Minneapolis expands community garden program

While space for private gardens may be hard to find, the city of Minneapolis currently has vacant lots available through its Homegrown program.  Established in 2010 by the Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support, the program offers garden plots to non-profit organizations. Community gardens can be used for individual plots or communal projects, ranging in focus from educational space to flower beds, green art space, and vegetable plots.  The non-profit organization must provide its own liability insurance.In its mission statement, Homegrown simply defines a community garden as “a lot where a group grows and maintains plants for food, for beauty, or both.  The lots offered through the Homegrown program have been deemed unfit for development, securing their use through the course of a one or three-year lease.  This means the gardeners can retain use year in and year out, instead of being pushed to the wayside when commercial interests knock at the door. Applications and site maps can be found on Homegrown’s website.Local non-profit Gardening Matters has documented more than 300 community gardens in the Twin Cities metro alone.  With such growth, the demand for plots has skyrocketed.   Minneapolis boasts one of the oldest and largest community gardens in the country in Dowling Community Garden. With 185 plots covering nearly four acres, demand is so high that Dowling has closed its waitlist. Community gardens are defined by their contributions to the entire neighborhood: not only do they offer much need green space, but they bring people together while presenting outlets for healthy eating, exercise, and sharing knowledge.  Members may join because of social concerns or simply because, as Jeffrey Loesch, Treasurer and Communications Coordinator at Dowling says, “Our home is beautifully landscaped, with no room for a vegetable garden.”  The emphasis on the group distinguishes community gardens from urban farms, which are typically run for profit—though both are often based on sustainable practices. The recent boom in interest has a number of causes.  The economic downturn has increased consumers’ need for affordable foods.  Separately, there has been a growing movement away from industrial convenience food in favor of more healthy, local alternatives.  Gardening serves both of these ends, as well as reconnecting growers to the soil and the ecosystem of which they are a part. As Margaret Shields, Education and Outreach Coordinator at Gardening Matters explains, community gardens aren’t simply a hobby, “[they] are a serious contributor to family food budgets, personal and community health, and so much more.”  The gardens bring neighbors together in their community while reducing both budget and carbon footprint. “It is great to get more people growing food and to have them participating in that process,” adds Homegrown’s June Mathiowetz.  “We know that community gardens are good for communities and developing social connections, and just getting people to eat more healthy food.” Continue Reading

FREE SPEECH ZONE | Gardeners Get Involved

An optimist looking over their own garden fence might be inclined to say something like “Wow, the vegetable patch is half full.”  A pessimist looking at the same plot would say, “shucks, the vegetable patch is half empty.” but when a givingperson comes upon that same garden they say “Look at all those vegetables, I’m going to go find some hungry people.” Gardeners are natural givers, because the garden teaches us the importance of giving.  When we give our plants compost, they thrive and produce.  When we give our bodies home grown foods, we thrive and are productive.  When we share all this productive health by giving the gift of access to gardening to folks who wouldn’t otherwise have it, we share one of the most profoundly transformative gifts imaginable.  For many a gardener there’s almost no greater feeling then to share a skill, tool, piece of land, or even just a nice conversation that will help another gardener grow.  Minneapolis is a giving and green city.  As a gardener and volunteer, there’s never a shortage of great organizations here that I can get involved with in order to share the gifts gardening can give.Gardening Matters a Minneapolis based non-profit agency that exists at the center of the Minneapolis community gardening scene.  These smart gardeners have been busy organizing social service providers citywide in order to help them work together in the garden.  Many local agencies such as Waite House, Sabathani Community Center and Youth Farm and Market Project have already been working to increase Minneapolis residents’ access to gardening for decades.  Gardening Matters plan is to link up all these great organizations along with local gardening volunteers and businesses to create Garden Resource Hubs that residents in need can access for garden classes and information, planting space and gardening resources.  Hoping to have these hubs up and running by the spring of 2011, Gardening Matters is working with activists, businesses, and neighbors from across the city in this grand effort. Free Speech ZoneThe Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases. Continue Reading

Little prairie in the big city

Imagination is a big part of gardening. One must look beyond the plain, weedy pedestrian vista taking up space in the now and envision something with decided grandeur — or at least a yard not quite so ho-hum. If that future-landscape bliss could be a verdant paradise that took care of itself, so much the better. If that is what you see — a beautiful garden space requiring hardly any watering, fertilizing, pesticides or time — then visit the Eco-Yard Midtown and let your imagination run wild. Established by Hennepin County Environmental Services, the eco-yard is located at the southwest corner of South 28th Street and Hiawatha Avenue, adjacent to the Midtown Greenway bike and pedestrian trail. Continue Reading