The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board asked city residents a year ago for ways in which it could better support urban agriculture in the parks. From these comments, a draft of the “Urban Agriculture Activity Plan” was born. The draft has since been vetted by Parks and Recreation staff and a Community Advisory Committee, and the Park Board Commissioners have made it available for public comment until Tuesday, Dec. 31.
Activity Plans are essentially a guide to Parks and Recreation staff to make decisions on how to sustainably support recreation programs, services and facilities in the park system. The Urban Ag Activity Plan defines what urban agriculture is, what is presently happening in the park system and projections for the future. It also proposes strategies for reaching three main goals for integrating Urban Agriculture into the park system.
To me, this Urban Ag Activity Plan is as exciting (if not more so) as the overall Minneapolis Urban Ag Plan, because our parks are a community asset that can transform communities into being delicious, nutritious and resilient. The plan sets out short- and long-term actions that will create possibilities for anyone and everyone to grow, process, eat or sell local foods — nourishing all ambitions of Minneapolis residents to take action and grow these important life skills.
I am fortunate to serve on the Community Advisory Committee for this plan and to contribute to the process. I am proud of what has been done to get to this place and excited by the possibilities in our near future when it passes.
Ah, but here’s the rub: for it to pass and get implemented, the Urban Ag Activity Plan needs:
1) As much feedback and comment as possible — including “Looks good by me!” and “Let’s get going on this!” comments. The review period is intended to enable “the public” (you and me) to call attention to gaps, problems or issues that emerge from reading the Urban Ag Activity Plan. Don’t hold back on these either. The Urban Ag Activity Plan needs lots of eyes to be its best. And Park Commissioners need to know that it is important to people. So go online, read the plan, take a survey and submit your comments through the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s website.
2) Forward this blog to other Minneapolis residents, particularly those that might not be considered “foodies,” or use the parks for other activities and appreciate that the parks’ value could be enhanced by including access to fresh local food (I’m in that camp). Or it might be people who do not use the parks now, but could see themselves doing so should an Urban Ag Activity Plan be implemented. Commissioners need to hear the ways that urban agriculture will enhance people’s experience in our parks.
3) Let me know (you can e-mail me here) of any events or opportunities for the Community Advisory Committee and Parks and Recreation staff to inform people of the Urban Ag Activity Plan and to listen to their feedback — anything from tabling, 15 minutes on an agenda, or organizing an event for folks who want to really dig into the plan.
The city’s park system is truly phenomenal and supporting urban agriculture will only make Minneapolis more resourceful, resilient and remarkable.
Kirsten Saylor is a long-time advocate for community gardens. In collaboration with gardeners, Kirsten started GardenWorks, which eventually became Gardening Matters, an organization dedicated to community gardens in the Twin Cities. In 2012, she stepped down from running the organization in order to spend more time with her family. Saylor is now working at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum to promote school gardening across the state. She serves on the board of Right To Know Minnesota (a state GMO labeling campaign) and assists with classroom worm composting at her son’s school.