24th Street Urban Farm Coalition’s Medicine Garden knits Minneapolis American Indian community together

Most community gardens are small rented plots, paid for and maintained by individuals who buy and plant the seeds and put in sweat equity for a small harvest. The 24th Street Urban Farm Coalition’s Medicine Garden (in Ojibwe, Mashkiikii Gitigan), in the Ventura Village neighborhood of Minneapolis, is different. Less a community garden and more a communal garden, it’s a place where members of the mostly American Indian community can come to help maintain, harvest fresh vegetables—sharing work, food, and knowledge.The garden, has been open since 2011, on a tract of land donated by and across from the Indian Health Board. The mission of the garden expanded this year when Christina Elias, its first farmer (yes, it’s an official title), was hired. Elias has gone beyond the garden’s original mission working, she says, to make this garden a place to come for community, art, spirit and connections to the Earth. “There’s a spiritual element,” said Elias, “that comes from making the garden beautiful and artistic. You can’t grow food without a spiritual connection.”In spiritual center of the garden is the Three Sister’s Spiral, a turtle shaped circle of corn, beans and squash plants. Continue Reading

Burmese Karen and Hmong refugees make Maplewood the land of a thousand gardens

If you travel to the east side of the Metro, past St. Paul to Maplewood, you’ll see something unexpected at the corner of Hazelwood Street and County Road C. There, 16.5 acres of land, nine of which are tillable, have been subdivided into 1,150 garden plots where 1,050 gardeners, mostly Burmese Karen and Hmong refugees, grow their favorite vegetables.Eh Thee Paw, a member of the ethnic Karen community from Burma, has her own small plot there, a 15 x 30 ft. section where she cultivates peas, cucumbers and other vegetables that may or may not have English names. It’s her second year at the garden. She met me there, with her young daughter Fancy Sunny in tow, to show me around.Paw was born in Burma but spent much of her life in a refugee camp in Thailand before coming to St. Continue Reading

3437 Garden: Powderhorn Park neighbors find it’s easy being green

Friday, June 14 was a busy day for the gardeners at 3437 Garden in the heart of South Minneapolis’s Powderhorn Park Neighborhood. The city-owned lot is one of 13 neighborhood gardens available to not-for-profit organizations willing to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops and pay some relatively small fees to grow their own food. The lots chosen are too small to develop and should remain gardens well into the future.“The way it works is a not-for-profit chooses a garden, comes in and says, ‘We’d like to lease a lot,’” says Jane Shey, the coordinator of Homegrown Minneapolis, a plan adopted by city hall in 2011 as part of a larger effort to encourage a healthy and sustainable local food culture. “It costs $1 a year for a three- to five-year lease. There’s a deposit that you get back at the end of the year. You have to have liability insurance and if it is through a neighborhood association, you can get a rider on your insurance. Continue Reading

Dowling Community Garden in Minneapolis: One of America’s two remaining Victory Gardens

Ethnic grocery stores—or standard supermarkets—aren’t the only place to get good food in the Twin Cities. Vegetable gardens are becoming more and more popular among locavores, fresh food fans, and organic eaters. People grow vegetables, not only for the food they produce but for the exercise, the friendships, and the fun. But there was a time when gardens meant a lot more. They meant saving the world for democracy.In 1943, as American troops were fighting the Axis Powers across North Africa and in the Pacific, civilians all over the U.S. were planting vegetables as a way to contribute to the war effort.“At one time during the war, 40 percent of the produce being grown in the United States was cultivated in Victory Gardens. Continue Reading

In Twin Cities, community gardens never sleep

As Minnesota temperatures drop to their least hospitable levels, many Twin Citizens enter a state of pseudo-hibernation, flitting in bundled isolation between the warm auras of their homes, cars, and offices. That’s why, at this time of year, a community garden is a perfect daydream: a place where we can dig our hands into warm soil, celebrate green and growing things, run into good people, and linger to chat in the sunshine.

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Community gardens, Minneapolis to St. Paul — kids, vegetables, and opera

I set out with map and camera in hand to tour community gardens in St Paul and Minneapolis on Saturday.  I expected to see squash in bloom and tomatoes ripening on the vine. And I did. But what impressed me even more than the bounty of the gardens was the bounty I saw in social relationships:  a sense of community in full bloom, a commitment to youth and a generosity that insists all people have locally-grown, healthy food, regardless of status or income.Ezra Blair spoke to me about growing up on the farm and knowing the hard work of it.  When asked to coordinate the Project Sweetie Pie garden at North End Community Gardens, it wasn’t fond memories of farm life that brought him in.  It was the chance to work with kids and to provide a level of support to them that might otherwise be absent.  Michael Chaney and others developed the program to teach kids about work and give them skills in marketing and entrepreneurship, as well as growing food.Students from MCTC told me how community had come together from the variety of folks who cross a little piece of pavement every day in downtown Minneapolis: some living at the adjacent Drake Hotel at the edge of homelessness and others from luxury condos at Grant Park; students, church workers, and Ameriprise employees from across the street.  The MCTC Urban Farm Collective gives away food every Wednesday in concert with Gethsemane Episcopal food shelf distribution.Jardin Paraiso was born out of a desire to build community and leadership amongst Latina women in south Minneapolis who were involved in Mujeres en Acción y Poder.  Across cultures and social groups, new gardens spring up and long established gardens thrive, bringing people out of their homes and into community spaces to grow food, friendships and beauty. The Return of Idomeneo, a Picnic Operetta, by Mixed PrecipitationCommunity Garden Day is produced by Gardening Matters. For more information: http://www.gardeningmatters.org/612-821-2358info@gardeningmatters.org Continue Reading