December 10th Community Meeting showcases design and program options

This week the Frogtown Farm design team presented three site plan and programming options at an evening meeting at Jackson Elementary in Frogtown. Many attendees were familiar with the night’s facilitor — actor and singer T Mychael Rambo — who led the meeting with song and call-and-response. (Thanks to the Trust for Public Land for supporting the meeting with his services!) This was the first official combined meeting of the Farm design team and the City of Saint Paul Parks & Rec Department, and the plans for the park-and-farm were presented together, as the unified whole that we hope to make them.

The design team's architect, John Dwyer, describes 'Option A'

The design team’s architect, John Dwyer, describes ‘Option A’

Despite bitter cold and snow piling up outside, several dozen people attended the meeting and dove into an enthusiastic discussion of the plans. Each option contained elements that have received support in previous presentations and with the Farm’s Design Advisory Committee (DAC), so the exercise of the evening involved creative analysis of the possible combinations that could be made from the various plans.

The team also presented three programming options, dubbed:

  1. The Frogtown Farm Enterprise Co-Op
  2. The Frogtown Specialty Farm
  3. The Frogtown Farm Hub

…and asked attendees to consider which of the three would provide the best economic and organizational roadmap for the Farm. (See the ‘Meeting Record‘ tab for detailed descriptions of each programming option.) Unlike the farm site designs, the programming options were presented as options that should be pursued whole — as opposed to mix-and-match. Why? Because a clear and coherent programming strategy will be crucial to moving the Farm forward in the first few years.

We stop for a snack break before splitting up into 5 stations to talk about the site options, programming, and phasing.

We stop for a snack break before splitting up into 5 stations to talk about the site options, programming, and phasing.

The design team got lots of great feedback, which we will be digesting in the coming days to arrive at a single site plan and program strategy. You can view the “raw” comments on the meetings page here, along with the actual boards and people’s written notes. If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, we hope you’ll catch up and see what people wrote.

What’s the next step? The team will be preparing the final site design and presenting it at our January 4th celebration, 1-4pm, once again at Jackson Elementary. We hope to see you there!

The team's crackerjack soil ecologist, Jake Voit, breaks down the nuances of loam!

The team’s crackerjack soil ecologist, Jake Voit, breaks down the nuances of loam!

Community Ambassadors Abdi and Chong staff the program feedback station.

Community Ambassadors Abdi and Chong staff the program feedback station.

Writing comments on 'Option B'

Writing comments on ‘Option B’

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Kia Xiong : Community Ambassador Extraordinaire

Kia Xiong a local youth offers of her engagement work: “During the last few weeks I talked to many Hmong families.  some really like the ideas of a farm in Frogtown.  They are very excited about it.  I am very happy to help spread the word of Frogtown Farm”

Kia, a seasoned participant in local youth leadership organization, Youth Farm, has been helping to connect outreach efforts to youth and Hmong communities in the neighborhood.

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Here is a sketch Kia contributed- a Frogtown Frog enthusiastic about Frogtown Park and Farm!

Getting the Word Out

See you there! There is community meeting this upcoming week.  Rebar has synthesized all of the amazing community feedback we’ve received so far into three potential designs.  Come check them out and help us tailor them into the final proposal.

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We’ve been busy flyering throughout the neighborhood to spread the word. Here’s us at the Rondo Library!

The meeting is Tuesday, December 10th at Jackson Elementary.  Check out the meeting flyer here:  UPCOMING COMMUNITY MEETINGS FLYER

December 10, 2013 at Jackson Elementary for 6-8.

Balancing Needs in the Design Process

Have you ever considered the difficulty of balancing so many competing needs in the process of making a community farm?

An ambitious project like Frogtown Farm has to accomplish three things, each a task in itself.

  • First, it must create a vision for what it (as an organization) wants to do and what it wants to change by doing that.
  • Second, it must refine that vision to both be realistic and to satisfy the many diverse people and interests circulating around the project and the neighborhood.
  • Third, it must implement that vision in an effective, authentic, and cooperative way.

Our work at Rebar exists somewhere in between the first and second steps. We are trying to help the Frogtown Farm board, the community members taking part in the Design Advisory Committee, as well as the many many other folks invested in the design process (like you!), to refine the vision for what the farm might do, and what it wants to accomplish in doing so. That’s why so much of our October 12th Design Workshop focused on the concept of ‘yields’ (that is, what we want to see come out of the farm—besides the obvious: food!).

The more challenging part than just creating a vision is matching that vision to the reality on the ground: the budget raised, the people involved, the existing legal and political parameters, and importantly, the community’s desires (which keep in mind are often inconsistent or incompatible!).

Some people may want more green space, while others claim the right to use a car to get to the farm, which will require parking on site (and thus consume what could be green space). Some neighbors might want a farm stand, but perhaps there isn’t enough money in the budget to staff it? We heard many calls for a neighborhood gathering/event space, but we have to figure out how to create such a space over time, as there isn’t enough money to build a large building right away (buildings are more expensive than farm fields!).

Designing this complex project, with so much potential and so much passion revolving around it, takes the work not just of designers, but of community members themselves. Board members, the DAC, and individuals all need to consider the options beyond their own initial desires. Recognizing that not all Frogtowners think or are alike, and that diverse needs need to be met in diverse ways, every person who has a stake in the farm has to occasionally step outside themselves to see how someone else might be thinking or feeling about the farm.

This isn’t to say that it’s inappropriate to ask for certain design elements, or push for certain program outcomes. It’s just to say that, at a certain point, the farm can only do what the farm can realistically do, and that requires the community to prioritize certain yields. We hope that we are providing options to do this, to tease out what works best for this community, and to hold a space for the recognition that there is always room to readjust the plan and the program in the future, should it not be satisfying the balance of needs in the community.

One of our next blog posts will be about this process: ideas our team has for how to set up the Farm’s programs in such a way that we can revisit, revise, and reconstruct the farm to be better and better over time.

Let’s Build the Soil!

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The soil tests are back from the lab.  The soil is safe, but needs some work.  Tests were done by Braun Intertec, soil scientist Dr. Jay Bell, Soil and Plant Laboratories, Inc., and Earth Fortification Supplies Company.

The reports tell us:

  • The soil is good enough for grass to grow
  • The existing soil is safe for growing food
  • Existing soil needs to be ripped to loosen it
  • Adding 660 gallons of compost tea will add needed life into the soil
  • Growing areas will need 2″ of compost added each year
  • To grow food well on 3 acres the farm will need to add: 400 yards of Compost, 1,056 lbs Soil Sulfur, 792 lbs Blood Meal, 1,320 lbs Feather Meal, 1,320 lbs Bone Meal, 924 lbs Potassium sulfate, and 660 lbs Magnesium Sulfate

With the local composting and farming expertise in the Frogtown community, building the soil up to these recommendations will likely be a relatively easy task.  Buy and have greenwaste compost delivered, spread with a bunch of community volunteers, till into the soil, plant food.  Good news!

Do you compost?  Do you want to help build the soil?  Let us know as the soil building plan is being written.  We would like to include you in the plan to help on-going soil building.

Soil Reports:  Braun Intertec Soil ReportDr. Jay Bell Soil ReportSoil and Plant Lab Soil Amendment ReportEarthfort Soil Food Web Report