Homegrown Minneapolis is a city-wide initiative launched out of the mayor’s office committed to strengthening and celebrating the local food movement in Minneapolis. For the past year, Jane Shey has served as consultant to Homegrown Minneapolis and Food Council, carrying the work forward as a persistent and reliable champion of urban agriculture. My conversation with her along with my own involvement in the Homegrown Food Council over the past two years has informed this partner profile.
While loosely organized as an initiative with since its founding in 2008, the Homegrown Minneapolis movement gained more momentum with the formation of an active Food Council in January of 2012. Formed of ‘at-large’ residents of Minneapolis and city staff officials, the Food Council in a body that can advise City Council and other local decision-making bodies on policy issues that affect the local food economy. Throughout its first year, the Council supported the passing of the Urban Agriculture Text Amendments and provided feedback to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s Urban Agriculture plan. In its second year, the Council formed a number of working groups, including the ‘Urban Agriculture and Land Access Committee,’ which has been comprised of members of Minneapolis’ diverse populations to discuss fair and equitable ways to access more land for urban agriculture.
Homegrown Minneapolis is focused on five areas within the broader local food movement: (1) growing, (2) processing, (3) distributing, (4) eating, and (5) composting. With such a broad mission, Homegrown has addressed many issues within our local food economy. While not initially a principal area of focus, the issue of equitable land access to Minneapolis residents and organizations for growing has slowly made its way onto radar, especially with the formation of the ‘Land Access Committee.’ With land access being recognized as a major barrier to the growth of urban agriculture within Minneapolis, TCALT and Homegrown appear to have a great opportunity to lean on each other’s strengths to make real progress on this issue.
According to Homegrown Coordinator Jane Shey, permanent land access for urban farmers and community gardeners alike opens up a world of possibilities for our local food economy that are not even being considered at this time. With a new Food Council being elected for 2014-15, the time is ideal for Homegrown to lead the charge of bringing urban agriculture to the next level- a level at which the regulatory and land access environments are favorable to urban food producers.
There are many ways in which TCALT and Homegrown can build off each other’s strengths to build permanent land access in the ity of Minneapolis. Through its Open House event and open committees, Homegrown has its ear to the ground and can land access questions and concerns TCALT, who will have the expertise and toolkit to address those concerns. At the same time, TCALT can bring regulatory and policy barriers facing land access to the Food Council, who will have the relationships and expertise necessary to address these concerns with the city officials who have the know-how to begin deconstructing these barriers. Finally, if and when TCALT does become an owner or manager of land, Homegrown may play an important role in assisting TCALT a fair and equitable process for determining . For example, Homegrown, through the eyes and ears of its Land Access Committee and community partnerships, may be able to convene a community-based committee to determine which interested farming or gardening organization will be granted access to the TCALT-owned parcel.
While it was initially feared that the work of Land Access Committee would be duplicating the efforts of TCALT it is now becoming more clear that by collaborating and staying in communication, both groups will be using their strengths to address different niches of the land access issue. Homegrown Minneapolis draws its strength from having active participation from members of the community. Supporters of TCALT are encouraged to join email list, attend Food Council or Committee meetings, and participate in the annual Open House, which is typically held the first week of December.
– Eric Larsen