Think-tanking about Solutions

Cross posted with revisions from Minnesota 2020’s Hindsight Blog

I spent my time in the Twin Cities this summer with Summer of Solutions. Since that summer, I’ve been thinking about intersections between the abstract concepts of “the economy” and “the environment” and the communities where these ideas become realities. During my fall semester at Macalester, I’ve been spending time at an internship for Minnesota 2020, a progressive non-partisan public policy think-tank in the Twin Cities, and I have the opportunity to write about moving Minnesota’s economic policy forward.

of  ago, Will Allen from Growing Power Inc (Milwaukee, WI) spoke at Macalester’s campus at a fundraiser dinner for the Women’s Environmental Institute. It was awesome. In the audience I recognized the faces of Cities organizers, activists and entrepreneurs that I had met through Summer of Solutions. Allen’s speech and got me thinking about how permaculture could go statewide and mainstream, so I got to write about it for MN2020:

The turn toward blustery and freezing weather this week signals the end of harvest season here in Minnesota and the beginning of even more Californian, Mexican and South American imports. Meaning that multi-national agriculture corporation owners will benefit from more of our food dollars.

The world’s warmer regions certainly have an advantage when it comes to year-round food production. Large-scale agricultural methods could not support any crop through a Minnesotan winter.  But thanks to innovative and sustainable growing techniques, fresh salad greens grown in Milwaukee and fresh tomatoes grown in southern Minnesota are becoming an affordable option for consumers.

At most grocery stores in Mankato, Rochester and the Twin Cities you can find Bushel Boy tomatoes, grown in Owatonna, Minnesota, on the shelves all winter long. Bushel Boy grows its tomatoes in greenhouses without pesticides or herbicides. Bees pollinate the tomatoes and predator insects eat any pests that appear. Because Bushel Boy’s produce doesn’t travel thousands of miles to get to a grocery store, these local, vine-ripened vegetables have better nutritional value than their artificially ripened counter-parts.

Over in Milwaukee, Growing Power Inc, a non-profit urban farming organization, takes sustainable, job-creating food production a few steps further. Growing Power’s intensive urban farm design combines raising fish, livestock, poultry, and fresh produce with solar panels, compost, and an anerobic digestor that generate enough heat and electricity to power green houses through the winter. At their Milwaukee location, a two acre urban farm employs 35 full-time staff; generates revenue by selling compost, meat and produce; and offers classes and workshops for folks in the neighborhood. Growing Power unites sustainable food production, economic development and social justice.

Bushel Boy and Growing Power set examples of what year-round farming in Minnesota could look like. Both use efficient, common-sense methods that support the local economy and produce healthy and more cost-competitive food year round. There is still a long way to go before we can make these  systems a widespread reality. The first step is to recognize that economic development takes many forms, including through local, innovative and sustainable agriculture.”

I will continue to think about ways to communicate what I learned and experienced during SOS this semester…Check out MN2020’s blog or website!

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