Posted on Sep 30, 2019

EcoEducation: Pillsbury United Communities: Urban Agriculture

The free community dinner provided at the Oak Park Center was just finishing up when members of the Twin Cities Rotary EcoClub arrived to hear more about the Center's urban farming from Ethan Neal (EcoClub member and Food System Manager at Pillsbury United Communities).  Many of the vegetables used in the preparation of that meal came from the urban farm at the back of the center. 

Ethan shared some history of Pillsbury United Communities, a little about the Oak Park Center site, and a lot about the challenges that near by residents face obtaining nutritious and fresh foods.  His work with urban agriculture at the Oak Park site as well as other sites around the city work to address those challenges. 

The large garden in the back of the center not only produces food for the kitchen at Oak Park, but also creates enough surplus that vegetables and greens can be brought to the nearby North Market and sold.  The North Market is a grocery store, wellness center and community meeting place.  Read more about the North Market here.  The produce is transported to the market on bicycle.  Not only is this a green mode of transport, but the riders are homeless teens.  The transport work provides experience, bicycle maintenance skills, and a paycheck.  

A newer addition to the urban farm is a hydroponic growing trailer (soon to be solar powered).  The converted semi trailer will extend the growing season.  The kitchen at Oak Park will have locally grown produce in the middle of January. Can't be more local than your backyard!  The hydroponic growing methods also use substantially less water to obtain a yield equal to what could be grown on 1.2 acres using traditional methods. 

That is just a peak at the closed-loop system that Ethan and his team envisions.  Healthy food that a community needs, grown by members of the community (which in turn grows their skills and connectedness)  

Members of the EcoClub learn more about the garden at Oak Park Center.