Ordinary people prompted many of the changes in our local food system through hard work, persistence and sheer spunk. They had a passion for good, healthful food and the compassion to serve others. In the past 40 years, some significant grass-roots developments took place in our local food system, thanks to the efforts of everyday people as reported in Taste.
• Food co-ops: The North Country Co-op, which opened in Minneapolis in 1970, was the first in the Twin Cities. It closed 37 years later, in 2007, due to increased competition from supermarkets. Co-ops hit their peak in 1982 with 31 stores in the Twin Cities. By 1985, as co-ops debated their principles and whether to become more like supermarkets, their numbers had declined to 22. For years, the Twin Cities has had the largest number of co-ops per capita nationwide, according to the National Cooperative Grocers Association. There are now 11 in the metro area (12 as of June), some with multiple stores.
• Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): Consumers buy shares, in advance of the harvest season, in the form of weekly deliveries from farmers. (Initially CSAs only offered produce, but some now have eggs, meat or flowers.) The effort not only provides upfront money for cash-strapped farmers, but provides consumers with fresh food, usually organic or grown with minimal chemicals. The movement started in the United States with a single farm in Massachusetts in 1986, which was based on a European model. In 1990, two Minnesota vegetable farms came on board; in 1993, there were 15 CSAs in the state and western Wisconsin. This year the Minnesota Department of Agriculture knows of 64 such farms, up from 42 in 2009.
• Farmers markets: In 1970 there were two farmers markets, one in Minneapolis (which began in 1937) and the other in St. Paul (begun in 1852). Their growth took off in the 1990s. This year there are more than 120 (up from 88 in 2009), according to the listings with the state Department of Agriculture.
• Second Harvest Heartland: The food bank history began in 1974 with Emergency Fund Services Inc., which distributed food and funds throughout St. Paul until 1980, when it became Second Harvest St. Paul Food Bank and later Second Harvest St. Paul.
The Greater Minneapolis Food Bank was founded in 1984, with a mission to feed those in need and to reduce food waste. In 2000 it changed its name to Second Harvest Greater Minneapolis. The two food banks, one from each city, joined forces in 2001 and became Second Harvest Heartland. In 2009, it distributed more than 51 million pounds of food to nearly 1,000 food shelves, soup kitchens and shelters in 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.