CULTIVATING FRESH FOOD AND COMMUNITY IN WEST DULUTH

A plot of land in Duluth’s Denfeld neighborhood damaged by the 2012 flood is sprouting new life, thanks to FEMA restoration and the tireless efforts of various community partners. Once completed, the revitalized site at Grand Avenue and 45th Avenue West will host a community garden space, an edible forest and a greenhouse capable of growing vegetables throughout the winter.

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DENFELD VICTORY GARDEN AND FOOD FOREST

The Duluth Community Garden Program’s mission is to grow healthy food by creating access to land, knowledge and community connection. The program manages 17 garden sites with 230 plots around the city and provides education and assistance that enable participants to grow their own food.

The program’s latest project, the Denfeld Victory Garden and Edible Food Forest, involves the repurposing of a piece of flood damaged land in West Duluth on the lower portion of a lot across Grand Avenue from the new Whole Foods Co-op. The Denfeld Victory Garden and Edible Forest was jointly conceived with the public’s input through a series of meetings. The first phase of the project has been completed. It includes 20 raised garden beds, perimeter fencing and a rainwater collection system. Community members can lease garden plots for a nominal, sliding scale fee.

Gardeners must be community members—ideally from nearby neighborhoods—who are willing to help with light maintenance, such as periodically watering trees. The second phase will be dedicated to developing a community gathering space that includes edible plants to be enjoyed by all. This food forest will include fruit trees, berry bushes and perennial herbs that can be used for medicinal purposes and cooking. The ultimate plan for the public area includes picnic tables and barbecue grills as well as some exceptional features, like a stone bread oven.

“It will be a multi-year effort to get everything funded,” says designer and project lead, Dan Kislinger. “Specifically things like the bread oven, bike racks and benches will need further funding.”

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DEEP WINTER GREENHOUSE

Community Action Duluth has plans for an unconventional greenhouse on the upper section of the reclaimed property next to Denfeld High School. The organization’s Seeds of Success urban agriculture program has the dual purpose of providing access to fresh and affordable food and employing people with barriers to employment.

The USDA has categorized Duluth’s Lincoln Park neighborhood as a “food desert.” That’s because the primarily low-income neighborhood has about 6000 residents, but lacked a grocery store or easy access to fresh food options. Seeds of Success has been working since 2010 to remedy this problem. Through the program, transitional workers grow vegetables on vacant city lots to be sold at the Lincoln Park Farmers Market. Since the program’s inception, 45 workers have participated. Seventy percent have gone on to achieve more stable employment or to pursue higher
education.

“It’s not just work experience, it’s an immersive employment program where people learn hard and soft skills,” says Seeds of Success Coordinator, Chanti Calabria. “People are also connected to resources and paired with a coach to help them reach employment, financial or educational goals.”

Though Seeds of Success and the Lincoln Park Farmers Market have been highly successful, the farmers market only lasts 18 weeks. “We’ve been bound by the constraints of our climate,” says Calabria. “But we started asking the question: ‘How can we grow food and employ
people year round?’”

Their solution: build a highly efficient, deep winter greenhouse. Such a greenhouse utilizes passive solar design—east-west orientation and south facing windows capture as much light and heat as possible.

And technology provides an important role. Heat from the top of the greenhouse is cycled from top to bottom with an innovative venting system and is stored in a subterranean thermal mass beneath the structure. The ambitious project will enable Seeds of Success to extend the Lincoln Park farmers market and grow fresh, local food and employ people throughout the year. The project is still in need of funding. If all goes well, the greenhouse will break ground next spring.

Opportunities to get involved with these projects:
Learn more about the deep winter greenhouse at communityactionduluth.org/seeds/greenhouse.html
Contribute to the Junior League’s GoFundMe campaign for the deep winter greenhouse at gofundme.com/letitgrow
Learn more about the Duluth Community Garden Program at duluthcommunitygarden.org
To volunteer with the program, contact Daniel Kislinger: dkislinger@gmail.com or 218-213-7069.

Written by Melissa Maki for Duluth.com the Magazine

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