The Diner


In a booth at Red Hot’s, I think about the mechanics of a non-profit solar provider and eat what’s becoming my regular breakfast: eggs, bacon, home fries, coffee, and wheat toast. Jut once, I tried to order breakfast past 11am and have never lived it down. Red Hot’s is a family-owned restaurant; Carol takes your order, Rich works the grill, and while you eat they bicker, gossip, discuss their city, and catch up with their customers. This is why my breach of conduct, my post 10:59 breakfast order, will live in a small circle of infamy for the foreseeable future. The world of Highland Park is full of uncertainty, scarcity, and emergency financial managers, but Red Hot’s is somehow separate – a stable port in a storm.

Continue reading

Coming Together Over Food

Cross-posted from Growing Food and Sustainability

GFS kicked off this fall with two bountiful, joyful events!  On October 15th we worked with the MHS Ecology Club to put on the 8th annual Organic Dinner.  It was really exciting because this was the first year the meal included produce that was grown in the school gardens.  As has become tradition, The Roman Candle Pizzeria catered the main course, which was a pasta dish containing our veggies, Clasen’s, a local bakery, provided bread sticks, and the Chocolate Shoppe donated ice cream.

In order to have enough fresh veggies in the middle of October, a few weeks ahead of time we harvested a bunch of kale, onions, peppers, and eggplant and blanched and froze them so we could have fresh veggies, in the pasta dish.  We also harvested kale the day of the event for a fresh kale salad.  Between the dinner and the silent auction, the event raised $1,400 which will be split between the Ecology Club, the school’s Envirothon team, our program Growing Food and Sustainability, and the Friends of Pheasant Branch, the stewards of our local nature preserve.

It was a really great experience to work with both of the high school Ecology Clubs on the Organic Dinner.  There was a lot of fun to be had harvesting the veggies and I think the experience of creating a delicious, sustainable meal to serve to their teachers, friends and family was really rewarding.

MHS Ecology Club students preparing kale and eggplant

Continue reading

Celebrating a Bounty of Food, Friends, and Fun

Cross-posted from Growing Food and Sustainability

Yesterday was our biggest event of the summer, our Harvest Festival! We invited friends, family, neighbors, and community members to join us in a celebration of Growing Food and Sustainability’s first summer. Much has happened since Natalie and I first dreamed-up this program last October. A few highlights include…

  • Creating a 5,000 square foot Youth Farm where we have harvested 923 pounds of produce to date
  • Running a 9-week summer program for 26 students from 4-16 years old
  • Donating (and delivering with our bike trailer) 373 pounds of produce to the Middleton Outreach Ministry Food Pantry and 145 pounds to the Middleton Senior Center
  • Composting 887 pounds of food waste from Bloom Bake Shop and Roman Candle Pizzeria
  • Building a team of youth leaders to run our program. Ain and Lauren, our full-time participants, we simply couldn’t have done any of this without you! And to all of our committed part-time participants (Abby, Alyson, Asha, Colin, Katie, Lennea, Liz, Matthew, Morgan, Neil, and Teague), you kept our program rolling and contributed your talents and energy exactly when we needed them!

And now about that Harvest Festival…

Our wonderful volunteers made sure that everything ran smoothly and that everyone had fun! There were games, activities, music, and food for all to enjoy!

Farm Stand and Bake Sale at the Harvest Festival

Lauren putting our bike trailer to another use…

Bike-powered Hay Rides!

Our long-time friend and artist, Cathi, came all of the way from Chicago to run a ceramic plate-making activity! It was a hug hit with kids and adults of all ages.

Making ceramic plates!

Some of the kids took charge over the activities. Here, 6-year-old Elizabeth is running the face painting table.

Family face-painting

Seeing the faces of so many friends (old and new) at the Harvest Festival made me feel so supported in this work. Grandparents, parents, and family friends who have watched me and Natalie grow-up were there to cheer us on. I also realized how many new connections GFS has made within the community and how many new people I can now call friends. It felt incredible to know that the GFS team created this beautiful community in just one summer, and that these friendships and connections will continue to grow into the future.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to making our Harvest Festival such a success. We had so much fun celebrating with you and your generosity helped us to raise over $500 to send a group of our youth leaders to the Summer of Solutions National Gathering in Connecticut next week. THANK YOU!

~ Gabrielle, Program Leader

Getting Started and Planning for the Future

On day two of launch week, our Summer of Solutions team met with representatives from partner organizations that we would be working with throughout the summer. When the meeting began there was about 15 of us and we all introduced ourselves. Our partners gave background about their organization and how they helped benefit the community.

Common areas of focus were energy efficiency, transportation and local food and farming. Some of our partners include Million Monarchs, Zenger Farm, Green Lents, Foster Green, Urban League and Mt. Scott Community Center. Our meeting was held at Mt Scott Community Center, which is in the neighborhood where we would be canvassing.

We then went on a walking tour throughout the town of Lents. Our leaders taught us the history of the city and our group had a chance to grow accustomed to the area that we would help to improve. It was interesting to see the diversity of people and the unique landscape of Lents.

The next day our group concentrated on identifying our goals for the summer. Our group filled out an asset map, which is a way for group members to identify what they and their co-workers can contribute to the team.

We also discussed what we would do if certain challenges were to arise such as if we were canvassing and some one who opens the door doesn’t speak English. We also put together a timeline so we will be able to keep track of our progress and estimate about how long certain projects may take.

A common goal of ours is improving the program from last year.  Everyone from our group was able to contribute ideas and will be able to use their skills to benefit the group. We hope to gain more media attention, get more people to participate in the neighborhood challenge, and host an event at the end of the summer.

Fayetteville Summer of Solutions Grows Community Power!

As Communications Facilitator for Summer of Solutions, I’m featuring every program to paint a broad picture of the depth and variety of solutions young people are building across the nation.

This post is drawn from a conversation I had with Amanda Bancroft, an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer at the OMNI Center for Peace, Justice, and Ecology. The main organizers of Fayetteville SoS are: Andrea Love, Maggie Strain, Karina Hunt, Banah Ghadbian, Jeanie Lopez-Hall, Chelsea Mouber, and Brian Kupillas. The post is co-authored by me and the Fayetteville team.

Leaders in the program have a strong interest in gardening and permaculture. There are already over 50 gardening projects, organizations, and networks in Fayetteville, and so Amanda sees the role of Summer of Solutions as one that will connect these already dynamic organizations together. The Fayetteville team has already partnered with the OMNI Center’s garden, the World Peace Wetlands Prairie, and the community garden at Unity church. In addition, the group has been given several acres of land and a greenhouse, which the team is hoping to develop for gardening.

Through building collective growing power in Fayetteville, Summer of Solutions participants will be facilitating a beautiful expansion of the amazing work already happening around the city.
Continue reading

Building strong initiatives means building strong communities

After today, our first week of Summer of Solutions – Twin Cities will be over.


It’s been tumultuous, fascinating, inspiring, and overwhelming all at once. I’ve had a lot of thinking to do, and not much time to sit down and meditate.

We’ve had a lot of good thought happening this week. I’ve met some really amazing people that I would really like to get to know. However, my own role in the Summer of Solutions seems to be a precarious one.

I don’t have nearly as much experience as most of the people I’m working with. And while that’s completely fine – I attended the SSC’s training program last summer, I have been working on my campus as best I can, but really, I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as these amazing people, and feel self-conscious about it. I know I don’t have as much experience to bring to the table, and am frustrated with myself for having wasted so much time not organizing.

I don’t want to come up with excuses for my lack of experience. It’s simply where I’m at right now in my activist journey. And I know that this summer, I will learn so much from these people.

Continue reading