indoor amenities-–we welcomed more than 1,500 people and grew more than 10,000 pounds of food for the community.
Imagine how much more inviting, inclusive, and impactful Freetown Farm will be with accessible, indoor classrooms, rest rooms, meeting areas, and offices.
We expect construction to begin on the barn renovation this summer and to be complete before cold weather returns. We are so excited to welcome you into this new space!
Barn - Raiser
The process of renovating the barn into an accessible, beautiful, and super sustainable Community Engagement Center for CEI will begin this summer! It's incredible that since mid-2019 we have welcomed more than 3,000 people to the farm without any indoor amenities and we are so excited to know that we will be able to better serve our community before cold weather returns! It's fair to say that bringing the barn into its full potential is essential to furthering CEI’s mission of cultivating communities where people and nature thrive together.
Barn Raiser Giving Tiers
In true barn-raising fashion,
every contribution makes a meaningful difference for which we are deeply grateful.
Tier 1: Wildflower - $500 ( one - time donation )
Tier 2: Bee - $1000 ( one - time donation )
Tier 3: Butterfly - $2,500 ( one - time donation )
Tier 4: Hummingbird - $5,000 ( one - time donation )
Those in a position to give at the $500 dollar level and above will have their names displayed in our Gratitude Foyer on a large, vibrant mural created by a local artist.
The mural will depict a native pollinator meadow, celebrating community inter-dependence.
For individuals, families, organizations or businesses interested in room-naming opportunities starting at $10,000, more information is available here.
Barn Exterior Plan
1st Floor Interior Plan
The first floor of the Community Engagement Center will be focused on welcoming the community for year round seasonal programming, encompassing the beauty of all four-seasons. Upon entering the building, a beautiful welcome area is where contributors to this project will celebrated with a 15-foot multi-dimensional mural.
To the right is a room that spans the full depth of the building that will be set up for multipurposes uses where the community will convene for larger meetings and classes. To the left is a "community cafe" where people will be able to make a cup of tea, savor a freshly picked salad, and enjoy a friendly conversation.
Moving towards the back of the building there will be a community library, stocked with mission related books, which will also serve as a smaller meeting room. In addition to thecentral restrooms (yay to proper facilities!) all the way to the left is a community clean up space where staff, volunteers and program participants can take off muddy boots, wash dirty hands, run laundry (and even take a shower if needed). The whole floor will have a cozy, warm, and welcoming atmosphere where community members can connect.
2nd Floor Interior Plan
The second floor of the Community Engagement Center will be multi-purpose in design and use. The South facing wall is filled with windows and overlooks the back half of the farm, views which often include joyful children, our resident chickens, and the wildlife of the woods. The sunlit adjacent space will stay wide open for a variety of community uses, including having a place to gather for programs when the weather outdoors is inclement. On the North side of the upstairs, we will have an office for our staff leadership team and a collaborative workspace for our educators, interns, and other core community members.
Donation Widget App Goes here
A copy of the current financial statement of the Community Ecology Institute is available by writing 8000 Harriet Tubman Lane, Columbia, MD 21044 or by calling (443) 832-3824. Documents and information submitted under the Maryland Solicitations Act are also available, for the cost of postage and copies, from the Maryland Secretary of State, State House, Annapolis MD 21401, (410) 974-5534.
The Maker Space at Freetown Farm is the new home of the Transition Howard County monthly Repair Café!
Do you have items in your house that need fixing or mending but you don't know how to fix them yourself?
Bring your broken items to the Transition Repair Café! Volunteers will evaluate and fix as many of them as they can and offer their expertise on items that are too large or not possible to bring in.
Repair Café Fall Schedule
09/00/22 00AM - 00 PM
09/00/22 00AM - 00 PM
09/00/22 00AM - 00 PM
09/00/22 00AM - 00 PM
As seasonal CFIN members, your family will enjoy engaging events. Activities include hiking, Junior Naturalist activities, creative fun, land stewardship and more.
CFIN Fall Family Membership
OUR FALL MEMBERSHIP PROGRAM IS FULL AND CLOSED FOR REGISTRATION
With a CFIN Fall Membership, your entire family will enjoy events curated and led by our team of enthusiastic educators, including a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist. Our 10 Fall Membership events occur on Sunday afternoons, 2 PM - 4 PM, from October 2nd - December 4th, 2022.
Fall membership includes one inclement weather make-up day scheduled for
Saturday, December 3rd.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and/or to receive financial assistance.
Our Seasonal Membership includes 10 unique outdoor events for your entire family!
Cost: $50 per family
A 50% discount for families in need can be selected during registration. Fully-sponsored membership is also available for families who need additional financial assistance. Please email email@example.com if you would like to explore the fully-sponsored option.
Winter membership registration details are coming soon! Be sure to Join the CFIN Mailing List to be sure to get registration alerts and updates!
With respect to Covid- 19 and masking procedures; families are not required to wear masks at CFIN activities. Masks are welcomed and participants are encouraged to make the masking decision that feels best for themselves and their family.
You're Invited to Come Outside and Play!
Who: Children and their adults.
What: Free-play, family hikes, educational experiences, volunteer activities. When you join us, prepare to have fun, make friends, and earn your bath!
Where: We have excursions in natural areas in and around Howard County, Maryland.
When: Four Sunday afternoons per month.
See our Membership page for more details.
Why: People who spend frequent time outdoors experience enhanced use of the senses, fewer attention difficulties and decreased rates of physical and emotional illness and obesity. Spending frequent time outdoors is also the best way to develop a connection to nature, which is essential for environmental stewardship.
Having close relationships with important adults also gives children a sense of well-being and confidence that allows them to connect with the world around them. Learn more about of benefits of CFIN here!
CFIN is committed to giving families the opportunity to connect with nature, each other, and their community.
Just as biodiversity strengthens natural systems, the diversity of human experience strengthens our efforts to create socially and ecologically healthy communities.
CEI is committed to honoring diversity, prioritizing inclusion, and working towards equity in all we do. We are dedicated to creating an environment free from any kind of discrimination including race, color, religion, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, national or ethnic origin, and veteran status.
Our land was part of the Underground Railroad and is now within Columbia, Maryland—a place explicitly founded by James Rouse to be “a garden for growing people where anyone—whatever their race, wealth or religious beliefs—could reach their full potential.”
We continuously work to make this vision a reality and to help other communities do the same. CEI joins the call for a more equitable, inclusive, peaceful, and just future that reaffirms dignity and ensures safety for all.
The 3rd is a Howard County non-profit that supports women of color entrepreneurs.
The 3rd enhanced the medicinal herb garden at Freetown Farm by installing raised beds that showcase plants used for health and well being.
The garden has become a place where community members can rest, reflect, and restore their energy.
HopeWorks volunteers and staff spent approximately 137 hours on Freetown Farm, working in the HopeWorks Healing Garden -- a safe space of connection and growth for survivors of domestic violence.
This produce and perennial garden offers a meditative space that helps survivors build a stronger community and foster a deeper appreciation and bond with the earth.
The HopeWorks Our Earth program supports exploration of environmental injustices that disproportionally affect those who are marginalized.
The Howard County Branch of the NAACP has been a part of stewarding Freetown Farm since the beginning of the 2020 growing season.
Members have designed, established, and nurtured a bountiful vegetable garden from scratch, growing abundant kale, chard, okra, basil, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and more!
In 2021, approximately 175 volunteers helped out, with 40 families participating in the George Washington Carver community supported agriculture initiative!