To Seitu Jones, the $50,000 check from the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee did more than build an outdoor kitchen at Frogtown Park and Farm in St. Paul.
“This is a way of really planting ourselves in a more permanent way,” said the artist, activist and co-founder of the 5.5-acre working organic farm in the heart of the inner city. “It’s another sign they won’t be putting sod over this any time soon.”
Since its founding in 2013 as a community-led effort to secure 13 acres in the Capital City’s least green neighborhood, Frogtown Park and Farm has marked several milestones stretching it roots ever deeper. As of Wednesday, the Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund had given $2 million to community-based organizations across the state.
From its first plantings to its first harvest providing thousands of pounds of food for area food shelves and markets, the idea, said Jones, was to make Frogtown Park and Farm a place that would both build and listen to its community. The most recent influx of cash, part of the Super Bowl host committee’s “52 Weeks of Giving” campaign, created an outdoor kitchen and food preparation area that will host cooking classes, food events and community celebrations.
Each step in the farm’s development “makes us more of a community center and cements our place here in the center of the community,” said Eartha Bell, the farm’s executive director. Much like the asparagus, aronia and honey berry that has been planted and will take years to fruit, the city and community’s decision to make Frogtown Park a working farm requires — and proves — a long-term commitment to a different kind of green space, she said.
Mike Hahm, director of St. Paul Parks and Recreation, agreed.
The creation of the park and farm was a community-driven process. The installation of the new kitchen, complete with wood-fired pizza oven and bread oven, means this place of food and hearth will remain long after he is no longer on the job.
“This isn’t just for pizza,” he said of a park that has drawn attention from across the country for its unique role as both green space and food provider. “It’s for community.”
Frogtown Farm is one of the largest urban farms in the country. It is located on the former Wilder Foundation campus in nearly the geographic center of St. Paul. It was created through a partnership between the Trust for Public Land, the city of St. Paul and Wilder. It is a natural area, a recreation area and a certified organic demonstration farm.
The farm is a nonprofit. The Frogtown Farm Commons, where the outdoor kitchen was built and where pizza was prepared for the folks gathered Tuesday, is a community farming space where neighbors can gather, grow and learn while participating in weekly growing season sessions on cultivating, harvesting, preparing and preserving techniques.