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Gardening hubs bring northeast and southeast Minneapolis community members together
A new gardening “hub” has sprouted in the Northeast and Southeast neighborhoods of Minneapolis. The NE/SE Hub is one of five networks, officially named Local Food Resource Hubs, that has developed since 2011.
These hubs were started by the city program Homegrown Minneapolis and Gardening Matters, a community organizing group that works to preserve and promote gardening.
Though these hubs can be found in the North, Phillips, South, St. Paul Midway, and Northeast/Southeast neighborhoods, they are not physical locations. Rather, they are “neighborhood networks of gardeners who come together to support each other in growing, cooking, preserving, and composting their own fresh produce,” according to the Gardening Matters website.
“This program gives people the opportunity to be successful in gardening by connecting with other people,” said NadjaBerenche, the program director for Gardening Matters.
A membership includes plants, seedlings and educational opportunities to learn about gardening. Members sign up by choosing small, medium or large packages that range from $10 to $100.
The learning, however, does not stop at gardening. Fairshare Farm of the NE/SE Hub provides a unique opportunity for community members to exchange their knowledge with “skillshares.” All Fairshare Farm members are required to host one of these informal learning events, which are open to all community members and cover anything from knitting to making homemade deodorant.
Fairshare gardener and University of Minnesota student Ruth Styles taught community members how to make spring rolls from carrots, cucumbers and lettuce fresh from the garden. Styles said it comes down to sharing (hence the name “skillshare).
“It was really cool to share my love of cooking with other people,” Styles said. “Everyone was contributing their ownideas.”
Like many students, Styles had the desire to garden but lacked the space. As a Fairshare Farm gardener she enjoys the gardening experience with a wide range of people from the neighborhood.
In addition to skillshares, the 70 members that signed on for the hub’s first season also enjoy community events such as movie screenings and potlucks.
Stephanie Hankerson, who supports several gardens in Southeast Como and represents the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) in The Hub, said the community events allow gardeners to get to know each other.
Hankerson is also helping to plan the Como Cookout this year and said the Hub plans to be present with a food preservation class, mini-demo tables, a potluck and Tomato Tastin’ table to highlight members’ produce.
Organizers also hope to implement a tool-lending library where one set of tools is shared among members.
“The idea is if you need extras or a particularly unique tool you might not need to buy it, you can borrow it instead,” Hankerson said.
While The Hub is great resource for members, some of its upcoming projects will benefit the larger community as well.
Hub member Cooper Harding works at the Little Kitchen Food Shelf at Sixth Street Northeast. She is hoping these gardens will be a source of gleaning, or redistributing food that might be wasted to mouths that are in need.
Harding said the barrier-free food shelf serves 600 to 800 people and runs out of food the last week of almost every month. While they often receive non-perishable food, they are in need of fresh produce to help families create healthy meals and teach children good eating habits.
“If everyone donated one to two tomatos from each community garden plot, that could mean a whole bin for the food shelf from each community garden that donates,” Harding said. “We’re aiming for people to dedicate a whole row to the food shelf next spring.”
Harding said the food shelf will also take the extras that gardeners might have after canning, cooking and sharing their produce.
Like the food shelves, the Hub is only as strong as its contributors.
“It’s not just a program to get things, but also to give back to your community,” Nadja Berneche said. “It really runs on strength of its members--it couldn’t exist without them.”
©2012 Como Green Village