FREE SPEECH ZONE | Urban farming needs you

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Activism is often wound up with community gardening, and vice versa.

Becca blogs at Persistent Press

The UrbanFarm in Southeast Como neighborhood has been a home for sage, spinach, collard greens, chives, and sustainable construction projects, as a dynamic community garden for the past ten years. Its resident farmer and food deliverer, Mr. Peterson, now needs volunteers’ help more than ever.

Organic farming in the city is drawing a lot of interest, but unless the City steps in, it can’t pay any interest—or fees or back-taxes, for that matter. This summer back-taxes are due, and though weekly fundraisers have brought people to UrbanFarm this spring, the garage sales and plant sales haven’t raised enough to save the farm. The City may send police to block Peterson from his house as it decides what to do with his property in the middle of a middle-income neighborhood full of young families.

Who will step up to water the compost pile and weed the beds that span three back lawns, while Peterson is kept away? Who will continue the tradition of carrying buckets of fresh produce on a bike trailer around town, to donate to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center and to charities?
As Peterson appeals the property taxes, neighbors and volunteers will likely decide the fate of UrbanFarm, by meeting up at its monthly bonfire and open house this June.

They too can appeal to the City– for example, for the gardens’ adoption into one of many new ‘green’ initiatives under the umbrella of Homegrown Minneapolis. As part of the Department of Health and Family Support, the initiative’s four subcommittees could provide for proposed projects like small enterprise urban agriculture, locally grown foods in schools, and backyard gardening learning opportunities for youth. They could even integrate these aims—as Peterson did over the years at UrbanFarm.

It has been a place where neighborhood children and Dinkytown youth alike visit and help with the shoveling; where amateur musicians jam on Open House days and college students browse the numerous stacks of science books; where Peterson’s black Labradors greet new volunteers; where kindred spirits in the city meet each other and share produce they help to harvest. It still can be this way.

The super-insulated structures’ solar panels, circulation system, underground water storage and thermal mass stood as examples of innovative architecture for neighbors interested in sustainable living. Peterson himself has been an example of humble activism with his actions, teaching others how to continue the routines at UrbanFarm.

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