Profiles In Prevention -- Frogtown Park and Farm
Take one part ingenuity, one part perseverance, one part community engagement, one part neighborhood dedication, and mix generously over a period of multiple years. The result? Frogtown Park and Farm.
St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood has been working to become the most sustainable and eco-friendly neighborhood in the city. Frogtown Park and Farm is a large part of this effort. From sustainable urban farming initiatives to creating a gathering space for volunteers and community members, Frogtown Farm is working hard to change the conversation about food.
The effort to create Frogtown Park and Farm was led by four neighborhood residents: Soyini Guyton, Seitu Jones, Patricia Ohmans, and Anthony Schmitz beginning in 2010 in an effort to combat against the old, gritty reputation that Frogtown had along with the food desert that existed in the area. They currently have 5.5 acres of organic urban farming, growing over three tons of fresh produce in 2021, with a plan to grow.
"It's truly a blessing anytime folks come together over food, and to share food.” Said Seitu at a recent community kitchen event where Frogtown Park and Farms taught 17 people how to make seven recipes using ingredients that were produced on-site.
Frogtown Park and Farm’s goal: secure 13 acres of green space in Frogtown while making sure to have a sustainable and self-sufficient approach, creating regenerative systems that build up nutrients rather than degrading the soil. They were even awarded the Water Quality Farm Certification from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. But how can urban farming be sustainable?
Frogtown Park and Farm take a permaculture approach to farming. Permaculture offers positive solutions to manage cycles of biodiversity and water quality. It is a sustainable way to farm that advocates for growing a permanent and sustainable ecosystem. When you farm this way, you don’t grow food, you feed the soil and create an environment in which food grows naturally. Permaculture methods include growing multi-storied perennial crops and polycultures, composting, ‘chop and drop’, no-till farming, and a reduction of inputs. These methods reduce or even eliminate nitrogen or carbon escaping from the soils. It also employs large mounded rows designed to slow, spread, and sink water, which reduces runoff, protecting water nearby from an excess of fertilizer. All in all, permaculture is about caring for people, caring for the planet, and the return of surplus.
On top of a permaculture approach, Frogtown Park and Farm is battling transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions by distributing their products in the same area that they are producing it, creating virtually no transportation greenhouse gasses. Urban farming can also serve as a habitat for pollinators and the creation of green spaces can help with extreme heat by maximizing tree coverage and replacing paved surfaces with vegetation.
The effort is essential to the Frogtown neighborhood. They believe that improving access to growing and eating good food will help address economic and health disparities in the neighborhood, whose residents are nearly all people of color. With hundreds of volunteers annually, 1,500 community members, and partnerships with the Trust for Public Land, the City of St. Paul, and the Wilder Foundation, the Frogtown Park and Farm has been able to host weekly community-oriented programs and events. The weekly events include helping with planting, weeding, and other maintenance, along with a Saturday market that offers the farm’s latest harvest for sale. They also host outdoor kitchen demonstrations, booths selling crafts, music, exercise classes, and many other activities. Also, the majority of Frogtown Park and Farm’s produce goes to the Feeding Frogtown food distribution program.
To learn more about Frogtown Park and Farms, please visit www.frogtownfarm.org.