Efforts to create one of the biggest contiguous urban farms in the country are taking shape in a St. Paul neighborhood where trees and green space are sparse.
When Frogtown Park and Farm opens this fall, one of its goals is to share produce with charities and food shelves, and to sell it cheaply to low-income residents through a subsidized community-supported agriculture model. That effort is expected to take up more than half of the 5.5-acre farm, with public plots available on some of the remaining land.
"The idea is to not compete with local growers since we're grant-funded," said Eartha Bell, executive director of the nonprofit organization Frogtown Farm. "Right now we're planning on having at least a quarter of an acre so the public can come and farm, so they can take the produce they raise."
Another goal of the farm is to introduce the Twin Cities' youth and families to urban horticulture, with about 2 acres likely being farmed by nonprofits such as Minneapolis-based Youth Farm.
About 100 truckloads of dirt will be dumped at the city-owned land beginning on Monday, and continuing until Thursday or Friday, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.
Before the farms October opening, an additional 8 acres of neighboring public parkland also will be revamped for recreational use, including the city's third-highest sledding hill, various paths and a nature-based playground.
In 2013, the Trust for Public Land was able to purchase the 13 acres of park and future farmland from the Wilder Foundation for $2.2 million with help from the city of St. Paul and community partners. The farm segment of the land is being leased to the nonprofit Frogtown Farm, while the park portion will be managed by St. Paul Parks and Recreation.
Frogtown "has the least amount of green space per capita than any other neighborhood in the city, and the least amount of tree coverage," Bell said. "It also has the highest number of kids, so that lack of green space is really significant."
A grand opening for the park and farm will be held Oct. 3.