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Cultivate Northeast Builds Communities


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Photos by Kelly Vanderpool

Two new brightly colored garden-themed murals have staked their claim on the southeast corner of Central and Lowry Aves NE, the third busiest intersection in Minneapolis. The murals are the work of Northeast artists, and the budding garden they currently shelter is a new permaculture demonstration garden called Cultivate Northeast.

Coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgrem, the term “permaculture” is an ideology that models habitats and agricultural systems on natural ecosystems. From food production to landscape restoration, from composting and harvesting rainwater to engaging with the community, urban permaculture gardens like Cultivate Northeast can produce food while providing educational and community-building opportunities.

Chowgirls co-owner Heidi Andermack talked about the community approach to the development of the permaculture garden and the Cultivate Northeast concept. Initiated by Minneapolis City Council Member Kevin Reich, Cultivate Northeast was brought to life by area author Joel Hernandez, Tom and Colleen of Tom’s Styling, Northeast Chamber of Commerce Director Christine Levins, and Andermack.

Hailing from Bruce Bacon’s Garden Farme in Anoka, permaculture specialist Benji Mohr weeds, harvests, lays down woodchips, and manages the day-to-day operations of the garden, raising produce for the kitchens of Chowgirls, Hazel’s Northeast, The Mill Northeast, and Sen Yai Sen Lek. Adjacent business owners, Tom and Colleen of “Tom’s Style and Tanning” have provided space and water for the garden.

Joe Hatch-Surisook

“I’m always interested in community projects and love the idea of having our food produced so close to home,” said Andermack. “We had toyed with the idea with getting some land about 45 minutes away for Chowgirls, and we realized that wasn’t very realistic in terms of resources. This was a great opportunity to start something on a small scale.”

A pergola, benches, and two colorful murals by local artists Chank Diesel and Mike Davis helped transform the garden into a community space. The garden is open to the public; Andermack said folks are welcome to wander through the garden, take photos, sit on the benches, and enjoy the space, although they prefer that you leave the produce where it is.

“We’re hoping that folks will enjoy the space, be happy with what we’re doing there, and allow us to continue in the future,” said Andermack.

Last Wednesday, Cultivate Northeast hosted a public event with an organic gardening presentation by Karen O’Connor & Paige Pelini of Mother Earth Gardens (http://www.motherearthgarden.com/) and cooking demonstration by Sen Yai Sen Lek’s Joe Hatch-Surisook. Cultivate NE is hosting weekly cooking demonstrations and speakers every Wednesday night at 6pm through October 8th. They plan to do more programming and have more information available at the garden next year.

“The coolest thing about the project in my mind is that everyone involved is doing their best to contribute to the garden while taking care of their work and their families,” said Andermack. “It’s a little oasis in the 3rd busiest intersection in Minneapolis.”

Want to learn more about the permaculture concept being implemented at Cultivate Northeast? Check out Midwest Permaculture Cold Climate for more information.

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