Mn Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger praises Open Streets

Project Sweetie Pie received the most wonderful letter from Minnesota Health Department Commissioner Ed Ehlinger praising the May 31, 2014 Open Streets event. Here is what he says:

From: Ehlinger, Ed (MDH)
Sent: Monday, June 02, 2014 9:33 PM
Subject: Open Streets – North Minneapolis Greenway Experience

20140531_114117On Saturday, while participating in this summer’s first Open Streets event, lines from a couple Maya Angelou poems kept running through my mind.  Given that Angelou had died just three days earlier and that I was biking with members of the Major Taylor Bicycle Club (an African American bike club) through north Minneapolis, I wasn’t surprised that verses from “Still I Rise” and “Million Man March” were rising into my consciousness and marching through my brain.

Biking down Humboldt Avenue North and seeing the remnants of the house and tree damage caused by the tornado 3 years ago and the foreclosed homes and vacant lots caused by predatory lending of the last decade and years of community-level poverty, I could hear the poet clearly lament:

The night has been long,
The wound has been deep,
The pit has been dark,
And the walls have been steep.
Million Man March

Appetite for ChangeBut the mood was not one of sadness or defeat.  Instead, there was joy in the air and it was contagious as our group pedaled through the neighborhood.  There were bikers everywhere.  Those who weren’t biking were laughing, waving, and enjoying the spectacle. Many of the vacant lots were slowly being reclaimed by sprouting vegetables – part of a network of community gardens.  Schools and churches along the route were offering food and music.  Dance groups were performing on temporary stages at several venues.  Tents put up by community agencies lined the streets and offered education, information, connections, and water.  And community members were beaming as they interacted with each other. Among this hubbub I could envision a triumphant smile on the face of Maya Angelou as she demanded:

I say, clap hands and let’s come together in this meeting ground,
I say, clap hands and let’s deal with each other with love,
I say, clap hands and let us get from the low road of indifference,
Clap hands, let us come together and reveal our hearts,
Let us come together and revise our spirits,
Let us come together and cleanse our souls
 Clap hands, call the spirits back from the ledge,Clap hands, let us invite joy into our conversation,
Million Man March

photoAnd there was joy in this Open Streets community-building conversation/event that couldn’t be dampened even by the threat of rain.

Our Advancing Health Equity report outlined many of the policies and structural inequities that have disadvantaged communities of color and American Indians in our state and it highlighted many of the health disparities that have resulted.  It did one of the things that public health is supposed to do – redefine the unacceptable.  What hasn’t received as much attention is the more up-lifting role of public health that the report suggested – assure the conditions in which people can be healthy.  photo 1Engaging and empowering communities in creating opportunities to be healthy is one of the best ways to do that.  Community engagement and empowerment is what I saw rising up last weekend in one of the poorest and most stressed neighborhoods in Minneapolis.

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.         
Still I Rise

Despite the magnitude and seeming intractability of the disparities in our state, I am optimistic that we can achieve health equity. Community after community is showing us how to make that happen.

Health equity is on the rise.

Edward P. Ehlinger, MD, MSPH
Minnesota Department of Health
625 Robert St. N.
P.O. Box 64975
St. Paul, MN 55164-0975
(651) 201-5810
Assistant: Sandy Pizzuti
(651) 201-5804

Gardening and Urban Farming Academy June 1


Community Garden Academy

Working in partnership with Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, ScottsMiracle-Gro, Gardening Matters, Mpls Homegrown, Project Sweetie Pie, an educational program for community gardeners will be offered for free:

Sunday, June 1 from 3:00 – 5:30 pm at Rainbow Terrace Community Room, 1710 Plymouth Ave. N. Minneapolis 55411.          

Pizza will be served.

GRO1000 Community Garden Academy is a 2.5-hour free workshop designed to bring together those individuals invested in community gardens to discuss gardening best practices and sustainability. The Academy will be led by community garden expert Bill Dawson of the award-winning Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.

Bill Dawson has devoted his lifetime to teaching others about his love of gardening and nature and inspiring people of all ages and backgrounds by his passion and enthusiasm for his work.

Franklin Botanical Park Bill has worked at Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens for over 20 years and has been leading the Conservatory’s Growing to Green Community Garden Program since 2000. Since the creation of Growing to Green in 2000, Bill has helped to grow the number of community gardens in Columbus, Ohio from a dozen to more than 250 in just 14 years. Today, thanks to Bill’s help, the City of Columbus has more thriving community gardens per capita than any other major metropolitan city.

Please RSVP to: space is limited to 40 people so make your reservation now.

Environmental Initiative Fetes Project Sweetie Pie

Project Sweetie Pie Earns 2 Environmental Initiative Awards

Environmental-InitiativeMay 22, 2014–Project Sweetie Pie was awarded the “Community Action” and the “Partnerships” award before 480 guests at the Environmental Initiative Awards Ceremony at the Nicollet Inn Pavillion.

