Minneapolis pilot program lends some dirt to community gardening

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Community gardening offers city dwellers an outlet for the desire to create and consume  healthy food, knowledge about what it takes to make that food, and the chance for neighbors to get acquainted and pursue a shared goal. Community gardens can be organized by many kinds of groups: non-profits, faith groups, block clubs, and others. The City of Minneapolis attempts to encourage more community gardens through the Community Garden Pilot Program, which started in 2010.

Several lots have been leased to community groups since the program began last year. The program leases lots only to not-for-profit organizations, which are then responsible for liability insurance, layout of the garden, and involving the community.

According to Elsfric Porte, Manager for Housing Development at the Minneapolis Office of Community Planning and Economic Development, there are approximately 10 lots still available for lease.  The lots, all soil tested, are part of the City’s inventory but cannot be developed for a variety of reasons.  He notes that the program has been well received and interest has been considerable.  “The concept is not foreign to Minneapolis – numerous gardening efforts are going on absent the use of public space,” says Porte.  In addition to neighborhood associations and church groups, he has witnessed partnering of smaller groups to obtain non-profit status, a requirement of the program.

Kirsten Saylor is Executive Director of Gardening Matters, a non-profit created to encourage and assist with community gardening and connect gardeners with resources to further their knowledge and opportunities.  She applauds the City’s intent to encourage a sense of community and healthy food consumption.  Saylor, however, would like to see even more direct involvement of gardeners and more outreach for public input in both process and experience.  “Community gardening has the power to knit communities together,” she says.  One of the challenges in this process, she notes, is recognizing that each gardener and each garden is unique.  In order to address this broad spectrum of skills and abilities, Gardening Matters connects gardeners with workshops, information, and each other for sharing of knowledge and even seeds or produce.

If you and your group of urban farmers are interested in finding out more about taking your back yard adventures one step further, now is a great time to start.  Land to lease in town, resources and people who want you to succeed can all help your group realize the joy of growing and sharing your own healthy, locally grown food.