About concretebeetfarmers

Concrete Beet Farmers is a new urban farm located in south Minneapolis started by six young farmers. The basic goals of our farm are ecological resilience, long-term financial sustainability, and community food access and education.

Winter Falls

Well, winter is here. Snow has fallen, anyway. It’s time for us to close up shop here at the Concrete Beet Farmers website. It’s not a true goodbye, though, just a “See you later!” Next year, we’ll have a new name, some new faces, and more land. But we’ll be bringing you the same high quality vegetables, grown right in the Twin Cities.

To stay up to date with us, find your way to our new internet digs at STONESTHROWURBANFARM.WORDPRESS.COM.

Have a great winter!

Autumn Arrives

Well, hello. It’s been a while, huh? The summer now seems like a blur of humid evenings with the fan running on high, but now it’s time to pull quilts out of the closet and take a deep breath. It’s fall.

I promised a real update come September, so here I am, with fingers poised over the keyboard, trying to find the words to describe how wonderful this season has been. The main emotion that bubbles up is gratitude to all the folks who helped make Concrete Beet Farmers happen this year- our friends at Macalester, especially the Institute for Global Citizenship Student Council and the Live It Fund. Our wonderful CSA members. Our urban farming friends who gave us such sage advice and encouraged us every step of the way. Our neighborhood and community, for welcoming us with open arms. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Now, let’s backtrack a bit and give a quick update on what’s happening at Concrete Beet these days. We’re putting the farm to bed, slowly. It’s that time of year when the work is less frantic, when it’s ok to take the time to fold row cover carefully and put it in it’s proper place in the shed. We’re gradually removing crops that have gone by, or that get too cold on chilly evenings, and planting cover crop. The mix of oats and peas that we plant in all our empty beds will help protect the soil throughout the winter, as well as provide a wealth of nutrients for next year’s crop. This technique of incorporating green manure into the soil is one of the most important parts of creating a sustainable, on-farm fertility system, and we’re excited to see little green shoots blanketing the beds that grew us vegetables all summer. It’s our way of giving back to the soil what it gave to our bellies.

We’re counting down to the last weeks of selling produce this fall, as well. We just wrapped up our last week at the Uptown Market (if you’d like to get your hands on some delectable Concrete Beet pickles, stop by between 11 and 4 this Sunday!). And only two weeks more of our CSA. It seems incredible that we’re wrapping up such a long, abundant season, and we’re already ecstatically planning for next year.

Which brings us to perhaps the most important news of this update: NEXT YEAR! There are big changes afoot, and we want you to be the first to know. Concrete Beet Farmers won’t be around next year, but not to fear! We’ll still be farming, and will continue to grow vegetables on all the lots where we farmed this year. We’re just growing and changing, as all things in the natural world do.

We’re excited to announce that we’ll  be teaming up with some of our dear urban farming friends at Uptown Farmers and Pig’s Eye Urban Farm to create a new venture called Stone’s Throw Urban Farm. This is a great opportunity for us to push the boundaries of how much food it’s possible to grow in the city, and we can’t wait to share the bounty with you. As three separate farms, we’ve been highly successful at growing lots of high quality produce in the city. But by working together, combining our land base, expanding the number of CSAs we can provide, and sharing practical knowledge, we think that we’ll be able to bring good food to more people while working toward a model of financial security and sustainability for ourselves and our communities. In short, we’d all like to earn our livelihoods as urban farmers, and think that we can make it happen together.

As we get a new website and Facebook page up and running for Stone’s Throw Urban Farm, we’ll make sure to post all the information here, so you can stay up to date on where to find the freshest, most local produce in the cities!

We hope you enjoy these photos from the farm and from Local Foods Happy Hour, hosted by the Land Stewardship Project at our farm on September 20th!

Endless, numbered days

Sigh. Somehow, every year it happens. August slips by quietly in a haze of late summer and tomatoes-for-dinner-every-night, and all of a sudden the nights are cooler and we’re walking around the State Fair wondering where the last three months went. As a farmer, the change is pace is welcome, but still a little bittersweet.

There’s not time this morning for an honest to goodness update on all that is new and exciting at Concrete Beet, but we wanted to share a few photos from our bountiful, beautiful August with you. It’s been filled with overflowing farmers’ market tables, two pound heirloom tomatoes, spider webs glinting in the morning sun, a flurry of turning beds and planting them for fall crops, and so much summer squash.

You can look forward to a post with some exciting news about next year in a few weeks. September is a time for catching up on all those things, you know.

Full Swing

Oh, hi! Good to see you again. Sorry it’s been a while since we said hello, but summer’s in full swing and we’ve been busy. If you need proof, look at the piles of produce at our stand at the Uptown Market the other week!

