1) The Women's Environmental Institute (WEI) has worked with Little Earth of United Tribes (LEOUT) housing complex to create its own urban farm over the last three years, including a hoop house. This farm is being built on reclaimed land that was once a high school and then became state highway right-of-way land. The land has since been ceded to LEOUT. The Little Earth farm is one of the first to have its own hoop house in South Minneapolis. It was constructed in a partnership between WEI and the Little Earth Youth Program. The Minneapolis Community Action Agency funded WEI's engineer, Charlie Hatch, to mentor and instruct 12 - 15 Little Earth teens to build the hoop house using the method we train with from Will Allen's Growing Power, Inc. They bent the hoops and built it from the ground up. It helped greatly extend the 2011 growing season at Little Earth, allowing them to eat and market some of the latest locally grown organic herbs, tomatoes, and peppers in the city. 2) This past year, the Women's Environmental Institute has helped pull together a local coalition, now known as the 24th St. Urban Farm, that will be the construction site of our second South Minneapolis hoop house. This urban farm is part of an Indigenous Native American, Latino and African immigrant cultural wellness corridor that is emerging in South Minneapolis. In the 2011 growing season, youth from the Indigenous People's Task Force worked with adult mentors to construct raised beds for this urban farm that included a base of wood chips and compost built in the shape of sun-rays. WEI contributed organically grown seedlings. The farm is being created above ground that is likely to be contaminated (as is most inner city urban land in the U.S.) so we use the Growing Power, Inc. model, growing on raised beds and developing composting to create new safe and enriched soil. This Spring, the seeds for the 24th St. Urban Farm will be started in one of the hoop houses at WEI’s rural Amador Hill farm campus and then transplanted. We will be building the 24th St. Hoop House this summer, funds pending, and WEI's engineer will work with youth pre-apprentices who will learn how to construct it. The growers at this urban farm are part of the Community Food Justice Council, created as a collaboration between WEI and the Environmental Justice Advocates of MN with support from a USDA funded grant.
3) Pershing Park Urban Farm in South Minneapolis will most likely be the site of WEI's third hoop house constructed in Minneapolis. For the past several years Pershing Park has incorporated a local foods program into its Rec Plus after school and summer program. This year Rec Plus is hoping to construct a hoop house with youth learning to do the construction from scratch alongside WEI's engineer/instructor. This will bring Pershing Park's youth gardening curriculum to the cutting edge of the city's local food production efforts. Pershing's Rec Plus program has incorporated the Green Thumbs program into the everyday activities of its 6-12 year old participants. With a hoop house on site Pershing Park hopes to significantly expand on its"garden to snack" program by extending the growing season. Kids, parents and neighbors have all been brought together in this exciting community building project. Funding support for this program would mean that the Pershing Park will be able to model unique youth programming that has the potential to extend into neighborhood parks throughout Minneapolis with other youth gardening programs.
4) WEI expects to construct a fourth hoop house with the North Minneapolis urban farm known as Kwansa Community Church Urban Farm. It is also a part of the Community Food Justice Program that is a partnership between WEI and EJAM. Kwanza will partner with St. James Community Church farm to build and operate the hoop house for their mutual benefit, including extending the season to grow culturally traditional African American foods for community consumption, for processing into various products and for farmer's market sales. This will build upon the non-toxic and natural cosmetic products that one Kwanza member created and marketed last year including lip balm and lotion using herbs from the farm.
5) WEI will consider constructing a fifth hoop house in North East Minneapolis with the McKinley Urban CSA Farm. Construction funds will be needed to create this opportunity.
6) Contact has also been made with the Apple Valley School of Environmental Studies to build a hoophouse in their Partnership Garden, and several other metro community gardening/farming groups. We are excited about pressing forward to create sustainable, organic local food hubs that can continue to provide fresh produce even during the cold winter months of Minnesota. Hoop houses heated with hot compost and solar energy are parts of WEI's vision for these neighborhood based food justice projects.
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