Project Sweetie Pie was was selected as exemplifying the Environmental Initiative’s mission to build networks of nonprofit, business, and governmental leaders to work collaboratively to solve environmental problems. Established in 1994, the awards honor partnerships, inspire other organizations to create similar projects, and encourage collaborative approaches to environmental problem solving.

Project Sweetie Pie was a part of the Community Action category along with sister projects, the Frogtown Park and Farm, and the Maplewood Living Streets Policy and Demonstration Project. Other categories included: Energy and Climate, Environmental Education, Food Stewardship, Natural Resources, and Sustainable Business.

Project Sweetie Pie won the Community Action category and was also the winner of eighteen finalists projects receiving the Partnership of the Year Award.

“We are thrilled to be selected as a champion in this great collection of wise and innovative solutions to environmental challenges facing our communities in Minnesota. We look forward to developing new partnerships, making new connections and working together. We hope to bring urban agriculture, solar and other technologies together to create an economic cluster featuring food production, processing and food distribution. We envision training and 21st century jobs for hundreds of residents moving out of poverty. We know it can be done. We want to show the country that focusing on the creation of sustainable wage jobs is as important to our regional vitality as focusing on high end professional jobs. Project Sweetie Pie is seeding change, and we are honored to be recognized as doing things in an admirable way”, stated Michael Chaney, founder.

Karamu Garden’s Early Spring Makeover!

Karamu Urban Garden April 2014A call from Channel 9 to Michael Chaney got everything going Sunday April 13, 2014. By 3:00 pm in the afternoon more than a dozen youth in Project Sweetie Pie orange teeshirts were joined by about 50 neighbors and passer-byers wanting to know what was going on at 1600 Plymouth Av North . . .

Youth Clean Urban Karamu GardenThe work accomplished at 42 degrees was inspiring and a good time was had by all. The youth were rewarded with pizza while the neighbors talked about gardening, food, and worked together to build a wonderful spot.

Clemon Dabney III, Horticulturalist and Buckman Fellow from the University of Minnesota is helping Ms. Nothandu, President of the Black Storyteller’s Alliance and manager of the Karamu garden. For years Mr. Vusumuzi and Ms. Nothando Zulu have shouldered much of the organizing for this communal garden.

Tractor in the city!The Black Storyteller’s Karamu Gardens was formed in 2011 in response to a challenge by Homegrown Minneapolis, the city’s local food program, to encourage neighborhoods to come together to grow their own food. The Black Storytellers and several other community partners worked with Legacy Management, the owner of the next door apartment building with a vacant lot next door to create a communal garden at 1600 Plymouth Avenue North. Ms. Nothando has also been an active member of the Food Council, and a coalition with the Women’s Environmental Institute and EJAM (Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota).

A communal garden is different than a community garden because no one person has a growing plot. All that work in the garden have access to the food, in addition the garden produce is available to the people who live in the Legacy Housing, the neighborhood and with the local food bank.

Marking gardensIn the fall of 2013, the Karamu Garden partnered with Project Sweetie Pie to expand Karamu and make it a Northside Town Commons. The plans include food justice programs with multiple food-producing gardens in Minneapolis and hands on growing opportunities for the community. In January 2014, the Karamu Garden was one of 5 national recipients of the GRO1000 community garden grant awarded by Scott’s through the U.S. Conference of Mayors. This three year, $40,000 grant will provide funds for raised beds, a shade stage/tool shed and programs for local youth and their families.

This location allows Karamu Gardens to involve many other community members currently living in the Prestige Apartments. Because the Karamu Gardens offer a highly visible location on a busy artery in North Minneapolis, the location will also provide visual beauty to the neighborhood. Since early March more than 60 people have met each week at UROC to plan the garden, and to extend the design down Plymouth Ave N. Neighbors want to see a walking track with tiny vegetable gardens from Mickey’s Liquor store on Plymouth Ave N and Emerson up to Northpoint, Urban League and UROC at Plymouth Ave N and Penn Ave N. This .7 miles will be used by walking groups, athletes and others this summer during a walk-it-off campaign.

Tilling urban soil at KaramuMark Monday June 2 from 3-7pm on your calendars and join the fun as Mayor Betsy Hodges and other dignitaries cut a ribbon and launch an afternoon of festivities.


Starfish Throwers and Panel Sat April 12, 2014

April 12 Saturday at 2:00pm — A Panel on Hunger Relief at the Astor Cafe’s River Room (down the hall from St. Anthony Main Movie Theater with the film starting about 4:00 pm. Click here


Join us for an engaging, heartfelt, and practical discussion about how organizations and individuals are acting to end hunger and work toward a more equitable food system.


  • Moderator: Emily Torgrimson, National Co-founder & Executive Director of Eat for Equity
  • Allan Law, “The Sandwich Man,” Founder of Minneapolis Recreation Development, & film subject in The Starfish Throwers
  • Katie Stagliano, Founder & Chief Executive Gardner of Katie’s Krops, & film subject in The Starfish Throwers
  • David Dayhoff, Director of Partnership Engagement and Advocacy at Hunger-Free Minnesota
  • Michael Chaney, Founder of Project Sweetie Pie
  • LaDonna Sanders-Redmond, Education & Outreach Coordinator for Seward Coop


Click here for Trailer:


Minneapolis Wants Your Urban Agriculture Ideas

Good people of Minneapolis!