It’s hard to believe that it’s August already, but the summer is speeding by. We’re in the midst of a whirlwind of fall plantings, to ensure that we have produce for our CSA members and the market up through the end of October. We’re also planning to do some experimenting with cold houses and crop protection in order to sell cold hardy crops up through Christmas (that’s the dream, anyway). So even though August feels like the depth of summer, for farmers it’s the beginning of fall. Always planning, always thinking ahead!

We’re thinking ahead, but we’re also reveling in the heat of summer. This heat has been a little oppressive some days, but our crops are loving it. We’re coming into the thick of tomato season, with sungolds and black plums practically falling off the vines. We spent a few hours hacking back the rogue plants last night, and cropping off the tops of our cherry tomatoes at 6 feet, so they can focus their attention on ripening fruit rather than growing any taller. We’ve also got eggplant, hot peppers, cucumbers, and summer squash rolling out of the field faster than we can say “pickles!” or “salsa!”. So stay tuned to our weekly emails about extra produce- there’s lots!

We had a chance last weekend to take a break from the crazy pace of the farm and hang out with some fellow young farmers. With the help of The Greenhorns, we organized a Young Farmers Mixer, which was hosted down at Spring Wind Farm in Northfield. It was a lovely evening of great food, wonderful dancing with the Wild Goose Chase Cloggers, and fun with new friends. As farmers who can’t help but be workaholics, it’s great to find a few hours to share in the joy of living the agrarian life. If you’d like to get involved with The Greenhorns or with planning future young farmers events in the Twin Cities, contact Emily at eehanson21@gmail.com!

Hope you all are enjoying the fruits of the land as much as we are, and are staying cool in the dog days of summer!

 

 

 

Catching Up

July already, huh? We can’t believe it, either.

But last weekend at the Uptown Market, where we now sell every Sunday from 11-4, our table was loaded with zucchini, cucumbers, beets, turnips, cabbage, huge heads of lettuce, and all sorts of veggies screaming “IT’S SUMMER!”. We spent all of June saying “It’s been a long, slow spring”, and now, quite suddenly, summer is upon us.

The pace of life hasn’t slowed, and we’re still busy as worker bees most days, but we’re starting to settle into some sort of routine. The CSA harvest gets easier, (as well as more colorful and exciting!) every week. We recognize our regular customers at the market, and always remember to fill our restaurant orders in time. We know that the pace will pick up again as the tomatoes and pepper start rolling in. There’s never much of a rest in farm work, but we’re feeling pretty lucky to be relatively caught up right now.

We’re also feeling pretty lucky to have so many wonderful supporters and helpers. The Summer of Solutions program, run through Grand Aspirations, has been hugely helpful in getting us caught up. We have a group of young, fresh faces volunteers who will be working with us every other week through mid-August doing weeding, mulching, and bed prep. We’ve also got a few interns from SoS who work with us throughout the week and help with tasks while learning more about urban farming. We feel blessed to have so many great people interested in working with us! Thanks for all the help, guys.

On that note, stay tuned for opportunities to get involved with the farm in July. We may have a workday, but more likely, we’ll be hosting some sort of farm tour, in collaboration with our urban farming friends at Growing Lots, Uptown Farmers, Cherry Tree House Mushrooms, McKinley CSA, Howling Moose Gardens, Cornercopia Student Organic Farm, and Pig’s Eye Urban Farm. Also stay tuned for details about the upcoming Young Farmers Mixer, which Emily is planning in collaboration with The Greenhorns. It will be July 30th at Spring Wind Farm in Northfield, and fun will certainly be had by all. More details to come!

Hope you all had a wonderful first week of July! We look forward to seeing you around the farm, the neighborhood, and/or the internet!

 

 

Raining and pouring

Well, Minnesota seems to have decided that it should make up for the weeks of no significant rainfall by dumping it on us all in one week! With an inch and a half of rainfall from the storm on Tuesday night and Wednesday, three-quarters of an inch on Friday night, and more rain Saturday afternoon, our plants are sizing up quickly. But so are the weeds!

Luckily, we had a team of wonderful volunteers come lend a hand today, for our second-ever workday! We had about twenty wonderful friends (new and old) stop by throughout the day, and got the entirety of our 15th avenue lot weeded and mulched! The furrows look clean and orderly, the grass has been beaten back, and our vegetables have a little more room to breathe. A million thanks go out to all our incredible volunteers, who stuck it out even as the light sprinkles turned into steady rain in the afternoon. We couldn’t do it without you!

