In 2015, Frogtown Park and Farm in St. Paul came into being as an innovative urban farm in the center of the inner city. In 2016, it will actually feed people.
Workers were planting asparagus on Monday under the direction of Ecological Design, the firm designing everything from water use and conservation to landscaping and which crops will be grown. Five of the 13 acres at the park are dedicated to growing food for sale and for use by the community. Called permaculture, the design, plantings and infrastructure of the hilltop farm is meant to last generations, said Paula Westmoreland of Ecological Design.
“It is designed to look at the interaction of land, community and economics,” said Westmoreland. “What we’re really trying to do is bring the land back to life.”
Workers brought in more than 200 tons of soil last year. They planted cover crops, meant to decrease erosion and protect the soil over the winter. Now, food crops will be planted, including plants that have been given an early start in the farm’s plastic-sheathed hoop house.
The farm has been contoured and sculpted to include a series of mounds and valleys that will become planted berms and swales meant to help preserve water and accommodate perennial and annual fruits and vegetables and shrubs. The farm is expected to produce enough food to feed thousands of people each year through farmers markets, food shelves and their own food stand.
“It’s been a whirlwind, to say the least,” said Lindsay Rebhan of Ecological Design, which counts the Tiny Diner, the Bachelor Farmer’s rooftop garden and the Urban Flower Garden in St. Paul among its other projects.
Food fair on Saturday
The farm will host a free food fair on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with music, workshops, soil testing and free food to kick off its second year. It includes three production fields, a commons area for community growing, a children’s area and an outdoor kitchen.
The team from Ecological Design sees the farm and park as a community resource to learn about food, food production and resource preservation as it works to bring Frogtown’s diverse community together.
Monday morning, as workers used an auger to dig post holes for the fences officials hope will keep rabbits at bay, Karl Hakanson of the Hennepin County Extension Office was getting ready to meet a group from the Twin Cities Agricultural Land Trust at the farm. What is happening here — and on community farms and garden plots in cities across the country — is a burgeoning movement to better connect with our food and how it is grown, he said.
“There is a lot of interest. It’s something new and something old,” Hakanson said. “It is all about community building, education, youth development … with a main goal, obviously, of good food.”
Down the hill, in a neighborhood that has a brass foundry, a nearby convenience store, public housing complexes and small, single-family homes, Roxanne Bye confirmed the interest.
She has been growing a cornucopia of food at her home for nearly 20 years — everything from watermelons and pumpkins to broccoli and beets. She and her neighbors are enthusiastic about what Frogtown Farm has planned, she said.
“I do a lot of gardening, so do a lot of other people here,” she said of the raised beds, trellises and fences that soon will be covered with plants. “What they have started is an excellent thing. I love it.”