The long-term key to good health and economic prosperity in North Minneapolis could be positioned on the corner of Dowling and Humboldt Avenues.  

Attached to a building that stood vacant for nearly 15 years is a 3,300 square foot greenhouse formerly used to grow flowers for the floral business that once occupied the premises. With the Loppet Foundation’s recent purchase of the building, and thanks to an emerging partnership, the greenhouse will soon provide year-round sustenance to the residents of North Minneapolis and opportunities for urban agricultural entrepreneurs. 

The partnership is with Project Sweetie Pie, a nonprofit designed to encourage urban farming in North Minneapolis. Project Sweetie Pie, in cooperation with several neighborhood organizations and associations, will run the greenhouse, which could be providing its first harvest as early as next year.

For Michael Chaney, food activist and founder of Project Sweetie Pie, the greenhouse’s potential is infinite.

“What we have here is what can be used as a national model to feed communities and provide economic opportunities,” said Chaney. “I want to create an infrastructure for enterprise creation. We will use this (greenhouse) to drive the economic future for communities at large. Food is money. Everybody needs food.”

Chaney is not alone in his belief that the greenhouse can provide a path to economic prosperity. Neighborhood associations including the Cleveland and Folwell associations are partnering with Project Sweetie Pie to run the greenhouse.

Kristel Porter, executive director of the Cleveland Neighborhood Association, said the greenhouse can transform North Minneapolis.

“If you’re going to grow a sustainable urban farm movement, you’re going to need a year-round structure. With the greenhouse we’ll be able to get costs down for our community with organic food grown year-round,” said Porter. “This is the perfect model to end hunger. We’ll be healing the community one recipe at a time.” 

Porter said with the greenhouse’s size it can produce up to 6,000 pounds of food per harvest and food could be harvested up to three times a year. She said the jobs that could result from the greenhouse production would help to reduce crime as well.

Dani Tietjen, communications and outreach associate and former board member of the Folwell Neighborhood Association said the greenhouse will have far-reaching tentacles.

“With our seedlings we would be able to supply other community gardens. Our composting would repair the soil of the area community gardens,” said Tietjen. “There are so many opportunities with just a simple greenhouse.”

Chaney said he’s most excited about giving area youth an opportunity to grow and prosper.

“I’ve been told that our youth don’t want to work in dirt. I don’t believe that is true,” said Chaney. “And if it is true, then as elders, it’s our fault and it’s an indictment not on them, but on us.”

Chaney said Project Sweetie Pie currently employs close to 50 youth as a part of the Growing MN program.

“Being in the garden has given so many purpose. Being out in the sun, in the earth, in the dirt … it gives purpose,” said Tietjen.

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