By Astrid Yankosky
Most of our food originates on farms, and most of those farms are in rural areas. Some of our food comes from farms in the United States, but much of it comes from south of the border and even across oceans. So what does it mean that Frogtown has a food system? Some of us grow a few veggies in our backyards, and even less of us have a plot in a community garden. Some maybe even shop at the farmer’s market on University or visit the Hmongtown Market for produce that was grown locally. In any case, the amount of food that the neighborhood consumes that is actually grown, processed, and sold in Frogtown is rather small.
This is drastically different than how people lived off the land just over a hundred years ago. First, people hunted, gathered, and cultivated around their homes and the settlers who pushed them out brought European homesteading practices with them in the form of growing their own food and raising animals. As the waves of immigrants who have populated Frogtown arrived with their varied cuisines, the practice of growing food where we live has dwindled. However, it made the neighborhood a destination for excellent restaurants originating from all around the globe.
The exciting news is that urban agriculture is on the rise in the U.S. and right here in the Twin Cities. Here at Frogtown Farm, we are inspired by the many different forms that urban agriculture is taking. Most notably, the work done by Will Allen and Growing Power. His model began as a greenhouse and market stand, which has grown into an innovative indoor/outdoor farmer training program for youth, quickly spreading across the Midwest.
More information here: http://www.growingpower.org/
A friend of the Frogtown Farm group on Facebook shared information on Seattle’s first urban food forest: http://www.beaconfoodforest.org/
Right here in the Twin Cities, a number of aquaponic operations have sprung up, pioneering season extension farming. Not to mention all of the amazing work of the U of M Extension and many others.
More here: http://www.urbanfarmmpls.com/ and http://www.gardenfreshfarms.com/
Stone’s Throw Agricultural Co-op sells produce grown on vacant lots through a Community Supported Agriculture model or CSA, with the help of volunteers. Customers pay the farms at the beginning of the season to support the farmers, then pick up a box of varied produce once a week through the entire growing season. Another CSA in Frogtown is Silent Sun Farms which practices permaculture principles and also sells produce at the West Side Farmer’s Market.
More here: http://www.stonesthrowurbanfarm.com/
And here: http://www.silentsunfarms.com/
City government is following suit by working with the public on legislation allowing our budding urban agriculture movement to grow. We have the City of Saint Paul to thank for leasing five acres of the nearly 13 acre park site to Frogtown Farm to begin an urban farming project unique to the desires and needs of the neighborhood residents.
Frogtown Farm will be yet another unique model in the local food system. Stay tuned for part 2 of this article, “A Farm in the City,” where I will address community gardens versus Frogtown Farm, and what it means that Frogtown Farm will be a local food hub.