Frogtown: A Local Food Hotbed
Local food means more than backyard gardens these days. It encompasses small innovative start-ups like Sweet Science Ice Cream (which applies latest scientific techniques to make great-tasting ice cream without corn syrup, stabilizers and other artificial shortcuts) to family businesses with 50 employees like La Perla (which draws on ancient traditions for their tortillas and corn chips). Here’s a quick tour of three food producers in Frogtown — St. Paul’s most diverse and low-income neighborhood — that are working to keep more money circulating throughout the community.
Garden Fresh Farms. A once-abandoned warehouse a few blocks north of the Green Line now houses one of the most unlikely farms you’ll ever find. Microgreens, several varieties of lettuce, oregano, thyme and watercress are planted in vertical sheets and cylinders of particle board, indented so plants can sprout. The crops are watered by tubes, where the flow is constantly recycled, which means that Garden Fresh uses 98 percent less water than traditional irrigated farms. It also uses half the energy of most hydroponic growers. That’s two reasons why Garden Fresh won the 2013 National Sustainability Award at the Cleantech Open. Their greens and herbs have been featured in Twin Cities food coops, Kowalski’s grocery stores, Whole Foods and cafeterias at St. Olaf College and Best Buy.
Stones Throw Urban Farm. Stones Throw farm is scattered over two-and-a-half acres on 14 sites across inner city Minneapolis and St. Paul, where they grow 40,000 pounds of vegetables annually. It’s sold at the Mill City Farmers’ Market and to 250 Community Supported Agriculture members as well as restaurants such as the Bachelor Farmer and Ngon Vietnamese Bistro, which is near one of Stones Throw biggest fields a block off University Avenue. Called the Galtier Plot, this ½-acre patch of heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers and sunflowers brings a bit of idyllic greenery and tranquility to a bustling neighborhood. Caroline Devany, one of Stones Throw’s farmers, says, “our hope is to change the image of urban agriculture from something that happens on undeveloped land to something that is form a urban development in itself, which provides employment for residents and enhances the quality of life in neighborhoods.”
Sunrise Market. This family-owned company began 101 years ago in Hibbing as a bakery, and recently expanded to St. Paul where they sell a range of frozen and fresh local foods at their store on Pierce Butler Road. The next step is making gluten-free pasta at the back of their shop.”