Category: Conservation

Get Involved with the Fun, Food, and Growing!

Staff and interns teamed up with CLUES (Comunidades Latinas Unidas en Servicio) and Macalester College students to put on our best Earth Day ever on April 23rd!  Around 45 participants joined us to clean up and completely prep a few of our gardens for spring planting.  We ended the day with sweet chili cucumbers (a delicious, Mexican traditional snack), hot dogs roasting over a fire, and a seed planting for participants to bring home.  Below find more of the upcoming exciting projects and events made possible through our vital partnerships!

Events, Happenings, New Projects:

Market Garden Program:

 1. Rivoli Bluffs: In partnership with the Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, our newest farm plot, nearly half an acre in development for the 2017 growing season

-High Tunnel: in partnership with the USDA Natural Resources  Conservation Services, to be installed mid-summer at  Rivoli Farm site.

2. GROW-IT Center: major project with Metro State and community partners to develop shuttered biological control greenhouse into community-university growing and research center

     -Youth interns testified to Legislature

     -$400,000 Grant included in the House Ag-Omnibus Finance Bill, fingers crossed!

3. Dinner on the Farm

     -July 23, tickets at

4. Mississippi Market

     -New Vendor for youth-grown produce

     -CSA pickup site

     -Positive Change Program in June- round up to support us!

     -Food Fair June 17 with Urban Roots tabling at all three stores

5. Roots for the Home Team

     -UR will be serving at Twins games on 6/17, 7/8, 8/20, 9/17

Cook Fresh Program

1. Saba Andualem: New Cook Fresh Program Coordinator!

2. Urban Pizza Farm: 6/29, 7/20, 8/21, stay tuned for details!

3. Chef-led lunches: Tuesdays, June 20-August 8,  contact us if you’d like to share in the fun!

4. East Side Health and Well-Being Collaborative: East Side Table is piloting a 10-week free subscription meal program this summer for East Side low-income families in partnership with Local Crate andUrban Roots produce!

Conservation Program:

1. Take Aim, May 20, 11am-3pm

     -The DNR WIllowbrook Hatchery, 1200 Warner Rd, St Paul, MN 55106

     -Fun outdoor activities, including fishing, archery, canoeing, a climbing wall, bicycling, geocaching, laser range, live animals     and a buckthorn art activity!


2. Slow Roll: July 26th 5:30-7:30

     -Join us and Cycles for Change for a “Slow Roll” group bike ride through the East Side

     -Enjoy a picnic at Urban Roots after the ride! Perfect for beginners and those who want to explore the East Side


3. National Fish & Wild Course: “Building Urban Wildlife Habitats with Youth”

     -Four youth interns will work with conservation professionals from around the country, sharing their experiences working as a youth in conservation and then designing a pollinator garden at Hamm Park, to  be installed later this summer.

4. Park Ranger Training- interns will learn how to give park tours from park rangers through the National Park Service

5. We are excited to have former intern Cha Vang joining Urban Roots as a seasonal staff member this summer.

6. Natural Leader Legacy Camp: a great opportunity for youth interns.

     -June 9th-12th at Camp Icaghowan in Amery, WI.

     -Designed to further knowledge and skills in community organizing, leadership, personal narrative and action planning, all with a goal of getting more people outside and engaged with the environment.


8. The buzz about Honey Bees!

     -David Woods is now a certified beekeeper!

     -New honey bee boxes installed at the Rivoli Farm Site

Cross-Program Activities and Events:

1. Bay Lake: Service Learning camp experience for all summer youth interns combined with end of the summer celebration and evaluation/reflection.

2. Open House, Aug 3: Youth-run pizza night and youth projects showcase- you’re invited!

3. Annual Event, October 12: Celebrate Urban Roots 20 years on the Eastside with great food, silent and live auctions. Harriet Island. So fun, don’t miss it!

4. Summer wood fire-pizza nights featuring special guest chefs.  Tentative dates: June 29, July 20 and September 21-check our website for updates on these exciting events!

5. Volunteer Opportunities

     -Next big event is May 13th from 9am-12pm.

     -Register online for all volunteering at


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Conservation Update: Our Watershed, Wildflowers (bees) and Winners!

