A June Update

June carries the weight of growing pains. It is the month of the Firsts: the first long harvests, the first inescapable heat, the first unrelenting weeds, and the first CSA weeks. While we have set up many efficiencies (tools, systems, etc.), as a farm, and as a business so tied to the change of the city, another season brings the Firsts of June along with a slew of new ideas, projects, and people.

This season marks our fifth year and over these past five years we have had many partners, workers, and volunteers involved in managing and bringing energy to the farm. This season I am happy to be back farming full time with Caroline and Eric after a two year hiatus working to get our marketing and distributing coop, Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative, up and running. Annelise Brandel-Tanis- farmer and artist- is also working full time with us this year and she brings much curiosity, intention, and critique to the shuffle of harvests, hoes, and seedings around the city.  And over this past week we also hired on our neighbor Cynthia to help with harvest days and brought on six new workshare volunteers.

On top of tending the farm, this spring we have had some new projects and challenges:

  • Farmer-to-Farmer Training:  This spring we hosted our first Farmer-to-Farmer Training Day with La Familia Farm- one of our partner owners of Shared Ground Coop- who will begin supplying Shared Ground with salad mix this summer.  In one day we seeded salad mix, set up irrigation, harvested, washed and packed, and reviewed the tools and resources needed for growing the mix.  Through the training I thought much about our trip to Cuba last winter and how many farmers we met identified themselves as teachers.  While there we heard stories about how farmers within and between cooperatives share their knowledge and skills with other farmers.  In light of some of the recent research the Land Stewardship Project is doing to fill a lack of leadership and teaching opportunities in farm communities in Minnesota, I felt thankful to be a part of a cooperative where giving and receiving knowledge and resources is inherent in its structure.
  • Land Access Struggles: This spring we felt development pressure like never before.  Like many farmers and gardeners around Minneapolis and St. Paul we do not own any of our land (lots are leased from various owners- HRA, private owners, Port Authority, etc.) and as land prices rise, so does the pressure to develop the ‘vacant’ lots we lease.  We went through a series of emergency land actions, (thank you Caroline!) to hold on to two of the lots we have grown on for years at least through the remainder of the year.  We support development, but in tandem we all need opportunities for permanent green space!  As we go through this process of land instability we are working with and rooting for organizations like TCALT and Homegrown Minneapolis to build opportunity for permanent agriculture land.
  • New Infrastructure:  At last two large 90’x 30′ high tunnels have been erected at the Dale Street Farm plot in St. Paul!  This took much work in the fall and spring to dig up some of the concrete and get a building permit required by the city.  Stop by 625 Dale and visit the tomatoes and peppers growing inside!

Now, back to the fields.  Come visit us Saturdays at the Midtown Farmers Market or Mill City Farmers Market!  Visit us in the fields in St. Paul, in Minneapolis!

-Robin Major


Robin Major from Stone’s Throw and Roberto Beltran from La Familia Farm harvesting salad mix during the Farmer-To-Farming Training Day


Annelise Brandel-Tanis ready to trellis tomatoes on the North End of St. Paul


Neighbors Miguel and Andrea selling their ‘Chido Kombucha’ at a CSA pick-up

Hiring Part-Time Harvest Hand

Things are really picking up as our greenhouse fills up and we are looking to hire a part time (18 hours a week) harvest hand that will work with us from mid June through mid October.  Please be in touch, or pass along to those you think might be interested!

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About the position: We are looking for a harvest crew member that will play a support role, 18 hours a week, in our Monday/ Thursday harvests. The harvest crew member will aid in all aspects of harvest; manually harvesting crops in quantities between 20 and 200 bunches, transporting produce to an offsite warehouse, and washing and packing produce for CSA, wholesale, and farmers market accounts. Harvests are fast paced days that require traveling efficiently between 4-8 sites and completing what can be repetitive and strenuous work outdoors. We are looking for someone with experience in a fast paced work environment, excellent attention to detail, and good communication skills, who will bring additional energy to our crew on busy days.