We have until April 4th to give the city of Minneapolis our thoughts about what are the most challenging barriers to urban agriculture. Please take a moment and rank the following 13 challenges using the Survey Monkey below:

Click here to take survey

Vishwarupa [Vish] Vasani, MPH, CHES Prevention Specialist with the Policy & Community Programs at the Minneapolis Health Department conducted a focus group which identified these as the most challenging barriers to overcome.

We now need you to take a moment to let us know what you have found to be the most vexing, and what you would like the city to focus on first. It’s hard, we would want all of these barriers to go away. However, let’s work together to get a few resolved ASAP!

Click here to take survey

Springing into Action!

March 26 at 8:15 am in Room 5 of the State Office Building

GREAT NEWS!!!….All our hard work paid off!!…We got a formal hearing!!>..NOW we need YOU to show up!!!….

Good people!
Thank you for staying engaged and continuing to make your voice heard at the Capitol!
Our Urban Agriculture bills will be heard in the House Urban Agriculture Policy Committee this Wednesday, March 26th, at 8:15am in Room 5 of the State Office Building.
Make sure to RSVP and attend in support!
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Seed Saving with Master Gardeners

Seed Saving Class AND a Beginning Vegetable Gardening Class at MSHS

MSHS has a couple of great and inexpensive classes coming up.  Enrollment is limited, and pre-registration is required. Please call the MSHS office at 651-643-3601.

Seed Saving – Best Practices Tuesday March 18, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.MSHS Classroom 2705 Lincoln DriveRoseville, MN  55113 $10 MSHS members, $15 nonmembers

Agriculture and gardening, seed saving is the practice of saving seeds or other reproductive material from vegetables, grain, herbs, and flowers for use from year to year. Seeds are generous – one plant can yield over a decade’s worth of seed, saving you incredible amounts of money while offering more varieties to work with in your garden. Learn new skills to be successful at seed saving to ensure desired characteristics are retained.  You can achieve seed saving success! You will learn rules to save seed from your own garden.  You then can share both seed and seed saving knowledge with family and friends.  Cosponsored by Seed Savers Exchange, Instructor Marty Bergland is a lifelong gardener and Master Gardener Emeritus. She is owner of Heirloom House MN, and a lifetime member of Seed Savers Exchange.  Marty has authored several publications.

Beginning Vegetable Gardening Tuesday April 15, 22, 29, May 6, 13 and 20 (6 sessions)6:00 to 8:00 p.m.Location MSHS Classroom 2705 Lincoln DriveRoseville, MN  55113 $30 for all 6 classes. You will receive a certificate of completion if you complete 5 out of 6 classes.

Would you like to start a vegetable garden but don’t know where to start? This series is intended for those with little or no gardening experience.  Learn how to develop a garden plan, choose the best vegetables for your site and maintain your garden throughout the growing season. Classes include presentations, handouts, demonstrations and valuable hands-on activities. Instructors: U of M Extension Master Gardeners from Ramsey County.  Refunds will not be issued for nonattendance except by cancellation at least one week prior to class. MSHS requires a five-student minimum to hold a class. If a class is going to be cancelled, you will be notified three days prior to the class’s start date. You will get a refund if MSHS cancels the class.

Questions? Contact Vicky VogelsCommunity Outreach CoordinatorMinnesota State Horticultural Society2705 Lincoln DriveRoseville, MN  55113                          651-643-3601, ext 211

Urban Gardening Goes to the Fair!

Thanks to dozens of Project Sweetie Pie supporters and hundreds of corporations and individuals. Urban gardening had its day at the Mn State Fair. Our partner Burpee Seeds provided enough packets to distribute to the hundreds of State-Fair Goers. We will be using these seeds during the winter to start seedlings for next year’s gardens.

Armed with produce and knowledgeable volunteers!

We were armed with sample produce from Minneapolis urban gardens, seeds from Burpee, handbills, cards and knowledgeable volunteers. Project Sweetie Pie brought the story of the inner city green revolution to the state fair. Young volunteers led conversations which ranged from recipes for pickles, to mulching, soil testing, harvesting produce from scattered sites and volunteering. Many visitors wanted to volunteer for a day or two here or there. And, of course the answer is resoundingly YES! Let us know if you are available to help tend to the gardens between now and the fall by contacting us here!

The events at the Mn State Fair were another way to get the message to countless people that Minneapolis is positioned to become an urban gardening model. Next year, Project Sweetie Pie will explore straw-bale gardening, raised beds on pallets similar to what is being done in Seattle WA, and assigning a master gardener to each garden. As well, more classes are planned to help people use, store and freeze foods from the gardens. We invite you to be a part of this exciting transition.

Here are some photos of the fair: