The Ramsey CD funded a demonstration project in partnership with local non-profit Urban Roots. The Urban Roots Demonstration Project (URDP) showcases cover crops, composting, storm water management, a pollinator planting and honeybee hive as an opportunity to educate the community about urban agriculture. Urban Roots coordinated use of the site through their youth leadership program, which targets teens from East St. Paul for paid internships where they learn about how to grow, harvest and prepare produce. The program helps young people create a more sustainable and independent food system in their neighborhood, and the demonstration garden provides more space for this effort.
The URDP site also provides pollinator-friendly plants conservation effort for threatened pollinator species. The pollinator gardens have the added bonus of attracting pollinators to the food crops grown in the demonstration site, resulting in more successful crop yields.
In addition to the successful establishment of the demonstration site at Urban Roots, the district built a network among many of the major urban farms and community gardens within Ramsey County. The managers of these farms and gardens met with district staff to discuss their needs, accomplishments, and share information for future collaboration. Staff has assisted these farm and garden managers in seeking certifications that make them eligible for future funding through the NRCS and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The district provided grant funds to selected farmers and gardeners as follows:
- Frogtown Farms focused on intensive soil building through cover crops and planted many perennial crops from asparagus to pears; the focus of all efforts was reducing soil erosion and stormwater runoff.
- Great River School Urban Farm utilized extended season plots and created a high efficiency composting program.
- Eleanor Graham Garden made significant gains in the amount of pollinator plants and elimination of invasive species.
- Merriam Station Garden increased pollinator habitat and updated irrigation for sound water use.
- Seeds of Hope leveraged their talents to haul excess compost to other community gardens in the interest of a local and sustainable soil inputs.
- Frogtown Green Garden created farming space for elderly Asian elders to grow produce for their families in St. Paul’s most diverse and low-income neighborhood.
- Gardens of Feed’em provided pollinator friendly areas.
- Green Pride Garden increased participation and partnerships to expand knowledge of urban soil and water health.
Finally, a successful Soils Forum was held in August featuring a Soil Scientist from NRCS as the main speaker along with a tour of the URDP. Elected officials, landowners and college students attended the event.
Long-term sustainability has been a key feature of the demonstration garden construction at Urban Roots. Maintenance and care of the site will continue to be managed by Urban Roots as a part of their community engagement efforts; it is as important as planting and harvesting. Future generations will be shown how to maintain and pass on care for the site.
Urban Roots and the district have further development plans for the site, including a ten-year maintenance agreement. District staff will assist in the design and implementation of water management systems to ensure proper drainage. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will help with the construction of a high tunnel so the growing season can be extended late into fall and early in spring. A pollinator solar farm and a bike path are also planned.
The connections built with urban farmers and community gardeners in Ramsey County, and the exchange of information and resources, have opened doors for future collaborations on similar projects.