Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

april 2013


Nearly all trees and shrubs have buds that are fully formed and ready to go before winter begins.  Protective coverings do their best to keep out winter cold and hungry animals looking for an energy packed nibble.   Then, when light and warmth stir those inner triggers, the buds burst and get to work.  Here in the north, with such a short growing season, trees need to have their leaves out and going quickly in order to gather enough energy and nourishment to support their year’s growth and ability to reproduce. 

However, if an early warm day provides an illusion of spring, trees may start up too soon and then the developing leaves may get hit by a damaging frost or a heavy snow that can collect on the leaves and branches and damage whole limbs.  Some plants have all their buds eaten away and spend the whole spring trying to make up the lost time, leading to not being able to develop fruit that year.  But it’s worth those risks to get out early and start catching that sunlight.

I’ve been sitting in my shop these past couple weeks thinking like the buds.  We are here, ready to go, ready to set up tables on the sidewalk, and ready to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. But like the buds, the cold has us waiting.  The light is right, and the sun feels warm, but the cold air has kept me from just jumping fully into this spring.  And like most small saplings, we have had more than a few spring buds nibbled away during the past winter through equipment breakdowns, staffing adjustments, and busy days that catch us unprepared.  Our summers are so short that I want to put every good weather day to use, but I understand I just can’t control the environment around me.  I am learning to balance the risks of pushing ahead too quickly against the risks of sitting back too long.

Around our city, state and country, yes even around the world, farmers are paying attention to those buds. They are testing their soil temperatures, filling greenhouses with seedlings and preparing to rush forward into another growing season.  It is a huge risk. They all know that the weather, pests, and diseases are not in their control.  And yet, they make the investment in order to get us the food we need.

My shop has been connected to Community Supported Agriculture farms since 2006.   We have joined with other neighbors to provide a market for farmers by investing in the coming growing season.  We join the farmer in taking a risk on the weather, the pests, diseases, and the crops.  For our investment we are rewarded with a summer and fall of produce grown by someone we know.   For those of us whose household gardens don’t have the capacity to grow sweet corn, melons, pumpkins, or other space loving crops, we have someone with room to grow!

This year, I will work with one of our CSA farmers, Aaron Blyth at Big River Farm in Marine-on-St. Croix, to focus on the Community aspect of the CSA.  Big River’s mission includes training immigrants to farm here in Minnesota, and to market what they grow. We will offer a site for members of the community to connect with these new farmers, learn their story, and learn about some unique produce.  Our shop can also offer opportunities to connect about recipes and uses of the veggies - come see what we make!

We are fortunate, here in south Minneapolis, to have a large number of CSA farms available to us.  Each has their own personality and their own taste because their location provides a sense of place through soil and climate conditions on their farm.  They do not need to mass produce a head of lettuce that can travel distances and taste sort of like lettuce - each farm creates greens that draw from soil and heritage to bring something special. 

Costs do vary with CSA's.  CSA farmers come with a variety of experience as well, so don't be afraid to check with members of the CSA from past years to find out how well the CSA provides.  Over the past couple of years, the city has found ways to encourage these "farms" to happen within our city limits creating very local local food!

One of the easiest ways to pick a CSA is to find a convenient "host site" where CSA shares are dropped each week.  If the place is near your home or work, or on your way to a weekly event - you'll find it much easier to remember to pick up your box.  I chose the even easier method of being the host so that the boxes all come to me.

Although a full box of veggies can be a bit intimidating at first, there are many resources for learning how to eat your veggies!  Most CSA's have every other week or half-share options available.  Or, find a friend and build community by sharing your share with others. 

Remember, those winter winds will find their way back here far too soon, and we will cover ourselves up in protective shells like the buds.  Then all those summer veggies will be the energy that gets us through the long winter and back to another glorious spring!