FREE SPEECH ZONE | Environmental Justice Growing Anew on the North Side


Urban gardens and farms are popping up across North Minneapolis, redefining environmental justice as a quest for solutions for urban spaces.  This June and July a team of young people, working on a project called Summer of Solutions, are teaming up with local neighborhood organizations in North Minneapolis to address food security and accessibility issues as a path to social and environmental justice. The gardens and farms will feed many people in the area later in the summer and help people, “look at land in a new way,” in the words of Annie Young, an Environmental Justice organizer with the Harrison Neighborhood Association (HNA). 

Summer of Solutions (SoS) is in its third summer, but this is the first summer these so-called “Solutionaries” are working on urban agriculture.  SoS is made up of 30 full and part time participants, most of whom are college and high school students.  SoS promotes a comprehensive vision for the future to solve problems ofsocial, economic, and environmental justice.  

On the Northside, Summer of Solutions is supporting a food security project of Environment Committee of the HNA.  Annie Young, who serves as staff person for several gardens in this project, described Harrison is a “food desert,” where there are, “few grocery stores and people don’t have access to healthy food.”

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Young and the SoS participants are excited to develop a new type of environmental justice, right on the Northside.  Young imagines, “people taking care of gardens on city land, instead of tax payer dollars going to maintain them.”  She stresses the multiple benefits of gardens, including to, “provide healthy food to community members, build community, and prevent crime by getting people to meet their neighbors.”  Annie believes, “food can be a new revolution.”

SoS is helping with their three food gardens and one flower garden. Beets, carrots, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and more are already sprouting in the Logan Ave community garden, new this year.  Residents passing by are drawn into the space, and plans are underway for more plots to be built to accommodate new gardeners. In the words of participant David Isenberg, “Working with the Harrison Neighborhood Association has been a great way for us to get to know the North Side community and work together as partners toward our common goals.”

These projects show the success of urban agriculture in North Minneapolis.  Members of Summer of Solutions and local residents are learning the skills to maintain these sites in years to come.  Isenberg commented, “Even after this summer ends, the skills we have learned and the infrastructure we have built will continue to benefit the people of Harrison.”