If you missed this workday and would like to get involved, shoot us an email at concretebeet AT gmail.com. We’re hoping to host another workday in July, so stay tuned for more details!

The second week of our CSA is going wonderfully, with shares full of many greens (kale, chard, arugula, bok choi), baby beets, cilantro, parsley, and even the season’s first SNAP PEAS! Next week we’ll have an even greater diversity of edibles, with collards and head lettuce joining the mix. After that, baby carrots, big beets, and new potatoes are on the horizon! And we’ve already got some little green tomatoes set on the vines, so before we know it we’ll be rolling in summer veggies!

Best wishes to you all, have a wonderful week, and stay dry!

Community Supported!

Last week’s mini-CSA shares were just a preview for what’s to come this week: our first full shares! Last week, we had four items for our members, this week there will be nine! We’ll have chard, kale, mixed salad greens, bunched braising greens, radishes, salad turnips, green onions, and a few sprigs of basil!

In case you were wondering, we did survive the heat wave this week, with lots of water breaks and a few good “accidental” soakings of ourselves with the hose. We transplanted tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant at our newest location on 12th Ave in the 90 degree heat on Monday, and then watered twice a day on Tuesday to keep things alive. Some of the plants are a little worse for the wear, but it seems like most will survive and we’ll have a bumper tomato crop this year!

In other news, we’ll be holding another workday on June 18th, so check our “Get Involved” page, or the Facebook event, for more details! Lots of fun is promised, and as much dirt under your fingernails as you’d care to take home with you.

Time to write long, eloquent blog posts is running short in these days of long hours in the sun, so this update will be brief. For our members and those of you on our mailing list, you can look forward to our weekly newsletter on Thursday morning! If you’d like to get our newsletter, please email us at concretebeet@gmail.com!

Have a wonderful week, and enjoy the cooler weather!

The Harvest Begins!

Slowly but surely, things are sizing up! Despite the cool, wet spring, our plants are eager to grow big and strong.

Over the last week or so, we’ve started to harvest small amounts of baby greens for the St. Paul Cheese Shop, for a neighborhood block party, and for our own munching! This coming week, we’re hoping do sell some of our delicious spinach and mixed greens to a few other cafes. And we’re offering an early mini CSA share! We had to push the official start of our CSA season back a week, to the 9th, but because we have some greens ready to go, we’re offering our members a small box of greens and radishes as a bonus this week. Thanks for sticking with us through a long, rainy spring, guys!

So, since May’s practically behind us, let’s have a few updates!
Absences and Returns:

Alex and Emily H were out of town right after Macalester’s graduation on the 14th, and both missed the farm uncontrollably. Vacation is wonderful, but for a farmer with crops in the ground, it’s also a little torturous thinking about what you’re missing! Luckily, the four other Concrete Beet Farmers picked up the slack and kept the farm in tip-top shape through some of the busiest days yet.

Nightshades and Cucurbits in the Ground:

The bulk of our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are in the ground at our 15th Avenue site! They’re looking strong, despite a bit of transplant shock after moving from the cushy, warm Macalester greenhouse to the real world. We’re in the process of getting a trellising system set up so they stay under control throughout the season. And summer squash and cucumbers are loving their new home on 2nd Avenue. There are even more seedlings in the greenhouse, awaiting a second round of transplanting! This means that your summer will be filled with delicious salads, salsas, grilled veggies, and more! We can’t wait.

Party on the Block!

On Wednesday the 25th, the block club on 15th Ave organized a little get-together for the neighborhood, and we hosted on the sidewalk in front of our farm! Lots of lovely people stopped by and toured the farm, snacked on some of our salad greens, made mosaics, ate cookies, and chalked the sidewalk! It was wonderful to meet more of our neighbors, and reconnect with those we already know. We look forward to knowing you all better!

The Rural Connection:

As you may know, our own Farmer Eric grew up on a blueberry and Christmas tree farm in Forest Lake, MN. Lucky for us, his parents still run Covered Bridge Farm, and they had a little extra patch of tilled land available for us to use this summer. We’re using it to grow our melons and winter squash, which take up a lot of space that we don’t necessarily have on our city lots. Dusty, Eric, and Emily H ventured up to Forest Lake on Friday to prepare the space, transplant melons, and direct seed winter squash. And then we got fed a wonderful dinner by Eric’s mom. We like this arrangement quite a lot.

Before and After!

New Land:

With our great friends Uptown Farmers, we’ve been working for the last few months to set up a lease agreement with a local bank that owns a vacant lot on 12th Ave and 25th St. This past week, we finally got news that they’ve accepted our proposal. So we’ll be team-farming it with Uptown, and we couldn’t be more excited. It’s a great location, we need some extra space for our next round of tomatoes, and we love working with Nate, Julie, and John! Look forward to updates after we break ground this week.

