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

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

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

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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!

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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.

Compensation:

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:
Email:
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.

Week 19- Last week of the regular season!

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We’re going out with a bang. This fall has been blissfully long and warm, so your last share will be packed with all sorts of abundance. But it’s finally fall now. I look out my living room window to the east, and the sun is just rising at 7:27. In the mornings, we’re bundled with sweaters and gloves. But still no frost! This Saturday, we hear.

It’s always a little baffling to sit at the end of a season, looking back. How did we pass 19 weeks together in such a short, blurry amount of time? I do hope that we’ll see many of your faces back at the table next year, so we can continue our conversations.

As Klaus and I get ready to move to Windom and start Whetstone Farm, our new rural venture, I’ve been reflecting a lot about the community aspect of this CSA. I feel sadness at knowing that I, personally,  won’t see our members face to face each week- I truly enjoy our conversation, the chance to watch your kids grow up. But CSA is more than just a way for the farmer to feel good about the customers, and vice versa, right? I do hope that we’re building something more lasting by giving people a chance to interact with their food. I do hope that our tiniest members remember running up and down the rows of cherry tomatoes, reaching for pungent leaves of basil, even when they are grown. I hope that we can provide a space to support other small, local producers, by turning our pick-up location into a mini-market. I hope that our members talk to each other, get to know each other, connect over shared experience. And I hope that our members can be called on to support us in this difficult endeavor of urban farming, which is certainly not going to stick around if we don’t have support and political will. And I hope that, even though I won’t get to see your faces each week for the next few years, our expansion of Stone’s Throw will make us a more lasting presence in our community, will allow us to reach more people. And I hope that you all stick around to take the journey with us.

Thanks for an incredible season,Emily

Your share this week:

  • Green tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon radishes
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Kale or Chard
  • Cabbage
  • The last of the u-pick cherries and herbs

Week 18

IMG_1104The 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!

Sincerely,
Robin

As for what’s in your share this week:

  • Tomatoes (still!)
  • Peppers
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Napa Cabbage and/or lettuce
  • Broccoli (full shares)
  • Kohlrabi (half shares)
  • Cooking arugula
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • U-pick cherry tomatoes, herbs, flowers

 

 

Week 17

Dismantling. Still harvesting loads of tomatoes, and simultaneously moving into the fall work of taking down the farm, tucking it in. Cutting down cucumber vines, pulling out posts, rolling up drip-tape. The potatoes and sweet potatoes are all dug and curing. The winter squash is nearly all harvested and stored. Onions are in their bags, we’re dreaming of winter.

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Before dismantling the cucumbers this morning

And yet it was in the 80s today! And we came home with a few hundred pounds of heirlooms, still gorgeous and juicy. When will it end? We can’t help but look forward to a good hard frost, even though we know we’ll miss all this abundance in January. That’s the nice thing about living and eating with the seasons- by the time the next one rolls around, you’re ready for it, because you’re good and sick of the last one. That said, we’re happy to wear t-shirts for a little longer, and bask in the warm sun on the last day of September.

And, a farm event! This Thursday, October 3rd, we’re hosting a Ward 9 Candidates Forum at the farm on 15th Avenue. Starting at 5 PM, we’ll have four of the candidates running for city council in our home ward at the farm to answer questions. There will be a Spanish translator and some veggie snacks provided. Hope you can join us!

And on to the share: this week, we’ve got a mixed bag of late summer and early fall. Enjoy the bounty!

  • Tomatoes! (for the last time? who knows! no frost on the horizon…)
  • Sweet peppers
  • Hot peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Winter squash
  • Onions
  • Kale and/or Napa Cabbage
  • Purple top turnips
  • Coriander

 

Week 16

September 21, 2013 Mill City Farmers Market

photo credit: David Tinjum

The beginning of cooler fall days signals the beginning of a season of more reflection and intentional introspection.  The rush of vegetable harvest and deliveries is still present but far less oppressive than the heat waves of July and August.  This is also a time of year when the regularity of tending to our farm sites, greeting our neighbors, acknowledging passersby, and watching the traffic stream past starts to feel less endless.  We go to each site a bit less frequently.  We have begun to put some of our sites to rest – planting cover crop, winding irrigation tape onto wooden spools, removing the trellises that hold up our cucumbers and tomatoes.

