The Greening of Maplewood
A Return to Maplewood’s Roots
local economy, creating safe spaces, reducing environmental impacts, and creating self-sufficiency.
For nearly 150 years, Maplewood was a farming community. Initially, early farmers raised subsistence crops, but soon switched to market farming, also known as truck farming, which meant raising produce, fruits, and milk for cities. Urban fringe farms in Maplewood were close enough to transfer fragile produce and milk to St. Paul without spoiling. By the 1960s, farming in Maplewood changed. Refrigeration and freeways eliminated the advantage these farmers once had. One of the last operating farms in Maplewood was located on an 81 acre parcel, just west of the Maplewood Mall. In 2000, that parcel was sold and rezoned for a mixed use development called Legacy Village.
Because zoning regulations are designed to balance the competing interests for uses of land, they can be written in ways that facilitate urban agriculture while minimizing health, safety, and nuisance concerns.
By Shann Finwall, Environmental Planner
Zoning ordinances in urban and suburban cities like Maplewood have separated the “nuisances” of farming from residential properties. For example, zoning ordinances can restrict homeowners and renters from raising chickens or bees, eliminating agriculturally-productive use of open spaces and vacant land. Maplewood’s zoning ordinance is no exception, having separated agricultural production from residential neighborhoods over time.
Maplewood is working to help people across the City embrace the benefits of local foods with urban agriculture zoning ideas. These ideas come from a two-year study by the Environmental and Natural Resources Commission that focused on three areas of urban agriculture including animal agriculture (keeping of chickens), crop agriculture (community gardens), and direct to consumer sales (farm stands). The Commission is looking at ways to remove barriers and promote urban agriculture uses. Proposals will be brought to the Planning Commission and City Council this spring.
To view the proposed Maplewood Urban Agriculture amendments and submit your comments visit www.maplewoodmn.gov/ urbanagriculture.
In recent years, urban agriculture, the growing or producing of food in urban spaces, has found its way into the City. People want to know where their food is coming from, how it is grown, and how they can build a stronger community. Urban agriculture offers these benefits and more including healthy foods, boosting the
“Urban agriculture isn’t really a new idea in Maplewood, it’s a return to our roots. Growing and buying food locally teaches us to appreciate food better,” says Mollie Miller, Environmental Commissioner and chair of the Urban Agriculture Subcommittee.
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Photo: Saint Paul Parks & Recreation
Chickens, Goats, and Bees
Direct to Consumer Sales
In 2011, to support access to local food and produce, the City of Maplewood passed an ordinance allowing the keeping of chickens (hens only) in residential areas. Since that time, we have issued more than 33 chicken permits for over 270 licensed chickens within the City. The chicken ordinance was the first step in removing barriers to locally produced food from animals. The City is now looking at ways to reduce barriers to beekeeping and the temporary keeping of goats for vegetation management.
Urban agriculture is not just about keeping backyard chickens. Where and how we get food and produce is also important. Many residents currently grow, bake, or make local foods and produce in our community. In some cases, people grow more than they can consume. Instead of that food going to waste, residents could be allowed to sell their surplus vegetables from a garden and eggs from their backyard chickens. The current city ordinance has barriers to selling produce from homes or businesses. The City of Maplewood is currently looking at removing some of the barriers for these types of sales. Here is a quick summary of existing and proposed ordinances that would allow direct to consumer sales:
By Chris Swanson, Environmental Code Specialist
Here is a quick summary of some of the ideas the City is considering as it approaches ways to widen access to food sources: •
Examine current chicken ordinance to see if there are ways to expand this type of urban agriculture.
Goats, with their voracious appetites, are sometimes brought to sites to eat buckthorn and other undesirable vegetation. The proposed ordinance does not allow for the permanent keeping of goats, but the new language would allow the temporary keeping of goats with a permit for managing vegetation.
Maplewood residents can have bee hives on their property. The proposed ordinance recommends people follow best practices for keeping bees, but does not regulate the keeping of bees.
Over the next few months, City staff will bring these changes before the commissions and the City Council for review. If approved, this new ordinance will help break down barriers and allow more ecofriendly agricultural practices in Maplewood.
By Chris Swanson, Environmental Code Specialist
Similar to having a garage sale, residents can currently sell locally grown produce from a home for up to 30 days per year. Over 30 days would require a home occupation license.
Selling produce from a residential community garden would be allowed for up to 30 days per year.
Time limits for the temporary exterior sales of produce, such as a fruit or corn stand, located on a property owned by an existing business, is proposed to increase from four months to six months to reflect the growing season.
Farmers markets would be allowed on a property owned by an existing business for up to six months.
The Art of Chicken Keeping Tuesday, May 1, 6:30 – 8:00 pm Maplewood Nature Center
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Join Instructor Les Larson as he shares tips and tricks for keeping chickens starting with his unique, energy efficient solar coop design. Learn how to make caring for chickens cheap, carefree, enjoyable and complaint-free. This program is for those considering raising chickens as well as those who are already raising chickens. Les will be available for a half hour after class to take questions. Free! Register online to hold your spot by Sunday, April 29, at www.maplewoodnaturecenter.com and click on the RegisterOnline-Go button, or call 651-249-2170.
