Minneapolis plan promotes urban ag


Kirsten Saylor has done something that few parents have ever accomplished — her children enjoying eating their vegetables.

Through the Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis, Saylor has grown several varieties of broccoli and carrots that she and her family relish.

“My oldest eats broccoli like nobody’s business,” she said.

Community gardens and the prospects of urban agriculture are looking promising for Minneapolis, where the practice has been gaining city support. On Thursday, the public will be able to review and comment on the Urban Agricultural Policy Plan draft.

The draft deals primarily with land use, setting a policy framework that encourages and makes changes to zoning for urban farming, Minneapolis city planner Amanda Arnold said. It would change city regulations to allow farmers to sell their produce.

Having green space and promoting gardening is healthy for the environment and citizens, Saylor said.

“We’ve become very disconnected as a society from … what food is,” she said. “The growing of food is a really important way for us to understand how we live impacts the earth.”

The plan emerged two years ago when Homegrown Minneapolis — a city program that promotes consumption of healthy, locally grown food — was launched.

Through Homegrown Minneapolis, the city has made several changes to policy, including allowing beekeeping and indoor famers markets and requiring corner markets to carry at least five varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Community gardens have also been part of the plan.

More than 100 community gardens, totaling more than 18 acres, are used in Minneapolis. The city made 18 plots available in the past year, and five of them are being leased, said June Mathiowetz, coordinator for Homegrown Minneapolis.

The city is currently planning to launch a “local food resource network” for Minneapolis residents. For a membership fee, residents get access to seeds, seedlings, gardening tools and classes on the best practices, Mathiowetz said.

Children benefit from the urban agriculture plan as well, Mathiowetz said, by learning about plants and having human interaction with them.

“[We] need places in our lives where we can get down and dirty,” she said. “Kids need a place to interact with the soil.”

Urban agriculture is healthier and more sustainable than mass production of food, Saylor said, and the recent contamination of food with E. coli is an example of this.

“That’s what happens when you have an industrial agriculture,” Saylor said. “As a country, we need to rethink how we do our food, and urban ag is one of the ways to address that.”