On cooler, calmer mornings, I often like to stop working for a few moments to watch the hustle and bustle of the city streets right outside of our farm boundaries.  Along Dale Street in Saint Paul in the early morning, semi-trucks with the emblem of Quality Grain Suppliers rush from the interstate to the Pierce Butler train yards, dropping off or filling up shipments.  June, a barber at Kali Kutz and Designs, next door to one of our plots arrives early.  I take a moment to stop bunching Hakurei turnips, watching him as he shuts off his Chevy Tahoe and leans back into his seat, leaving the stereo running.  I offer him some of the carrots or turnips that we have picked but he refuses, jokingly telling me that he is a “carnivore”.  A Hmong woman drives down the alleyway in a contractor’s van and rolls down the window.  She asks me the date on which we transplanted our Chinese cabbage.  She and I exchange information.  She farms with her family members on a plot of land south of the cities in Rosemount.  On Dale Street, cars continue to stream by, passing each other, screeching their horns, racing to pass through the yellow-light.  I wonder how many people observe me?  Or see our farm?  Does it register through the tinted car windows, a blaring radio, the already worried or preoccupied minds of the drivers and passengers?

I often feel that our farm lies at an odd intersection between practicality and symbolism.  We have staked an identity on producing high-quality vegetables in the city and designing production systems that are high yielding and improve the health of our soils.  We strive to become better farmers – improving texture, flavor, and appearance of our food, increasing its yield, decreasing the amount of fossil fuels burned, decreasing labor expenditures, and increasing profitability.  This is the practical side of our efforts.  The symbolic side is the hopeful and defiant act of planting acres and acres of food within a developed, cemented, gridded city.  Our farm sites become verdant, peaceful spaces between busy streets and boarded buildings.  How do our farm sites function as large, landscape-level pieces of public art?  One of my goals for the future is expanding how our farm interacts with the street and its inhabitants.  I want the farm to draw people in, have them walk the rows of beets and kale, feel the dewy grass moisten their pant legs, and change their ideas about how a city feels and what is possible in an urban environment.  In the coming months and years, our farm will be making a more active effort to incorporate art – printmaking demonstrations, found-object sculpture, musical performances – into the farm-scape.  We work to find a harmonious balance between pragmatic and fanciful that resonates with the many different types of people in the city – from our ardent CSA supporters to the people that have never heard of kale.

My hope is that one day our farm and a multitude of other urban farms will meld into the fabric of the Twin Cities, the presence of our work becoming as regular as the University Avenue auto shop workers, the downtown investment bankers, the road repair crews.  Bleary-eyed school children aboard large yellow buses will gaze distractedly outside, vegetable plots lining streets throughout the cities.  Maybe an entire portion of the city will be dedicated to vegetable production.  A certain neighborhood could be a destination for fresh radishes and salads.  Farmers, working on nearby plots, could share information, tools, and take mid-day breaks together at a coffee shop.  Collaboration would lead to improved vegetable varieties, wiser growing techniques, and innovative season extension strategies.  Small-scale agricultural production and the beauty associated with it would become an intrinsic part of the Twin Cities’ identity.

For now, we will continue the fall harvest (Sweet potatoes! Potatoes!), spread mulch to protect our plots during the winter, and begin planning for next year.  We will also let our imaginations and daydreams launch into the many possibilities of Stone’s Throw Urban Farm.  We hope that you will all lend your thoughts as well.  We are always open to your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.

Eat your greens,
Alex

And, a pragmatic word from Emily on what’s in your share this week:

  • Tomatoes
  • Tomatillos
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Scarlet Turnips
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Peppers, hot and sweet
  • Kohlrabi
  • U-pick cherry tomatoes, herbs, flowers

It’s the last week of u-pick basil, so take what’s there!

Best,

Emily