Grant program offers money, and legitimacy, for urban agriculture

Posted on Oct 11 2018 - 6:10am by UOG

Michael Chaney, Project Sweetie Pie founder, talks to student workers Wednesday about trellising tomatoes at Karamu Garden in north Minneapolis.

“Urban farming in Minnesota reached a milestone this summer, when the state announced the first round of grants for agriculture education and development projects in cities.

It’s the first time the state has allocated money specifically for urban agriculture, and it took several tries to get the legislation passed. Michael Chaney, a long-time advocate from north Minneapolis who founded Project Sweetie Pie, a grant recipient, said he approached lawmakers with the idea about four years ago. At the time, he saw plenty of interest in urban agriculture — but not the kind of financial support that exists for rural farmers. “I was disenchanted and discouraged,” Chaney said.

Advocates said state investment is crucial because it lends credibility to what Chaney calls the “changing face of agriculture.” Such state funding, even a small amount, can usher in a shift toward seeing urban areas as potential farms and their residents as fellow food producers.

That shift can also bring education and economic opportunities that are often more associated with rural areas. “Agriculture has been deemed corporate ag with rural roots and conventional farming techniques,” Chaney said. “What we’re proposing with urban farming is a whole reconfiguring. … What’s the role of urban communities in growing food?””


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