By Ben Russell, Grocery buyer for West 7th
I was sent to Will Allen’s Growing Power training with a mission: to both represent the co-op and bring back what I learned to share with our staff. To me, this was a hefty task. And in order to relieve some of the pressure I felt heading into the weekend, I tried to let go of all expectations.
Arriving to the Women’s Environmental Institute that chilly Saturday morning, I could see a few excited faces huddled around the coffee pot. Before long, as people trickled in, we were greeted by our host, Will Allen, who had us do a round of introductions. My fellow attendees came from all walks of life, some small-scale farmers, some non-profit members, and even high school students. Regardless of our backgrounds, we were all united in our eagerness to get our hands dirty.
Over the two days I spent in North Branch, I participated in several classes, the sequence of which follows: a hands-on micro-green growing tutorial, hoophouse building, a Q&A with Twin Cities chef Jenny Breen, a class on composting and vermiculture, and an introduction to bee-keeping.
The lessons taught in these sessions were detailed and thorough. There were opportunities for everyone to get hands on, and ask questions. But looking back, this experience was about more than just memorizing the proper ratio of nitrogen to carbon in good compost. It was about bringing a group of like-minded, or like-hearted individuals together to demonstrate how these once rural practices can be performed in an urban setting, with high efficiency and high yield. More importantly, it was about exploring the limitless potential of urban agriculture as Growing Power sees it: business and food production happily married, fostering positive social change and opportunity.
It was truly a gift to be able to have this experience. Thank you to Mississippi Market for sending me, and I encourage anyone to visit the training when Growing Power returns next year.