Meet the market :: Planting seeds for stronger communities

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August 31, 2009 // UPDATED 9:03 am - August 31, 2009
By: Zoie Glass
Zoie Glass
The Community Design Center has been doing important community development work for 40 years in the Twin Cities. Their mission is “to help revitalize low-to-moderate income communities by providing technical assistance and operating programs that will enhance the physical, economic, social, ecological and spiritual well being of the community and its residents.”

The Community Design Center follows through on this mission in the Upper East Side of St. Paul by creating a variety of creative and engaging programs that have visible impact on the neighborhoods that they work in.

In the mid ’90s they began their youth gardening and cooking programs. Youth started selling their vegetables at a local market stand and soon they launched their Salad Share CSA (community supported agriculture) program.

They have gardens on a variety of properties on the East Side, including churches, a senior care center and city buildings. The program has flourished with the support of many different community partners and dedicated staff and board members.

The program currently operates seven organic gardens throughout the Upper East Side of St. Paul and has experienced increased demand for their organic produce.  

“We use our gardens to teach young people basic job skills, help them make connections to career opportunities, teach them sustainable growing methods, promote active involvement within their community, and explore healthy lifestyle and food choices,” said Lauren Anderson, a food and ecology program manager with the Community
Design Center.

This will be their third season at the Mill City Farmers Market where their Garden Corp Youth Internship has a stand selling sustainably raised herbs, vegetables and flowers.  There are 24 teens who work 10 hours a week as interns in the program. The staff that run the program are avid gardeners and cooks.

“Our staff have been, and continue to be, people who are interested in eating, cooking and growing good food. Ruth Murphy, founder of the organization’s current programs, was galvanized into action through her experience seeing local youth disconnected from their food and environment,” Anderson said. “When youth sell their vegetables and herbs through our market stand and CSA, they learn important sales and marketing skills, and they see that they are providing value to their community. We enjoy cultivating these hands-on community development opportunities for local youth, building a green jobs pipeline for local youth of color and youth from low-income families. Our gardens and youth programs are operated in low-income communities that are food deserts. The gardens provide beautiful green spaces and fresh, healthy food to the neighborhoods.”

I encourage you to stop by and chat with some of these young, urban farmers. It is clear that they feel a sense of ownership for their gardens as well as the knowledge that comes from their hands on experience. You can also purchase produce at their office at 731 E. 7th St. in St. Paul. For more information on this great community building program check out their website at

Zoie Glass owns the Mill City Farmers Market vendor Lucille’s Kitchen Garden.  

Mill City Farmers Market
When: Saturdays, 8 a.m.–1 p.m. (thru mid-October)
Chicago and 2nd Street South (between the Guthrie Theater and the Mill City Museum)