About the Farm: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm is a 3-acre certified organic vegetable farm based on 16 formerly vacant lots in the Twin Cities.  Our mission is to develop as a farm that is an agent of economic and social change, empowering its owners, workers, and neighbors to grow nutritious food, employ and develop ecological farming methods, and work collectively to establish equitable and just systems of food and land access in the city.  Our farm is structured as a limited liability partnership and for profit business, aligning with our belief that growing food should be a viable livelihood and that workplace decision-making power should be situated in people involved in the farm’s day-to-day operations.  As a member of Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative, a beginning and immigrant producers’ cooperative, our food is sold through a 200 member CSA, several dozen wholesale accounts, as well as two farmers markets we attend each Saturday.


The Crew: Our harvest crew will consist of partners/owners Robin, Eric, and Caroline, a seasonal full time employee, and 1-2 workshare members

Physical Requirements:Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.26.34 PM

  • Experience working in an outdoor environment with exposure to varied weather conditions
  • Ability to stand, sit, bend, kneel, and squat throughout an 8 hour period
  • Ability to lift 20-50 pounds consistently
  • Ability to tolerate hot temperatures
  • Comfort handling harvest knives

Preferred Qualifications: As this is a part time, labor-intensive position, that will not offer comprehensive exposure to farming as a whole, we imagine someone with prior farming experience (1-2 seasons) being an ideal fit for the position.

 Duration/Schedule: This position will span approximately 20 weeks, beginning in mid June and ending in mid October. Working hours will be 7-4pm on Mondays and Thursdays, with a paid 45 minute lunch break and 15 minute coffee break each day.

Compensation: Compensation will be salaried, but approximately equivalent to a $10 hourly wage with access to free produce.

To Apply: Submit a cover letter, resume, and two references to stonesthrowurbanfarm@gmail.com with subject line “harvest hand” by Friday April 15th. We will schedule a follow up the following week.

Accepting Work Share Applications!

Trying to maximize carrot weeding, donut consumption, and Democracy Now in your summer regimen?

Apply to be a work share!



Dear Prospective Work­ Share Member,

Thank you for your interest in Stone’s Throw Urban Farm’s 2016 Work­Share Program! Stone’s Throw is a decentralized 2.5 acre farm based in South Minneapolis and the Frogtown and North End Neighborhoods of St. Paul. We grow a diverse array of vegetables that supply a cooperatively­managed 250­person CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, local restaurants, grocery stores, two weekly farmers markets. Through our work, we hope to develop a farm that is an agent of economic and social change, empowering its owners, workers, and neighbors to grow nutritious food, employ and develop ecological farming methods, and work collectively to establish equitable and just systems of food and land access in the city.

Workshare Expectations

This application is for a full season work­share trade with our farm. Full season work­share members typically make a season long commitment to the farm, with anticipated work beginning in early June and running through early October. Workshare members provide an average of 4 hours of labor per week in exchange for weekly credit at farmers market during the season’s peak, an estimated 18 weeks. We expect workshare members to be thoughtful about this commitment, respecting that our farm is a small independent business in which farm owners and employees earn a livelihood through selling the produce that we grow. We are looking for workshare members that are dependable, punctual, and able to work at an efficient pace with attention to detail.


Our farmers market stands are regularly stocked with salad greens, cooking greens, radishes, beets, carrots, peppers, and heirloom tomatoes (later in the season), along with a variety of other seasonal vegetables. At the beginning of the workshare season, workshares will choose one of our Saturday farmers market locations, either the Midtown Farmers Market or Mill City Farmers Market to access $20 worth of weekly market credit for the 18 week season peak. Due to our need to stock the market booth consistently, credit will not accrue if unused on a given week. This trade will make the most sense for those that can regularly make it to market on Saturdays. A limited number of make up shifts will be available and scheduled for Wednesday afternoons at CSA pickup locations. Note: Given spatial constraint in the city, our farm does not produce certain crops such as cabbage, storage onions, eggplant, broccoli, summer squash, potatoes, and winter squash.

