Turning Vacant Lots into Profitable Urban Farms in Minnesota
The rise of urban gardening has been a major theme on TreeHugger in the past few years, and efforts to bring fresh and local produce to city dwellers have become sophisticated and ambitious. In Minnesota, a group of young adults is taking abandoned lots around the Twin Cities and converting them into vibrant, profitable micro-farms.
Full Disclosure: Alex and Emily of Stone's Throw are friends of mine from college.
Stone's Throw Urban Farm is a combination of three separate urban farming initiatives. Several of the seven farmers have experience working in rural areas, but wanted to try it out in the city, where the supply of fresh produce is limited and expensive.
They began by biking around Minneapolis and St Paul to find vacant lots, pitching the idea of planting crops to their owners. They're currently working on 18 farms, growing more than 30 kinds of greens, roots, legumes, herbs and more.
Stone's Throw will sell the vegetables through a CSA, at the local Mill City Farmers Market, and through some wholesale accounts. Naturally, they transport everything by bike.
The goals are to strengthen the local food system, provide a healthy and affordable source of nutrition to the community and turn unused city space into something beautiful and productive. But just as important is turning enough of a profit that Stone's Throw full-time employees can make a living. This is a business venture, not a side project, and it will be run like one.
For 2012, Stone's Throw has set a goal of converting ten new lots. To make it happen, they've launched a Kickstarter campaign. (They have some grant funding as well.) Check out their video pitch:
In the first few days, the campaign has raised nearly $5,000 of the $15,000 goal, with more than a month to go. If you're in the area, you can volunteer (they even have interns); if not, you can still make a donation, and help the local food movement really gain steam.