MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — You don’t need to step foot into a rural corn field to teach kids about farming. Just swing by the Emerson Place Garden in North Minneapolis, which occupies a corner lot in the middle of a busy neighborhood.

It’s what is known as an urban garden, and it’s a place where hands get dirty and the work is hard.

Deneisha Gilkey is among the teens that take part in a program called “Project Sweetie.”

“It’s really a process,” Gilkey said. “You just can’t just put it in the ground and expect it to be there the next day, it takes a while. You got to nurture it.”

Growing produce, from tomatoes to broccoli, is just the start. They also learn about the advantages of composting garden and table scraps over applying chemicals.

Yet, beyond the physical toil of weeding, watering and cultivating the crops, the 100 young people in the program are also taught how to market what they’ve grown. Each Wednesday and Sunday, the vegetables are harvested and sold at the nearby Broadway farmers market.

For those kids who don’t like growing the food, there are lessons in cooking it. Culinary skills are being taught by mentors like chef Jeff Riley.

“We try to emphasize the entrepreneurial spirit … the selling of quality stuff, quality food and quality life,” Riley said.

To prove the nutritional benefits of organic cooking in a demonstration, chef Cynthia Johnson turned avocados into chocolate pudding. Using a combination of coconut milk and cocoa beans, it was sweet and creamy without the need for refined sugar.

Those behind the garden say that urban gardening can help nurture the seeds of the area’s economic growth.

“This is how you build a community from the ground up, by getting young people involved at an early age and just saying we’re not gonna wait on anybody; we can do this,” said Robert Woods, a development director.

Row by row, plant by plant, Project Sweetie Pie is sowing the seeds of change and helping kids like Brandon Brown understand that feeding a hungry world is a job that will never expire.

“If we can find more efficient solutions to growing food, then I think everybody wins,” Brown said.

Comments (7)
  1. Area Man says:

    How long until the first murder in the new Garden? Is the Garden in Crips or Bloods territory?

    1. Demetria Williams says:

      I believe the concern is being murdered by large corporations. That is the greater murderer at this time. Followed by ignrance. Then maybe a Blood or Crip. You sound as ignorant or more. Congratulations. You stat blessed on your journey, you have a long way to go but we love and support you. Hit us after ashole rehab. One Love people… We have seen devils before, lets not get distracted now.

  2. tina says:

    I feel that this garden should teach young black girls the importance of learning how to nurture a vegetable so that it grows up to its potential…..a lesson that, when you want a garden to grow, you have to have to have the resources to provide for it: water food, and shelter, rather than relying on government support.

    If only they could apply this concept to their welfare-making-baby-practices, perhaps they could be productive members of society. And end black crime as we know it.

    1. Queen says:

      Plantation owners made breeding big business in the community. They needed labor and someone to wash their filthy underwear. Now it is just young boys and cheap underwear from China. Therapy may work for you sweetie. Bless you on your journey…

  3. curly_racks says:

    Of course 2 ignorant bigots find fault. You guys are losers. This was a positive story.

  4. krisjohn5 says:

    I am really proud of the people of north Minneapolis! Coming out of a tornado hit area, constructing a garden, and many gardens, across north Minneapolis! Congratulations to all who are involved both mentors, learners, and workers alike!!!

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