Application Process:

We will review all work­share applications and set up a time to meet with applicants we feel may be a good fit for our farm. Due to the high volume of applications and limited number of work­shares available, we will regrettably not be able to accept all applicants. Thank you for taking the time to apply.

Please complete the attached application and return to Stone’s Throw Urban Farm by April 8th, 2016. Applications can be submitted by email to: volunteer.stonesthrow@gmail.com with subject line: workshare or by mail to: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm, 3217 17th Ave S, Minneapolis MN 55407. If you have any questions, feel free to call the farm at (​612) 454­0585 ​or email us at volunteer.stonesthrow@gmail.com.

Work­Share Application Stone’s Throw Urban Farm 2016

Name: Address:

Phone number:
Preferred Method of Communication:
Are you able to commit to 16 hours of work per month:

Work­Share Members do not need previous gardening of farm­related experience to apply. The following questions are intended to help us design a rewarding work­share experience for everyone involved.

1.​Why are you interested in the work­share opportunity?

2.​What is your experience with food production?

3.​Many farm tasks are physically demanding. Do you have any prior experience with physical labor in varied outdoor climates? Do you have any physical restrictions?


4 . ​Are there any specific skills you are hoping to learn as a work share member?

5.​What skills could you bring to the farm as a work­share member?

6.​With exception to market assistance, work­share hours are scheduled during regular work­day hours, Mon­Fri 6am to 6pm. What is your availability during these times? Will your schedule remain consistent and accommodating to continuing with work share into the fall?

Available positions

The following work­share positions are available for the 2016 season. We are looking to fill approximately 8 positions. Please check or highlight all positions you would be interested in applying for. Please note your final assignment will fall under only one of these areas.

W a s h / p a c k : Help wash and pack produce for market and farm wholesale accounts. This is a weekly shift Thursdays from 9­1pm in Saint Paul. Must be able to meet field crew on the East Side of Saint Paul.

Field hand:​Help with cultivation of the Stone’s Throw Fields. Tasks will include weeding, spreading compost, transplanting, and some harvest. This 8­ hour shift alternates every other Wednesday, must be able to meet in the morning at 2820 15th Ave S. Minneapolis or 625 Dale St. N Saint Paul.

Market Stand:​ Help staff and take down Saturday Farmers market at the Midtown Farmers Market . This is a weekly shift running from 9:30­1:30.

Site Maintenance:​ Help us maintain our sites by mowing site borders and boulevards. Must have own lawn mower and weed wacker and ability to transport equipment between sites in either South Minneapolis or Frogtown, Saint Paul. Mowing will be needed once a week through July, transitioning to every other week through October. Partial cash compensation available, given longer season commitment.

Stone’s Throw Urban Farm Hiring

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 3.34.07 PMHi All,

We’re looking to hire a crew member for the 2016 growing season.  Please see job description below and be in touch!

About the Farm: Stone’s Throw Urban Farm is a 3-acre certified organic vegetable farm based on 16 formerly vacant lots in the Twin Cities.  Our mission is to develop as a farm that is an agent of economic and social change, empowering its owners, workers, and neighbors to grow nutritious food, employ and develop ecological farming methods, and work collectively to establish equitable and just systems of food and land access in the city.  Our farm is structured as a limited liability partnership and for profit business, aligning with our belief that growing food should be a viable livelihood and that workplace decision-making power should be situated in people involved in the farm’s day-to-day operations.  As a member of Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative, a beginning and immigrant producers’ cooperative, our food is sold through a 200 member CSA, several dozen wholesale accounts, as well as two farmers markets we attend each Saturday.

The Crew: The 2016 farm crew will consist of farm partners/owners Robin, Eric, and Caroline, 1-2 field crew members, a market manager, and 4-8 workshare members.

