The plots have begun to take on new smells and colors. Rotting tomatoes hang in their skins from their stems, a pile of old, over-sized zucchini lies bloated and yellow on one field edge, and at another the winter squash vines and leaves lay dried up to a crisp. These simple changes are much of what I love about farming. They remind me of the cycle of life and death and that I have little control over the world around me.
Yet in an urban setting, the simplicity of working with plants against the backdrop of city regulations and the hum of the traffic and the movement of people and planes can make the work feel so insignificant. At moments, this urban farming thing seems absolutely ridiculous. Why do we waste our time running from lot to lot, loading and unloading equipment? Why do we dump thousands of dollars of compost on lots we may not even be able to use next year? Is it worth the stress on our bodies? Do Saint Paul and Minneapolis want urban agriculture enough to make real urban farming possible?
In many ways we are much like an average, rural, CSA farm. Like most rural, CSA farms, we are a for-profit business that prioritizes vegetable production. All the partners at Stone’s Throw learned farming skills through rural farms and came back to the city adapting techniques for our soil management plan, our seeding plan, and cultivation method and we would not be able to farm how we do without that knowledge. However, unlike rural farms, at every one of our 14 lots we have a water contract with a neighbor. Unlike many rural farms, we do not own our land and cannot risk a long-term investment in building our soil. Without permanent land we cannot plant perennials like fruit trees or raspberry bushes. Unlike rural farms, we spend many hours working with city advisory committees and land-trust advocacy groups for the hope of creating permanent urban farmland in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, if not for next year, then for ten years or twenty years. I dream that one day urban farming will not be a struggle, but an intentional, stable component of the city’s food system. Abundant farm stands will pop up in every neighborhood and corner stores will be able to proudly say they carry produce grown right down the street. Stone’s Throw and other urban farms will have rich, deep soil from compost made by restaurant and yard waste. There will be greenhouses that grow big, healthy starts for urban farmers and that grow ginger and greens and herbs year round. We will have shared processing stations with electricity and walk-in coolers and stainless steel washing stations with lots of water pressure. And more than anything, I dream that squashing a rotten tomato with the stomp of a foot or smelling fall in a dried squash vine will be a joy shared by more people.
Dear members, thank you for your support this year. I hope you realize that by supporting us you are also investing in a different breed of agriculture. We would not be able to do this without you!
As for what’s in your share this week:
- Tomatoes (still!)
- Napa Cabbage and/or lettuce
- Broccoli (full shares)
- Kohlrabi (half shares)
- Cooking arugula
- U-pick cherry tomatoes, herbs, flowers