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Urban Farm & Garden Alliance Nelson Report

Grewell, Rachel

In 2014 the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance (UFGA) brought together the leaders of/members of 6 unique community garden plots in the Aurora/St. Anthony and Frogtown Neighborhoods: Lexington Commons, Pilgrim Baptist Church, Morning Star Baptist Church, Victoria Community, CDC Greenhouse Garden, Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Sanctuary Garden. The Alliance of these six gardens serves to share ideas and resources and to co-host educational workshops, summer activities, and events through partnerships with other organizations and institutions including Bethel University, Community Stabilization Project, U of M Extension Master Gardeners/Land Connectors, Gardening Matters, and AfroEco. These partnerships and relationships have been important for improving access to parks and healthy nutritious foods for residents in neighborhoods that have suffered the consequences of predatory loans, high levels of unemployment, and a complicated history of Hwy 94 severing the historic Rondo neighborhood.

Since its inception the UFGA has undertaken a number of programming initiatives to serve the community. The weekly summer Children’s Garden program hosted at the Aurora Peace Sanctuary Garden brings in children from the community for an hour and a half of planting, weeding, watering, harvesting and a short educational workshop that includes an appropriate and fun snack for the kids. The interest in these workshops has grown since last summer and has created a safe space in the neighborhood for children to explore and learn about growing food in their own backyards. The success of this program and recent awards bestowed upon the UFGA by the Dispute Resolution Center and University of Minnesota Extension are examples of growing interest in the work of the Alliance and its service to the community.

This summer project has evolved out of conversations the Alliance has had over the last year about the importance of research and evaluation. The growing stress placed on non-profit organizations to evaluate and prove the value of their work quantitatively can be a challenge for smaller organizations that are primarily volunteer run, such as the Alliance. CURA’s support has allowed us to take the time and resources to embark on a measurement project for the gardens. The intent of the work this summer was to collaboratively design a system for measuring multiple yields and use the results from the process to create a community friendly toolkit that will be accessible to anyone interested in doing this type of measurement.

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Conducted on behalf of Urban Farm & Garden Alliance. Supported by the Kris Nelson Community-Based Research Program, a program of the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
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