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To urban farm or not to urban farm? For some green-thumb nonprofits, it’s a complicated question

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In light of the pandemic and declining grant funding, the nonprofit Frogtown Farm has chosen to put operations on hold for the 2020 growing season. In happier time, the urban farm’s food stand sold affordable produce to customers at 496 West Minnehaha Ave in St. Paul. (Pioneer Press: Gino Terrell)

“Growing food is critical in a time of scarcity, and it looks like the coronavirus may bring even more food insecurity to our neighborhood,”

By Neck Relax
Twin Cities
April 23, 2020


For green-thumb organizers of community gardens, nonprofit urban farms and other grassroots efforts aimed at growing healthy food, the COVID-19 pandemic poses a tricky time to invite volunteers — especially seniors — to plant, sow and hoe. Social distancing is a concern, and charitable grants and corporate volunteers look iffy this season.

Still, many say they can’t not turn soil.

“To me, if you’re a farmer, you’re a farmer. You can’t stop, whether you’re urban or rural,” said Mark-Peter Lundquist, vice president of Urban Ventures, whose nonprofit farms six acres in Minneapolis and Lakeville and delivers much of the produce to churches and nonprofits. “It’s an essential service.”

Urban growing during a pandemic? In St. Paul, Patricia Ohmans said it’s probably never been a more important time to till the soil.

Ohmans asked Frogtown residents to pick up free seeds — while supplies last — from a Little Free Cabinet in the neighborhood and sign up for plots the nonprofit owns at The Lily Pad community garden on Dale Street and a larger site called Our Village on Pierce Butler Route. Her regulars have already begun calling.

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