 Job Description: We are looking for a farm crew member that will aid in all aspects of everyday farm field operation, including: greenhouse work, seeding, transplanting, weeding, harvest, irrigation, and record keeping with occasional farmers market and small group volunteer management responsibilities.  The farm crew member will work alongside the partners to complete a diverse range of field tasks each day, with the ability to take on more responsibility, based on interest and ability, as the season progresses.

Workdays are rigorous and often involve traveling to multiple sites and repetitive tasks.  Accordingly, we are looking for someone able to come to work well-prepared, and interested in actively engaging with our team, farm sites, and greater city around us.

We are excited by the prospect of working with someone who has interest in shaping the long term direction of our farm.  Opportunities to transition to a partnership/ownership roll are available to employees who have worked at the farm for a second season.

 Duration/Schedule: This position runs from the beginning of April to the end of October.  The work week will entail five nine hour days of work each week, averaging a 45 hour work week.  The work day will begin at 8am on field days (3x a week) , 7am on harvest days (2x a week), and 6am on farmers market days (1-2x month), with a paid 45 minute lunch break and 15 minute break each day.  Occasionally strategic planning meetings or farm hosted events will be held outside of normal work hours.  Employees are welcomed, but not expected to attend.

Sample Daily Schedule:

 Field Day

8am- meet at Minneapolis Hub Site and pack up tools for the day

8:15-12:30 – travel to 2-3 sites hoeing new plantings

12:30- 1:15 Lunch break

1:15-4pm- prune and trellis tomato plants

4pm- return to Minneapolis, sharpen and put away tools, fill in field logs/timesheet

5pm- workday over

 Harvest Day

7am- meet up at Minneapolis Hub and depart for harvest

7:15-11- travel to 4-7 sites harvesting produce in quantities up to several hundred bunches

11am- arrive at Saint Paul wash pack warehouse, unload produce

11:15-11:30- coffee break

11:30-1- wash and pack produce

1-1:45- lunch break

1:45- depart for Minneapolis, deliver 1-2 South Minneapolis Wholesale orders

2:30-4pm misc field tasks (weeding, trellising tomatoes, etc.)

4pm- work day over/ fill out timesheet

 Compensation: We are able to offer a $14,000 salary for the 28-week season, which equates to approximately $11.11/ hour.  Employees will have access to abundant farm produce each week and any wellbeing trades made as a farm (past trades have included restaurant credit, acupuncture, yoga, and massage).  At this time we are unable to provide healthcare coverage as a farm.

 Required Qualifications:

  •      Previous experience working in a physically intensive work environment
  •      Ability to work well in a small collaborative team
  •      Ability to troubleshoot problems and respond calmly to unforeseen issues
  •      Ability to work efficiently and patiently with attention to detail
  •      Ability to be active on your feet for a 9 hour day, exposed to outdoor weather    conditions
  •      Ability to approach work with curiosity and creativity
  •      Desire to build a more equitable food system and city


Preferred Qualifications:

  •      At least one season of production farming experience
  •      Knowledge of sustainable agricultural practices
  •      Experience operating hand tools/ power tools
  • Interest in shaping long term farm goals and business plan
  •      Knowledge of South Minneapolis and/or Frogtown neighborhoods


To Apply: Please submit a cover letter, resume, and two references to stonesthrowurbanfarm@gmail.com by January 22; for desired applicants we will schedule follow up interviews in early February.

In your cover letter, please include your interest in working with Stone’s Throw Urban Farm, an overview of your agricultural,/professional/ educational experience, and several things you hope to learn and accomplish in working at the farm.



