Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

Seeds of growth

If Butter Bakery Café’s first year at 3700 Nicollet could be likened to preparing the soil for a new garden, this past year was more about planting seeds in that rich soil. It is my hope that the coming year will see many of these seeds grow and bloom!

Several of the seeds already seem to be sprouting so it’s exciting to imagine what they may grow into.  We plant seeds with the hope of seeing them grow, but there is also no actual guarantee that seeds will produce what you hope for.   Soil conditions, growing conditions, pests, and even genetics play a role in having seeds reach their potential.  And so, we do our part; we plant the seed, and then tend it, care for it, and nurture it the best we are able.

At the café, this included adding local vendors and a new farm (A Place at the Table) into our CSA hosting. (Next year another Savory Spring Farms CSA will be taking its place.)   We had lots of items on our ingredient list that had not been easy to source locally when we began nine years ago, but over the years local sourcing options have improved a lot.  New urban farmers (Clover Bee Farm) have entered the scene, food producer incubators have opened, and small, local craft producers (Whistler Soda) have been able to expand enough to be able to add us into their mix. The inspiration from these producers led us to start a Community Supported Bakery share here at butter as a way for lead baker, Suzie Lillyblad-Larsen’s to develop our bread baking potential.

We reached out to others who share our mission to restore the earth while producing high quality foods and found ways to extend our community building efforts to another place where our family spends a lot of time, Grand Marais (home of Fika Coffee roaster). That seed led to another seed as my daughter, Erin, joins the North House Folk School staff in Grand Marais for a ten-month internship to learn foraging, preservation, and wood stove cooking skills among other folk arts.

We have had the great fortune to be able to meet many local artists over the years, and the seeds that were planted by being a gallery and performing space lead to many great connections.  We have watched the rebirth of the Illicit Sextet, and saw the Sudden Lovelys go from local to national tours. Could Reina del cid and the Cidizens be the next?  We watched Linnea Doyle’s work appear around the neighborhood and sent our own barista-artist Eddie Ortegon off to Hawaii for a summer mural project.

The most visible seed planting, of course, was out on the boulevard where we began container plantings and creating beds for community veggies and herbs.  This coming year we hope to expand our efforts, connect more with our neighbors at Nicollet Square, and support the growth of urban agriculture.

We celebrated with our neighbor, Jason Montgomery, whose food truck, Tru Pizza, is now a part of the growing food options in the city.  Our pop-up event with him in December was so much fun, we’ll be offering it monthly during the coming months.   His stone oven (and other local bread ovens) has inspired efforts to build an oven in the community garden at 38th and Pleasant, where my connections to an existing bread oven, means I can be part of nurturing this new seed.

The café has also seen the seeds of growth from having a smooth, finished street completed from Lake Street south to 46th.  The first real blooms were glorious as we celebrated Open Streets Nicollet in October.  While it was quite a success, there was a lot to learn, and lots of great ideas for another one next fall. Imagine the irrigation waters that could come flowing when the intersection at Lake and Nicollet is restored.

We connected with council member Elizabeth Glidden for local lunch gatherings this past year as her way of planting seeds for local involvement in the community.  We aim to be a gathering place for lots of neighborhood building efforts including being a meeting place for neighborhood staff, being a common ground for networking with Somali parents of Lyndale Elementary school students, or just serving as a rest stop for the community service efforts by Lake Country School students.  I imagine that every time I make a donation to a local organization or neighborhood event, a seed has been planted.

When we celebrated the end of our ninth year in the neighborhood this New Year’s Eve, I understood that many of those early seeds are now bearing fruit.   I am also aware of how grateful I am to all of you who have helped nurture these seeds with me. As we walk this path together, may we continue to sow seeds for the future.