Growing Lots: Paradise has Returned to the Parking Lot

By Kris Woll

img_6463growinglotsThere is a CSA pick up every Thursday in one corner parking lot in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. But these shares are not trucked in from a farm outside of the 494/694 loop. Instead, they are grown right there—in Minneapolis, in Seward, atop the pavement at the corner of 22nd Street and Snelling.  There, urban farmer Stefan Meyer is cultivating melons—and basil and Swiss chard—in the lot itself.  

The farm, called Growing Lots, sits on a ¼ acre of a four-block parcel of land owned by Seward Redesign. The project, new this year, is the first of many steps in the redevelopment of the site. The development will eventually feature commercial and residential properties as well as urban agriculture.  

Growing Lots is starting small, with seven CSA members and occasional extra weekly shares to donate or sell on a per-item basis. Each of the seven members works or lives near the farm.  

“Ideally I think I could run twenty to thirty CSAs from this project,” said Meyer. “I’m using a very bio-intensive method of growing, which is something you can do on a smaller scale. It requires a lot of hands-on work, but produces more food per square foot.”  

Because the area’s landscape and the site of the farm itself will change greatly as the redevelopment project moves forward, Meyer constructed the farm out of easily movable but reusable materials. Straw and soil fill the center of the parking lot; melons and potatoes in small “pots” of the same straw and soil and wrapped in fencing dot the perimeter. The soil used this summer will be reused next year. He plans to eventually construct high tunnels, or large unheated greenhouses, to lengthen the growing season.  

Meyer brings a wealth of knowledge about farming to his work. He grew up on a large turkey, corn, and soybean farm in southwest Minnesota and has been “playing in dirt” for as long as he can remember. He spent over a decade living, working, and studying sustainable agriculture in the Pacific Northwest, where he completed a degree in environmental science at the University of Oregon. Upon his return to Minneapolis, Seward Redesign contacted him to discuss moving forward on the agricultural piece of their development plan. He signed on, excited to grow food for an urban neighborhood right in the urban neighborhood.  

Meyer sees Growing Lots as an important part of a larger transition to sustainable food production and sustainable living in general.

“Urban farming will never replace rural agriculture, rather it is another aspect of creating a healthy and sustainable food economy,” Meyer explained. “I hope the project will inspire others to think creatively around where and how we can expand urban food production.”  

He added, “I want to actually be producing food that directly feeds the local community of south Minneapolis, while finding a way to make it an economically viable business model so urban farmers can feed their economic livelihood.”

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