Solstice-time farm reflections and a farewell note of sorts

Farm friends, supporters, neighbors:

It is the time of year when the fields are lush, mosquitos breed in murky puddles left in rusty wheelbarrows, days upon days wind into each other.  The second week of the CSA is winding down and produce coming from our fields has looked beautiful – wonderful heads of lettuce, big bunches of bok choi and bunching onions.  We are washing and processing vegetables at the Shared Ground Farmers’ Coop warehouse space on the East Side of Saint Paul.  While we are still working out systems and the idiosyncrasies of being in a new space, it is wonderful to be washing in a shaded space with concrete floors, good drains, and lots of water pressure luxury!  Other ongoing projects include ginger planting, microgreens production, the Dale Street transformation, putting the finishing touches on an organic certification application, and weeding, weeding, weeding.

A main piece of this summer update is to put in writing (and in the eyes of our blog readers) that I am officially leaving the farm in full-capacity to pursue a PhD in Agroecology/Soil Biology at the University of Minnesota, beginning in the fall of 2015.  While I will nominally remain a partner, my roles on the farm are already much reduced.  While I am excited to re-enter an academic environment and to conduct research that supports the development of alternative farming systems, this has been a long, difficult transition.  The past four years have been characterized by immense growth, deep reflection, and a wonderful engagement with the people, city-scape, and soil of the Twin Cities, all while producing hundreds of thousands of food.  I have been lucky to work alongside powerful, creative, and competent people, all the while being challenged, tested, inspired, and supported by the farm’s surrounding community of neighbors, advisers, academics, and customers.  It is quite hard to describe what I have learned but I think it boils down to troubleshooting broken engines, scanning Craiglist for a good deal on mulching straw late at night, participating in dialogues around food justice, anticipating weed flushes and crop maturity, and, above all, humility.  Humility for one’s own limitations and ignorance in the face of the immensity and unpredictability of nature, city politics, cat poop, complex agroecosystems, and the power of beauty to awe.

As I depart to graduate school, I am quite grateful for the steadfast and committed partners and farm crew who work through the ambiguity and difficulty of urban farming (and, for our crew, for withstanding the frustration of farming for inexperienced farmers) and continue to produce wonderful food week after week, year after year.  The farm, in the hands of Eric, Caroline, Sarah, Betsy, and Robin, as well as numerous volunteers and work shares, our watchful neighbors, and the broader community of co-op farmers, has never felt so vibrant, promising, and full of potential.  I have often served as a voice for the farm, but, especially as I leave, I am reminded by the broad input, the many voices and hands, and the dynamism that is only possible through many different people contributing, in their own ways, to a constantly shifting, sometimes shared and oft discussed vision of what urban agriculture and what this urban farm can and should be.  This is not easy work but it is important work as we learn amongst ourselves and with others what equitable commerce, democratic decision-making, and alternative agriculture look and feel like.

So, I will still stay connected to the farm in various forms, but the decision makers, the weekly harvesters, the blog writers, and the farmers will grow and shift in the coming years.  On behalf, of the farm, I can say that we have enjoyed your support, business, and ideas these past years and that they are always welcome as we enter the next 5, 10, or 25 years of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm.  Please do come to a volunteer work day, a Tuesday evening or Saturday morning market, or pass by our plots to say hello during the day.  And, I would be remiss to say that, despite all of the great things happening on the farm, urban farming (and definitely our farm) depends on long-term land access!  If you have ideas about land – in the city, the suburbs, the urban hinterlands, pass them along.  We, or our network of other urban farmers and urban farm organizers will make that piece of land flush with produce.  And, remember to keep eating!  Especially vegetables!

Until the next farm update, your farmer,


Early spring update

Friends, followers, foodies:

Much has happened since we last wrote many snowy months ago.  I will try to recap as much as possible but please view this as an attempt to sketch out the farm’s collective historical record – ask us at the farm plots, at market, or on the street for more color and details!

Shortly after the New Year, the farm took a trip to Cuba with several other Twin Cities urban agricultural-focused city officials, writers, and enthusiasts.  We toured farms throughout urban Havana and the provinces of Matanzas and Pinar del Rio.  The integration of agricultural into densely-populated areas developed as a response to the erosion of Soviet-support and increasingly severe U.S. trade blockades during the early 1990s.  “Organoponics”, highly-productive urban vegetable farms that use intensive techniques, were strongly supported by the Cuban government as a way to solve severe reductions in food availability.  As part of these agricultural reforms, the Cuban government transitioned from Soviet-style large-scale collective farms (often more than 50,000 acres) to cooperatives with more individualized management.  In general, the cooperatives are well-organized units that coordinate production, distribution, as well as broader research and organizational agendas at the government level.  We saw a large mix of agricultural projects – large-scale cane sugar farms, fairly unproductive grazing land, and impressive vegetable operations.  While the Cuban agriculture system is far from perfect, our group was impressed by the government’s commitment to approaching domestic agriculture policy with a goal of feeding its people nutritious food.  Throughout the trip, the operation of agriculture outside of capitalism’s “logic” challenged and illuminated the group’s assumptions about how to design well-functioning urban and regional agricultural systems.  While the Cuban farms were under-capitalized and in need of various resources such as irrigation, tractors, and food storage, the farmers had almost no issues accessing land or markets.  In many ways, this experience is the opposite of our experience as beginning farmers in the United States.  We continue to think about the idiosyncrasies of Cuban society and agriculture, the lessons that can be implemented in the Twin Cities, and how to build sovereign food systems, directed by small farmers, with the goal of equitable, healthy food distribution using ecological methods.

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Back in Minnesota, we have been busy preparing for spring.  Building projects have included row-marking tools, hoop-house construction, and many picnic tables.  Our seeding tunnel is hopping and we have hundreds of trays of baby plants in various stages of growth and germination.  Lettuces, radicchio, kale, and swiss chard are farthest along, while fennel, peppers, and eggplant are just beginning their long journey from seed to harvest.  Elizabeth Makarewicz joined the farm crew as a full time seasonal employee.  She has made an immediate difference on the farm – bringing attentiveness, thoroughness, and creativity to each day of work, continuing to smile after several frigid days digging around in a compost pile.  We are excited that she will be assuming a central role in the farm as a harvest and markets manager and trust that the food will be in good hands.  In the high tunnels, radishes and arugula are germinating while overwintered onions and garlic are growing rapidly.

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Shared Ground Farmers Cooperative is progressing at a rapid clip.  The cooperative added Aaron Blyth, formerly farm manager at Minnesota Food Association, as a co-manager of the cooperative with Robin.  The cooperative has also received loan financing and SARE funds to implement a significant expansion of high tunnel development across many of the member farms.  Below are pictures of coop members, Rodrigo Cala and Javier Garcia removing high tunnels from the Linder’s greenhouse site on Rice and Larpenteur and a recent co-op meeting in Waseca, MN hosted by La Familia Cooperative.  We are honored to be working with this ambitious group of farmers.

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Caroline Devany has been working non-stop to receive city approval for our ambitious plans to transform 625 Dale Avenue in Saint Paul into an urban agriculture center.  She has applied for countless permits, spoken with dozens of city officials, surveyors, and high tunnel manufacturers.  The good news, is that we are getting extremely close to implementing the plan – by the end of the summer we plan to have mushroom production in full swing, two high tunnels full of food, a market stand, and plenty of neighborhood activities.  Please take a look at our site plan (attached: STUF_625 DALE PLAN).

Also, there is one important thing that you can do to help us move the permitting process forward.  A major hiccup has been the city’s demands that our farm restore three curb cuts that were left after the site’s demolition several years prior.  This restoration was supposed to occur at the time of demolition yet the city is including the curb cut mandate into our lease.  The price of repaving the curbs will run at least $10000, a price that, as temporary users of the site, we feel is unfair and exclusionary to urban agriculture use on the site.  PLEASE E-MAIL Yaya Diatta (YaYa.Diatta@ci.stpaul.mn.us ) of Zoning and use the text from the form letter (ATTACHED: Variance letter of support). It would also be helpful if you would include your relationship to the farm and 625 Dale site, as a neighbor, farm visitor, customer, or other type of stakeholder.

Lastly, we are very, very excited for the return of spring – to see our neighbors, to get into the soil, to put pencil and paper into action.  There are an incredible array of urban agriculture projects transpiring in our region – from re-envisioning East Phillips as an urban agriculture hub, to state-level urban ag. policy by Rep. Karen Clark, the Council for Black Minnesotans, and Project Sweetie Pie, to the recent Midwest Urban Farmers Summit our farm attended last week in Chicago, IL.  Please get in touch, stay in touch, and lend your ideas for how to make this farm a more effective, tangible initiator of systems-level change.  And don’t forget to eat!

Your farmer,

Alex Liebman

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A year’s end note


Farm community:

As the year draws to a close I would like to take a short written moment to reflect on the past year, discuss plans for the coming year(s), and give a heartfelt thanks to all our our collaborators, supporters, and customers.  We have had a busier than usual fall, continuing on many projects and late-season markets, leaving little time for reflection.  Below is a smattering of thoughts and ideas about food, agriculture, and the farm.

This fall an abrupt, early snowfall largely ended the season at the beginning of November.  However, small trials of carrots and spinach in our high tunnels allowed us to harvest beautiful produce into the middle of December.  We placed piles of actively decomposing brewery waste and woodchips into the corners of the high tunnels as an additional heat source.  While we were unscientific in our process and cannot say for sure if the piles made a difference, the soil remained unfrozen through a series of sub-zero, cloudy days in late November.  Carrots emerged sweeter and crunchier than any regular season carrot we have produced.  During the next several seasons, our hope is to “even” the season out – trading full-on summer exhaustion for sustained, year-round production.  Expect micro-greens in mid-winter and fresh kale in December as we improve.

We have been reflecting on the aims of the urban farm business and how its goals, aims, and actions are intertwined with the social and political events regarding U.S. racial politics and the ever-pressing need to deeply examine the role of race in our society.  The alternative farm movement must confront how race and class play a role in food production and distribution in the United States and how U.S. food demand and trade policy impacts the global economy.  The “local” food economy must be expanded to envision how a just and healthy food system is manifested throughout the world.  Farm work, especially, has historically been delegated to the most disadvantaged members of society.  The exploitation of Latino farmworkers throughout the Central Valley is a modern-day manifestation of a process that has subjugated immigrants and people of color to demeaning and abusive agricultural work for centuries.  The development of small farms that are focused on sustainable food systems, the proliferation of farmer’s markets and locavore restaurants that support small farms while catering to the uber-wealthy, and the public health and education imbalances in America that reflect race and class disparities are interconnected and interdependent.  The small farming and local food movements must connect closely, collaborate, and stand in solidarity with farmworker justice movements and activism regarding racial and social justice, constantly expanding and challenging how alternative food production plays a role in these dialogues.  Ecological farming is as much a socio-political process as it is biological.  As Eric Holt-Gimenez of FoodFirst stated in light of the juries failure to indict Darren Wilson in the Michael Brown case, “We can’t have a judicial system, or an impartial law enforcement system, or build a sustainable food system [my italics] on the foundation of an oppressive social and economic system“.  The local food movement must discover how to be an inclusive, empowering space that does not allow idealisms of agrarianism, hyper-local production, and the like, to blur its capacity and obligation to develop systemic change across the food system.  While our farm does not have the answers (and believe the ‘answers’ must come from a diversity people and collaborative processes), we plan to engage in more and more conversations and activism for a more just food system.  We hope you will join us and will report on the actions we take and the discussions we have.

