Frogtown's sacred farm will grow cultural and interfaith connections

by Patricia Ohmans | Mar 22, 2012
| 1 Comment

Summary:

We are building a sacred farm, in our low-income, urban neighborhood of Frogtown, in St Paul

Everybody knows what an urban farm is...but you may be wondering, why a "sacred" farm?

We think of our farm as a sacred space because food offers both physical and spiritual sustenance. The sharing of food is a metaphor for community and communion, in every culture and faith tradition.

For the past three years we--my neighbors, friends and I--have been working to create a new kind of park on 13 beautiful, vacant acres of land in the middle of our neighborhood. Frogtown Park and Farm will include recreation space, a sanctuary-like grove of trees, and a 6 acre urban farm that showcases the traditions and farming practices of our wildly diverse community.

Our farm will include demonstration plots, offer classes, and host community meals and harvest festivals. Adjacent to the 6-acre farm space, there will be a prairie flower-strewn hill for family picnics and play, and a deeply shaded, quiet sanctuary in a grove of old maples and oaks.

Frogtown Park and Farm will be a place where Frogtowners of all sorts will come together, along with people from all over St Paul, and beyond, to celebrate the universal nature of our relationship with the earth and the physical and spiritual sustenance it provides.

About You

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About You

First Name

Patricia

Last Name

Ohmans

Country

United States, MN, Ramsey County

City

St Paul

Innovation

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Title

A sacred, inner-city farm

What is your best idea to build bonds and work together across cultures and faiths in your community?

We are building a sacred farm, in our low-income, urban neighborhood of Frogtown, in St Paul
Everybody knows what an urban farm is...but you may be wondering, why a "sacred" farm?
We think of our farm as a sacred space because food offers both physical and spiritual sustenance. The sharing of food is a metaphor for community and communion, in every culture and faith tradition.
For the past three years we--my neighbors, friends and I--have been working to create a new kind of park on 13 beautiful, vacant acres of land in the middle of our neighborhood. Frogtown Park and Farm will include recreation space, a sanctuary-like grove of trees, and a 6 acre urban farm that showcases the traditions and farming practices of our wildly diverse community.
Our farm will include demonstration plots, offer classes, and host community meals and harvest festivals. Adjacent to the 6-acre farm space, there will be a prairie flower-strewn hill for family picnics and play, and a deeply shaded, quiet sanctuary in a grove of old maples and oaks.
Frogtown Park and Farm will be a place where Frogtowners of all sorts will come together, along with people from all over St Paul, and beyond, to celebrate the universal nature of our relationship with the earth and the physical and spiritual sustenance it provides.

Impact and Sustainability

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How will your idea have a positive impact on your community?

Frogtown is St Paul's most diverse neighborhood, home to people from every corner of the earth. We are 15,000 individuals, half of us under age 18; 35% Asian-American, 30% African-American, 20% European-American, and 10% Latino-American. The neighborhood's reputation is as a place troubled by crime, foreclosures, vacant lots and violence. The truth is more complicated.

We are poor in income and high in crime, but rich in culture, kids, history, diversity, and pride. We're also rich in farming know-how. Backyard gardens proliferate in Frogtown, and the growing of food is something we have in common. Many of us are former subsistence farmers or farm laborers. Some of us grew up on Minnesota farms. Others of us are young would-be urban farmers.

Frogtown Farm will highlight, preserve and celebrate the diverse agricultural traditions of Frogtown. In addition to giving Frogtowners a beautiful and central place to meet, share ideas, and bond across culture, gender, age, race and class, it will imbue the neighborhood with a joyful new identity.

By showcasing the universal nature of growing, preparing and sharing food, we will build community and forge ties among disparate neighbors. Preparing the soil, planting, cultivating, harvesting and sharing the fruits of our labors, we will provide a living, growing example of how to build bonds across cultures and faiths.

What do you think the lasting effect will be if your idea is implemented?

We have a major fundraising campaign ahead of us, in conjunction with a variety of partners, before we will be able to start planting on Frogtown Farm. But funds from the Minnesota Idea Open will surely help us realize our "green vision" for Frogtown.

Funds will be used by Frogtown Gardens—the neighborhood group that has spearheaded efforts to acquire the 13 acre green space—to help further the planning for Frogtown Farm, by creating demonstration gardens on vacant lots throughout the neighborhood in the 2012 and 2013 growing seasons. These "Tadpole Gardens" will serve as test sites, demonstrating on a small, affordable scale what we plan to accomplish on a large scale on the Farm.

One such Tadpole Garden is a permaculture demonstration garden envisioned for a vacant lot near the future Frogtown Farm. "Amir's Garden" is named for a toddler who was killed in the fire that destroyed the house that stood on that lot. We're also planning a 20-plot community garden to the north of the Frogtown Farm site. These community gardens at Pierce Butler Avenue will provide farming space for residents of the adjacent senior high-rise. In May 2012, we will inaugurate a tree nursery on Dale Street, filling one of the many vacant lots along that thoroughfare with fruiting, flowering trees that will be distributed to residents at the end of the growing season.

Funding from the Minnesota Open Idea Challenge will enable us to spread the impact of Frogtown Park and Farm even more widely throughout the neighborhood, while we raise funds and finalize plans for its completion.

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