Although Maxi Adelstein wasn’t really planning on making a career of gardening, once she fell into it, she fell in love. But the boxing club? That was planned.
The 25-year-old Baltimore native grew up in Park Heights, Mount Washington and South Baltimore, attending Mount Washington Elementary and the Ingenuity Project at Roland Park Middle School and the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Her family was affiliated with Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and Temple Oheb Shalom. She now lives in Baltimore near the Senator Theatre.
While studying sustainable agriculture and ecology at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina, Adelstein did landscaping work. But four years ago, when Adelstein was 21, she left and moved back to Baltimore.
“When I moved home, I offered minimal yard and garden care to folks in the neighborhood I grew up in to make some money,” she said. “Turning that small service into a company was never the plan, it just kind of happened.”
Two years later, she made the business formal, creating an LLC and naming her new company Gratitude Garden. She does a wide variety of projects from general landscape services such as weeding, mulching and hauling debris to butterfly gardens, raised vegetable beds and meditation gardens.
“I love any type of plantings,” she said. “Especially when clients give me a theme or idea and trust me to create a plant palette specific to them and their vision. School gardens are definitely a favorite.”
As for the name? That was a conscious choice for Adelstein.
“I figured if I could stay humble and choose to be grateful doing this work, I would always be able to learn and grow as a company and as a person,” she said. “I recognize more than anything that my job is a huge opportunity and if I can have gratitude for the stress and challenges then I can keep a bigger perspective overall. I also really like the idea of growing a garden full of gratitude.”
As a minority in the mostly male field of landscaping, Adelstein said she’s often “the only girl at the mulch yard,” but that hasn’t curbed her enthusiasm for the physical nature of the job.
“I meet a few women in the industry on occasion. Most work with plant nurseries or design. I love to work alone, outside. I think the actual manual labor is really rewarding, healthy and humbling. And I love going to buy plants and visiting nurseries. It’s like going to the mall with other people’s money,” she said. “The business work is the biggest challenge. Keeping things organized, scheduled and communicating neatly with clients. Writing proposals can be overwhelming, figuring out how to price, what the value of work is. It can be challenging for sure.”
Jewish values have been an influence on her life and work in terms of caring for the earth and people.
“I studied farming and permaculture in Israel when I was younger and those ethics and practices helped form what I am about as a gardener,” she said.
Her favorite tool? Her shovel.
“I have a shovel I really like that I have had since I started. It has green tape on the handle and it’s the perfect shovel,” she said. “I hope it never breaks. On my belt I always have a pair of Felco snippers and a Hori Hori knife.”
But Adelstein, a modern renaissance woman, isn’t just all about the strength she has gained from her earthly endeavors. Her new venture lets her exhibit her physical strength and prowess in another majority-male activity, with her Bmore Bittiez Boxing Club.
Three years ago, as she was getting Gratitude Garden Co. started, she joined a downtown gym as a birthday gift to herself. She’s been going ever since.
“It’s something I was curious about for a while, I always wanted to get into a form of fighting arts,” she said. “It became a type of therapy for me and a way to stay in shape year round when I wasn’t landscaping. I also just love it so much.”
Adelstein said she would eventually like to compete as a boxer, but hasn’t set a date for that goal as she continues to learn, right now honing her sparring technique. Mean- while, she said Bmore Bittiez Boxing Club has gotten off the ground this year and is doing well, with about 10 women members attending her twice weekly basement boxing gym.
“I’m planning to get certified as a trainer this summer and work with younger girls and older women specifically with boxing/fitness and continue to get better myself as well,” she said. “More than anything, it feels good to be developing an authentic niche in Baltimore. I never planned to stay here as an adult but now it’s getting harder and harder to find reasons to leave.”
“My biggest goal is to buy land at some point. Not sure where yet,” she added. “It would be cool one day to grow my own garden that I can develop over years and years. For now, working on everyone else’s is allowing me time to develop experience and learn by mistakes.”