With everyone back on the farm, more space than ever, and our fingers crossed for some warm weather this week, we’re gearing up for June! We hope you all are looking forward to the first CSA pickups, the first newsletter, the first big harvests, and everything else that June brings as much as we are! Stop by sometime, and see how things are growing!

Also, check out our cameo appearance on The Greenhorns Blog! We love these guys- they’re a national network run by and for young farmers- and are excited to be featured on their website, even if they did mix things up and say that Macalester is in Wisconsin…

 


Busy, busy, busy

Bent over the soil yesterday, planting turnips and dripping sweat, it suddenly felt like summer. It seems like just yesterday that we were rushing out to the plot with row cover to protect our newly planted seedlings from the late April snow. Time flies when you’re overrun with farm tasks, it seems.

We’ve been busy putting up a fence, planting over 20 different crops, constructing towers and trellises, figuring out CSA pickup dates, searching for grants, and working on our farmer’s tans.

So, a long awaited update:

April 24th: The Big Workday

On Easter, the weather took a break from the nasty cold rain it had been throwing at us and gave us a day full of beautiful sunshine for our first ever workday. We had 20 to 25 wonderful volunteers come out to the farm throughout the day, and managed to accomplish some major projects! We put up a fence, planted cold weather row crops like spinach and radishes, transplanted onions, cabbage, broccoli, and parsley, built some compost bins, constructed potato towers, and painted signs. It was absolutely incredible to have so many smiling faces and willing hands on the farm, so THANK YOU to all of our beautiful volunteers. We couldn’t do it without you.

Continue reading

Ramblings on Farming, vol. 2

Here at Concrete Beet Farmers, we really do see ourselves as part of growing movement that is conscious of the inherent problems within our current industrialized food system. These large-scale agribusiness practices erode our topsoil and degrade our land base. They use poisonous pesticides and methods of mono-cropping that are simply not good for the environment. And the entire process of production and distribution is completely propped up by the use of fossil fuel, which makes it bad for the planet and utterly unsustainable. It is also true that the processed foods that these corporations produce have low nutritional value and contribute to America’s health problems.

So, with these things at the forefront of our consciousness, Concrete Beet Farmers is attempting to blaze a new trail! It is our desire to grow food on a smaller scale that contributes to the health of our environment, and sell it to members of the local community. We will operate with a triple bottom line: environmental sustainability, economic viability, and social goodness.

The Concrete Beet Farmers are also thrilled that the city of Minneapolis recently passed the Urban Agriculture Policy Plan, which cements in (no pun intended) urban agriculture as a keystone of future city planning. From the plan:

“The City of Minneapolis has a role to play in building a strong local food system by supporting residents’ efforts to grow, process, distribute, and consume more fresh, sustainably produced and locally grown food; and this role has been supported by the City Council through the adoption ofThe Homegrown Minneapolis Report and The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth, the City’s Comprehensive Plan.

 The Urban Agriculture Policy Plan will serve as a policy document and be incorporated into the City’s Comprehensive Plan. With the goal of promoting urban agriculture, it will detail City land use policy, present a variety of recommendations and next steps, serve as reference document, and guide future land use decisions.

 Key recommendations include: defining several urban agriculture related activities, such as market gardens and urban farms, in the zoning code and altering some of the existing zoning that related to community gardens and farmers’ markets; incorporating urban agriculture into long range planning and encouraging it to be integrated with new construction projects as appropriate; and reviewing the City owned land inventory to make land that is not desirable for development, but well-suited for urban agriculture available.”

But Minneapolis isn’t alone; cities across the country are heading this direction. There is a new documentary out about the urban farming renaissance happening in the wake of post-industrial Detroit, and Will Allen is doing great things around urban agriculture in Milwaukee with his non-profit, Growing Power.

At the root of everything, what I see taking place is a new level of consciousness. We cannot continue living the way that we have been. The movement for sustainability is spreading. Our generation is coming of age, and the Concrete Beet Farmers are going along for the ride.

To access the Minneapolis Urban Agriculture Policy Plan: http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/cped/urban_ag_plan.asp

To find out more about the documentary on urban agriculture in Detroit: http://www.treemedia.com/treemedia.com/Urban_Roots.html

To learn about what Will Allen and Growing Power are doing in Milwaukee: http://www.growingpower.org/

To read an article I co-authored about a panel discussion on urban ag at the University of Minnesota that Will Allen was on: http://www.tcdailyplanet.net/news/2011/04/25/digging-urban-farming-university-minnesota

godpseed,
Dusty Hinz