It’s officially Spring! April has not disappointed us with spring rainfall. The wet weather has given us an ideal opportunity to educate our youth interns and the East Side community on storm drains. We teamed up with the Capital Region Watershed District, and our Conservation interns to promote the Adopt-A-Drain Program, hanging informative signs on 3,000 doors in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood. This program encourages residents to clean their local storm drains to keep trash, debris, and chemicals out of our lakes and rivers.

The rain also means wildflowers are starting to bloom and pollinators are returning! We are excited to host bees at our new Rivoli Bluffs site. We have two bee boxes and both queens are laying eggs, while the workers are making combs and storing nectar and pollen.

Our queen bees aren’t the only ones who have been successful this spring. Two of our youth, Chue Kong Pheng Xiong and Gao Joua Lor, who also participated in the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory Youth Engagement Program (YEP), won the Sustainable St. Paul Youth Leadership Award. They surveyed 200 students to better understand why teens don’t go outdoors in the winter, and then were successful at getting more teens outside to attend Phalen Freeze Fest this February. They will have another opportunity to encourage more teens to get outdoors this spring with the Take Aim at Summer Fun event May 20th at the DNR Central Region Headquarters from 11-3pm. Participants can try archery, canoeing, fishing, tree climbing and much more!

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Go Green and volunteer with Urban Roots!

‘Tis the season to sign up to volunteer! Our volunteer program now offers three different types of experiences, each available in the Market Garden or Conservation Program.  You can now sign up online at to volunteer through one or more of the following options:

  1. Individual Shifts- Wednesday mornings in April and May are now open for individuals to sign up, get their hands dirty, and become regular volunteers with Urban Roots!  Earn a free T-shirt after volunteering for 3 shifts!  Saturday April 22nd and May 13th are special weekend events open to individuals, more details on this below.

  2. Group Shifts- Group volunteer shifts are great for businesses, organizations, or school groups, with a minimum sign-up of 8 participants.  Check out the available shifts and sign-up on our website calendar.

  3. Corporate Team-Building Experience-  New in 2017!  We now offer an exclusive team-building and community service experience to your workplace or corporate group. We will work directly with you to tailor the experience to your needs. The day begins with coffee and scones in the gardens, a garden or park tour, followed by team building and volunteer work experience. We provide a space for picnicking afterward or can connect you with lunch options.  See our website for pricing.


Volunteer on Earth Day, April 22nd: 9am-1pm

Urban Roots is teaming up with CLUES- Communidades Latinos Unidas en Servicio, a linguistically and culturally relevant non-profit providing resources to empower Latino families, to put on a grand Earth Day event!  Their youth program, “YA,” Youth in Action, and our Youth Council are working together to plan the day.  Come to get your hands in the dirt (with our Market Garden Program) or clean-up Swede Hollow Park (with our Conservation Program) and then rendezvous at the end for a picnic and plant a tomato seedling to bring home!  Sign up and check for updates on our website.

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Freeze Fest Puppet Making in Full Force!

The snow is falling, the lakes have frozen and that means that the Urban Roots interns are busy building puppets again for this year’s Phalen Freeze Fest, the Eastside’s annual celebration of winter!  Local puppeteer Daniel Polnau, who has worked with Heart of the Beast and Bare Bones in addition to his own projects, is guiding our interns this year as they design and build large scale puppets to dramatize the Ojibwe legend of Shingebiss, a brave little duck that stands up to the Winter Maker spirit. This year Urban Roots interns are taking full creative control over the puppet performance and they are having a blast coming up with ideas – from choreographing a dance for hibernating animals to finding ways to incorporate music into the performance.

Phalen Freeze Fest will occur Feb 11th from 2-6pm at the Phalen Lakeside, Center 1530 Phalen Blvd, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55106. The puppet performance is expected to take place at 4pm. Try out ice fishing, snow shoeing, boot hockey, fire building, and building a snow fort. Don’t miss the chance to roast marshmallows over the fire or stop by the food truck!  Learn more at St Paul Parks and Rec or Facebook.

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What a buzz!