Photo: Courtesy of Minnesota Food Association
For the story of MFA farmers-in-training like Chairesia, visit: mnfoodassociation.org/meet-the-farmers
Farm Training Program Coming to Harvest Park
By Ginny Gaynor, Natural Resources Coordinator
On a sweltering summer day, I drove out to Big River Farms in Marine-on-St. Croix to see what City partners – Minnesota Food Association (MFA), a program of The Food Group – were up to. Chairesia, a farmer-in-training wielding a weeding fork, invited me into her field to admire her cabbages and talk about MFA’s Farmer Education Program. This very unique program is coming soon to Maplewood. Classes on organic farming and business, coupled with the opportunity to put that knowledge to work in field plots, draw potential farmers to Big River Farms. Many of the students hail from the east metro so MFA was seeking farm plots closer to home for their first year farmers. Maplewood was an ideal location and the non-profit’s farmer education program dovetailed beautifully with City goals and initiatives on health, local foods, urban agriculture, and providing economic and engagement opportunities for an increasingly diverse community. Maplewood will provide about three acres of land at Harvest Park and some staff support. MFA and The Food Group will provide funding, programming, and management for Harvest Park Educational Farm. In 2017, the City’s Public Works crew removed lime aggregate from two underutilized ballfields at the park. MFA then trucked in nine semi loads of compost, tilled it into the site, and planted a cover crop. 2018 is dedicated to continuing soil improvements with a second cover crop, finalizing design, and writing grants to fund infrastructure such as water pipes and fencing. Depending on funding available, fencing and perennial crops such as raspberries or asparagus may be installed this year. It’s anticipated the first group of farmers will begin classes in January 2019 and plots will be planted that spring. Many of the educational classes for the farmers will be open to the general public. There will be opportunities for the community to visit the site to learn about growing food and celebrate planting and harvests.
Gardening helps get kids “There’s only two things that outdoors for physical and mental money can’t buy, that’s true love, health benefits. Rice Street and home grown tomatoes” Gardens as sung by John Denver
Growing Food and Community By Oakley Biesanz, Naturalist
Urban agriculture is a continuing upward trend in Maplewood. More and more people seek home-grown produce, and other benefits of gardening in community gardens, in their yards, or even in balcony containers. Gardening offers the delights of fresh fruits and vegetables for people and creates habitat for pollinators. Gardening is a crosscultural and cross-generational pastime that is also great exercise for the mind and body! Maplewood is home to a growing number of community gardens. Over 1,400 individual community garden plots are offered to the public in 2018 by various organizations. These plots fill very quickly! • Carver Community Garden has 12 plots run by School District 622. • Edgerton Community Garden has 50 plots run by Maplewood Parks and Recreation as an organic garden. Plans are in place to provide ADA accessible beds for next year. • The Harvest Gardens has over 1,100 community garden individual plots, a community outreach of First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood. Highlights of this garden include a ‘Giving Garden’ (donates 700 lbs produce/season for a food shelf ) and a honey bee hive. • Rice Street Gardens was established in 2016. St. Paul Regional Water Services (SPRWS) leases two acres and Galilee Lutheran Church is the fiscal agent. Rice Street Gardens hope to offer 300 plots in 2018. Many gardeners speak English as a second language. • The Joy Garden is a large community garden, open for people to have a place to garden. It is run by Christ Church, United Methodist, Maplewood. • Lakeview Peace Gardens are planning to start community gardens this April, pending approval. These gardens will be run by Lakeview Lutheran Church with 15-20 plots.
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Tips and Tricks to Organic Gardening By Ann Hutchinson, Lead Naturalist
Planting a backyard garden can be done by following some simple guidelines that reduce your workload, eliminate the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and conserve water. •
It’s All About the Soil: Research has shown that “no till methods” increase plant growth and production. Tilling and turning over the soil causes the soil to lose its structure - like a building without a frame; the lack of structure makes it easy for wind and water to blow or carry it away, or become easily compacted preventing water infiltration. Plant a Cover Crop: Roots are critical to healthy soil structure. Plant a cover crop such as buckwheat or daikon radishes in early fall. In spring plant new plugs or seeds in spaces where the daikon radishes have grown, and then rotted. Mulch and Compost: Keep weeds down and retain moisture with a thick layer (4-6 inches) of mulch. Rake leaves into your garden or compost bin! Break them up a bit so they don’t mat; or mix with straw for a fantastic mulch. Layers of straw (not hay); or compost from the County compost site also work well.
Sun: Vegetation gardens need mostly full sun, so keep surrounding plantings short.
Sturdy Fencing: Fencing such as ¼ inch wire or chicken wire is critical since rabbits and squirrels will make short work of plastic fencing.
Help the Pollinators: Carefully consider your plant or seed source to purchase products that have NOT been treated with Neonicotinoids. Many seed companies and nurseries use these to treat insects such as white fly, or as coatings on seeds. Unfortunately, they are long lasting and even a coated seed will retain enough of the pesticide as a grown plant to harm pollinators including honeybees and native bees.
Learn More: Attend “Native Plants for Pollinators” at Maplewood Nature Center, Thursday, June 7th from 7-8:30 pm. Learn how to start gardening with native plants to provide native bees and butterflies with what they need to thrive. Register online by Monday, June 4th at www.maplewoodnaturecenter.com and click on the RegisterOnline-Go button, or call 651-249-2170. Printed on 100% post consumer recycled paper
Serena Squirrel is growing new foods in her garden! Unscramble the letters to help her learn these fruits & vegetables! By Carole Gernes, Naturalist
2. I L O O T A S T __ M __ __ __ L __ __ __
P __ __ __ __
P __ __
4. E R T I
E __ __
P __ __ A __ __ __ __
B __ T __ __ __
M __ __ __ __
5. A H T __ __ I
PERPE P __ __ __ __ __ S
6. G N E T A L __
G __ P __ __ __ __ S
Answers: 1. Patty Pan squash, 2. Tomatillos, 3. Sweet Potatoes, 4. Bitter melon, 5. Thai Peppers, 6. Eggplants
1. T Y A T
3. S T E W
The Greening of Maplewood