Arable Land to Aquaponics: Urban Farming in the Twin Cities

By Kalpana Vallabhaneni

During World War II, 20 million Americans planted “victory gardens” and they grew 40% of this nation’s produce supply. Urban farming is something that has been around for decades and has already proven itself. It can support America, so why not prove it again to people who don’t believe us? Urban Farming is not only used to create an abundance of food for people in need by planting gardens on unused land and space in the city, but it is also used to cut down on crime, beautify neighborhoods, and increase health and wellness around specific community.

Participants in Summer of Solutions in the Twin Cities have been working long and hard on a variety of projects ranging from maintaining an aquaponics system to weeding gardens to researching the cities vacant lots to find arable land for new urban farms.  With over 20 participants focusing their energy and effort into specific projects there has been a lot of success all over the cities.

Many people assume that urban farming is planting vegetables, fruits, and herbs in open spaces in a city and it is, but urban farming can be so much more! A small group has been working on a urban chicken coop! They have been researching various locations, chickens, and a design so they can build the best coop in town. Thus far in the summer they have located a space in Minneapolis and are starting to build the coop this week. They are still trying to figure out which chickens are the best–in terms of the care they require and the number of eggs they lay. After talking to some locals who already have chicken coops and using their best tool, the internet, they will determine which chickens to put into this handmade chicken coop in Minneapolis.

Another group of participants are focusing their energy into generating their value through crime prevention at the Harrison Neighborhood Association Peace Garden.

Look at all the muscle we bring the the garden!

This farm was started to help stop violence, prostitution, and drug trafficking. The simple tasks of weeding and beautifying this farm has helped keep this previous prostitution corner a safe, healthy, and beautiful street corner for community members to enjoy and cherish. With a small but powerful group, they are able to help keep the Harrison Neighborhood Association Peace Garden be a safer and happier place.

We not only generate value for the community through Urban Farming but many of us are gaining personal value through farmer trainings, beautification, and researching vacant arable lots around the cities. There is a group of participants who are interested in the physical processes of Urban Farming.

Look at that broken piano part that is now a beautiful sign for the garden!

Concrete Beet has multiple young Urban Farmers who  started urban farms recently by taking a vacant lot. They worked out logistical details with the landowner and covered the entire lot with a garden. Now they are helping participants learn the ins and outs of CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares and the physical labor or harvesting, planting, and planning. A few participants are also researching the cities vacant lots to see if empty lots could be turned into new urban farms. They research the price, location, and soil quality, because farmers needs arable land for a garden to be successful. There is another group who is helping with the beautification of the farms. Most recently they have rescued a broken piano and hand painted beautiful signs on the old, damaged piano pieces. These signs are displayed around various parts of the garden.

The last Urban Agriculture project that participants from the Twin Cities are working on is with a 5O1C3 non-profit, YEA (Youth Enterprising Agents) Corps. There are about 15 YEA Corps participants who are working as interns at YEA Corps who are each focusing on different aspects of indoor urban farming. YEA Corps is working to empower youth with job skills and sustainable education. YEA Corps is not the typical urban farming project to many people but it still focuses on sustainable food production in an urban setting. Their current focus is on mushrooms, aquaponics, and vermacomposting. Each intern has a different aspect that he or she is focusing on ranging from being a mushroom specialist to learning how to treat the vermacompost. Some of the interns are working on research while others are filming videos for YEA Corps. There is a wide variety of job skills and indoor urban farming expertise that are being learned everyday at YEA Corps.

So far this summer we have accomplished a lot all over Minneapolis and we look forward to seeing how much more we can do! We are all gaining valuable skills and knowledge by helping the community around us!

4 thoughts on “Arable Land to Aquaponics: Urban Farming in the Twin Cities

  1. How did you find these projects? I am interested in working on projects like these. How can I get involved?

  2. You guys are doing such awesome things. I might look into this for next summer.

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