Some call it Farm-to-Table, others Farm-to-Fork. Knowing where the food on your plate comes from may be the “it” thing of the decade, but for many in Minnesota, the local food “movement” has been a way of life for generations. And with reason: for a brief few months out of the year, our climate is perfect for growing all sorts of produce from sweet Midwestern corn and tomatoes to hearty root vegetable and leafy greens.
Earlier this spring, Roy and Talin gave us a look at Minneapolis’ farmers’ market culture with their beautiful pieces on the Minneapolis Farmers’ Market and a profile of the founder of the newer Mill City Farmers’ Market. This week, I’ll interview two people who bring their commitment to sourcing food locally right into their own backyards - bonus: they both happen to be City Correspondents!
Peter, you were an obvious choice for this article. Most people who know you are aware of your chicken coop! Can you tell us how you first started raising hens?
"We started our flock two years ago. Our primary interest was to have a supply of fresh eggs. We selected three breeds based on their egg yield, suitability for the Minnesota climate, and temperaments. The coop was built using materials salvaged from a business down the street. One of the best things about having chickens has been the connection with other people in our neighborhood who also raise them.”
What advice do you have for people wanting to get into urban farming?
"One of the main reasons we started producing our own food was because we wanted to make sure we were eating healthy food that is ethically sourced. Unfortunately, the soil in many established urban neighborhoods may have contaminants due to environmentally unfriendly practices in the past. Using raised beds with good soil or straw bales is a way to make sure you control what minerals and nutrients make their way into your produce."
Rita, what is your favorite part about growing your own food?
“Vegetable gardening is so fulfilling (literally and figuratively!) and I love that my kids are growing up knowing where their food comes from and how it’s grown (much like their farmer ancestors!). As they get older, we involve them in every step of the process: from planting to cultivating and, of course, harvesting and eating!
We started with two raised bed gardens (about 15 square meters) four years ago, but we have slowly added pots of vegetables all over the place - at our peak last year, we had 12 different heirloom tomato varieties! We also have epic raspberry bushes with fruit that that will ripen any day now. Friends and family affectionately call our house ‘Fillmore Farms’ (after the name of our street).”
You’ve recently started raising chickens too? What prompted that?
“One of the coolest things that’s come out of gardening has been connecting with other neighbors who also have turned their yards into mini-farms. We are lucky to have next door-neighbors with a chicken coop. The coop, however, had been sitting empty for a year or so and when they asked us and another family if we would help out this year, we happily said yes! This spring, 6 new chicks moved in - one for each child in our three families - and we’ll hopefully start getting eggs by the end of the summer.”
Thank you Peter & Rita for giving us some insight into Urban Farming in Minneapolis. How is urban farming done in your city? We'd love to know!
- Waqar -