The farm has been discussing its focus issues in terms of food production for the coming year.  We are enthused about continuing to figure out how to produce the best vegetables using the most efficient and low-external input methods possible.  Caroline and I attended a day-long soil health workshop at Common Harvest Farm in Osceola, WI, discussing the best soil and weed management methods with many different types of farmers including vegetable producers, dairy farmers, and grain growers.  We are inspired by the work of veteran farmers who are incorporating sophisticated science to manage nutrients, cover crop, and produce excellent produce.  Our farm will continue our composting, collaborating with local breweries and landscape companies, to create healthy soil while recycling nutrient into our urban agroecosystems.  We hope to work with an intern this spring to monitor the piles, tracking temperature, humidity, and nutrient composition of the finished compost.  We also have plans to continue investing in vegetable production infrastructure including a flame weeder, walk-behind tractor tools, and wheel hoes.  These types of small-scale farm implements are essential components of intensive vegetable production that is ergonomic and efficient.  The farm will also be collaborating with our friend Andrew Pierre, a bike guru who will be starting his own farm in River Falls, Wisconsin this spring, to construct a second prototype of our human-powered salad spinner.  Our urban greenhouse should be teaming with plants by early March – please stop by the 15th Avenue farm plot this late winter to treat yourself to a respite from the cold.

After much hard work by Caroline, Eric and the support of neighborhood organizations and you all, we have secured a long-term lease on a large plot at 625 Dale Avenue in Saint Paul to create a farm hub.  We are so excited to be investing in hoop houses, perennial plants, community garden beds, and a market stand.  We hope this will “root” our Saint Paul production for years to come.  Lots of farm energy will be devoted to building beautiful urban food infrastructure.  The farm is pleased that the City of Saint Paul has recognized the necessity of permanent land for urban agriculture.  While a long-term lease does not secure the land indefinitely, we hope this is a large step in the direction of establishing increased access to permanent food production land in the Twin Cities.

The farm’s participation the producer’s cooperative, Shared Ground Farmer’s Cooperative, will continue.  Exciting developments are occurring as Rodrigo Cala has purchased greenhouse for installation on his farm and Agua Gorda Cooperative is seriously exploring securing farmland near Long Prairie, WI.  Whetstone Farm has achieved laudable stability as it purchased a farm in Amery, Wisconsin, joining an active, growing community of young farmers.  The farmers spent last Monday discussing the crop plan for the coming year.  Expect new crops such as rhubarb and improved quality and consistency.

As stated in the last post, the farm is in the process of hiring a full-time employee for next season.  As we look for good employees and think about how the farm can best honor their efforts and empower them to build agricultural skills, I must state, one more time before the year ends, how appreciative we are of the past year’s crew of employees, volunteers, and interns.  In a hectic environment in which tools break, work is dirty and stressful, tensions are often high, and perfection is crucial, a large group of people showed up throughout the season, selflessly devoting time and energy to the farm project.  Employees often worked long past their scheduled hours to clean carrots or stake an additional row of tomatoes.  A CSA member traded a few more vegetables for invaluable electrical installation help.  The farm would not exist without this multitude of selfless efforts.

In the coming year we hope to continue collaborating with individuals and organized groups in Saint Paul and Minneapolis to develop an innovative, effective, and equitable urban food system in the Twin Cities.  While our experience lies in the world of intensive vegetable production system, we take cues from and hope to learn from the wealth of social justice activism and expertise regarding urban food work in the Twin Cities.  Collaboration among seemingly disparate interests, among rural and urban food producers, community activists, and food consumers (i.e. all people) is central to building new food economies based on regeneration and resilience.  To quote Mateo Nube of the Movement Generation Justice and Ecology Project regarding the construction of new economies, “When I use the phrase ‘Oppositional economy’ I don’t mean just naming something we’re against, but by oppositional we mean creating a set of economies that are contesting actively for access to capital, labor, water, land so that it can create a new center of gravity.”

Many thanks for the support throughout 2014.  We are excited to produce vegetables in the Twin Cities in 2015 and beyond.  Our farm will be traveling to Cuba in January as part of an agricultural education trip.  We will report back and fire up the farm in February.  Have a safe and joyous holiday and don’t stop eating!

– Alex

P.S. Check the Shared Ground Farmer’s Cooperative website soon to purchase CSA shares for the 2015 season.