On August 31st, I spent the day touring urban agriculture here in the Twin Cities. More than 80 people from all segments of our community visited sites in both Minneapolis and St. Paul where people are growing good food in creative and inventive ways. The tour was organized by University of Minnesota Extension and the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research & Extension program.
The first tour stop featured the Urban Garden Youth Employment Summer 2010 Program and their inventive system of growing vegetables in lasagna beds - layers of organic matter placed on the asphalt along the edge of a parking lot. Other stops included rooftop farming in action and a visit to a mini farmers market on the Augsburg College campus in Minneapolis. We also toured J&J Distributing's 100,000 square foot facility that handles a full range of conventional, organic, and value added fresh and dried produce. That stop underscored the logistics challenges of distributing a diverse array of produce products to supermarkets and food service operations.
I drove home excited about all the energy there is in our community around growing and consuming food. I was also amazed by the ingenuity of the urban farmers we visited. At the same time, I was mindful of the challenges associated with scaling activities like urban farming up to the level that will feed significant numbers of people while vast expanses of fertile farmland exist not far from the city centers of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Our food system is evolving. Some of the experiments that are part of that evolution will be successful and others will not, but there is much to learn in the process.
For more information on urban agriculture activities in our community, visit the Twin Cities Urban Ag Connection at http://www.tcurbanag.com/.
USDA's National Agricultural Library web site on Urban Agriculture and Community Gardening is a great starting place for information about activities elsewhere around the country.