The green beaning of St. Paul


Some day soon, when the ice has finally melted, St. Paul will be a little greener than it was before this winter’s historical snowstorms.  And in a neighborhood with some of the lowest income households in the city, green beans will be clinging to chain-link fences and growing vibrantly throughout the spring.

The urban inspiration comes from Frogtown Gardens, a volunteer organization comprised of optimistic and dedicated St. Paul residents.  Their hope is that they, along with the community, can plant the seeds that will one day help in overcoming the Frogtown neighborhood’s problems with crime and pollution.  “We may be poor financially,” their website admits, “but we are rich in history, diversity… and so much more.”

The growth of the community, according to Frogtown Gardens, starts in your own backyard.  This May, its members will be going door to door helping residents get started.  They’ll plant green beans on and around fences throughout the neighborhood, creating a green shield that represents health, nature, and the continuing growth of the community.  According to Patricia Ohmans, a public health consultant who works with Frogtown Gardens, green beans “serve as a symbol of how easy neighborhood greening can be, which is part of [our] message.”

The group’s humble roots trace back to a series of meetings in 2009, when it met to discuss issues such as soil contamination.  But in 2010, when 150 people attended one event, they saw an opportunity to work for a better future for the community.

In response, they spent the winter gearing up for the next phase of Frogtown Gardens, which extends far beyond green beans.  Their mission is to develop, protect and support various community resources and programs.  Specifically, their wish is to develop a 13-acre plot of land in the center of the neighborhood formerly occupied by the Wilder Foundation.  Their proposal calls for the land to be purchased by the city of St. Paul and converted into a public area that includes gardens, walking paths, a skating pond, and a picnic and play area for children.  They have received letters of support from members of the Minnesota legislature, and even one from Betty McCollum, but their plan is yet to be approved by the Wilder Foundation.  “We’ve been trying to get everybody in the same room,” Ohmans told me

If you want to get involved with the organization, you can monitor their website for upcoming meetings which are held at Rondo Library during the winter and at the homes of group members during the summer.  A community dinner is scheduled on April 30 to meet and plan for the green bean campaign.  In addition, Frogtown Gardens volunteers Ohmans and Seitu Jones will be the keynote speakers at the Gardening Matters Resource Fair on Saturday, April 2 at the Sabathani Center in Minneapolis.

Coverage of issues and events that affect Central Corridor neighborhoods and communities is funded in part by a grant from Central Corridor Collaborative.