The Urban Farm Collective

woman with vegetable
9/21/20

Minneapolis College’s student gardening club, The Urban Farm Collective, has existed in one form or another for nearly 10 years. Students and staff interested in plants, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, reducing food deserts, and providing food security have devoted thousands of volunteer hours over the years to supporting these efforts.

After beginning their gardening at an off-campus location in 2012, the club was able to work with college administrators to construct raised bed planters on the vacant lot next to the Wells Family College Center Building (H. Alden Smith House) at Yale Place and Spruce Street. Unfortunately, this location had to be abandoned with the sale of the land and building in 2017. The planters were deconstructed, and all materials were placed in indefinite storage.

Continuing the Garden’s Legacy
For 2.5 years, club members advocated for, and ultimately helped shape, the Minneapolis Park Board’s Community Agriculture policy. In 2019, the college’s planters were donated to the Park Board for use by the Urban Farm Collective as well as community members from the Loring Park neighborhood. Minneapolis College Facilities staff cooperated with Minneapolis Park Board staff in the relocation and reassembly of the donated beds in one-half of the former horseshoe courts in Loring Park.

The club was allocated use of 60 percent of the garden space and the other 40 percent went to neighbors who signed up and were selected through Park Board’s equity-based criteria. Former club president and Minneapolis College alum, Charles Karter said, “I'm glad that we [had] this opportunity to continue [the garden’s] legacy with the Park Board, and more so, we can now grow our communities together by joining our neighbors in Loring Park in the act of Urban Agriculture. I can't wait to see what grows from this seed of community we just planted."

In February and March 2020, just as the excitement for the club was taking off after a couple of seed starting events, all plans were put on hold due to the pandemic. However, in late May, following proper safety protocols, fewer than 10 people gathered in an outdoor area and most of the seeds that were started indoors were transplanted.

Fruits of Their Labor
The pandemic, social unrest, encampments of the unhoused in the Loring Park area and economic uncertainties were all challenges in their own way, but through the end of August the club saw a regular group of students showing up each week to weed, harvest, plant more seeds, water and maintain the gardens.

The club members themselves get first choice of the fruits of their labor, but every time produce was harvested, the surplus was donated to the Food Pantry operated on a weekly basis by Minneapolis College’s Student Support Center.

Biology Major Emily Quealy will be helping to lead the club through the fall harvest and into the next growing season. “This was somewhat of an experimental year,” said Emily, “next year, I'm hoping to be better prepared to plan out for the season. I'm hoping we can have a map of the garden layout and a list of seeds we wish to plan for those plots. We hope lots of new students will see the success of this first year and decide to join the club to help build off of it.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Urban Farm Collective or want to find out how you can get involved, connect with their Microsoft Team!