This fall, the Conservation Program was able to reap rewards from the bee hives at our office demonstration site. With guidance from Pollinate MN, interns took on the honey extraction and bottling of 35lbs of honey. Interns used a hot knife to “uncap” honey cells on each frame, exposing the encapsulated honey. The uncapped frames were then placed in a large centrifuge and quickly spun around to separate out the honey. The honey was then filtered and ready for interns to jar. Look for our 8oz jars for sale at the Saturday Mill City Winter Markets, December 3rd, 10th and 17th (see our events calendar for 2017 dates).


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Seed Collecting at Belwin Nature Conservancy

On a beautiful fall morning the conservation interns went out to Belwin Nature Conservancy to collect native plant seeds to help with restoration efforts. the group collect prairie coreopsis, lead plant, and little blue stem seeds.


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Swede Hollow Planting

Take a look around next time you enter Swede Hollow Park via the Payne Ave entrance-you’ll notice a big change! Urban Roots Conservation interns and Metro Deaf School students removed invasive species, primarily burdock and reed canary grass, which dominated the walkway to Swede Hollow Park. To complete the restoration project, they planted a variety of native plants, providing more habitat for pollinators while beautifying an entrance to the park well-used by neighbors and the nearby Hope Community Academy. The interns were excited to have an opportunity to make immediate and visible improvements to one of our local parks- different from their more typical large scale, ongoing restoration projects. Thanks much to Friends of Swede Hollow for supporting this project.


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Eco Design and Bikes and Tours Crew Updates!

Conservation Program’s Eco-Design and Bikes and Tours Crews are hard at work! This new, two-tracked program offers interns more voice in the work that they choose and the opportunity to expand on their previous work experiences with Urban Roots.

The eco-design crew has been busy planting a large pollinator garden at Sunray Natural Library. This garden incorporates over 40 different species of native plants with bloom times spanning from late April to end of October. Youth interns have planted nearly 1,400 plants, spread compost, created mulched trails, and of course weeded, weeded and weeded! Building on this experience, the eco-design crew toured the U of M’s Monarch Lab and learned about current research. The visit was followed with surveys conducted outside, where interns searched for monarch eggs and larva on milkweed plants, and counted all adult butterflies in the vicinity. The crew plans to utilize their citizen science experience conducting surveys at their primary worksites, Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and the DNR Central Region Headquarters in the following weeks.

Bikes and Tours Crew have been trained to use bikes as active transportation while at work, and to interact with their community giving park tours and conducting informational interviews. Early on in the summer the crew received training from a National Parks Service Ranger, on how to give an engaging and fun tour of a park. The crew then split into small teams and developed their own content for incorporating the history and ecology of Indian Mounds Park. They then presented their tour to three groups of middle-schoolers. They have also been very active conducting research for the City of St. Paul to see how youth perceive and use/don’t use green spaces in their community. Youth interns have conducted interviews with their co-workers and visited rec centers, libraries, and the YMCA to interview other youth in the community. The HarveStars have been busy analyzing all the interviews to create a final report they will present to the City in early next month.

During August, both crews will share a trip to Belwin Conservancy, continue their work on parkland restoration AND enjoy some fishing in the DNR’s stocked fish pond!

Mounds park tour

Counting monarchs 2

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Phalen Freeze Fest 2016


Shingebiss the merganser duck and the Winter Maker were the stars of the Ojibwe legend preformed this weekend at the second annual Phalen Freeze Fest. In the weeks leading up to the Fest, Urban Roots interns worked their magic to create oversized puppets of the harsh Winter Maker and Shingebiss the duck that stands up to him. Through his own strength and ingenuity, Shigebiss learns to thrive in the coldest months of the year. Families who came to watch the performance Saturday night at the Lake Phalen boat house also participated in a variety of fun winter activities: ice-fishing, snowshoeing, and moonlight geo-caching. The unusually warm weather didn’t affect turnout and participants enjoyed the puppet show as well as  the varied winter activities- many new to the festival goers. Urban Roots interns enjoyed bringing the puppets to life for the audience and they especially loved the warm bonfires scattered throughout the festival. Phalen Freeze Fest was organized through efforts by St Paul Parks and Rec, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, MN DNR, Tips Outdoors, and Wilderness Inquiry.

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Increasing Bio-Diversity in Our Local Parks

The stars of the Minnesota native prairie landscape: rattlesnake master, purple coneflower, goldenrod, aster, milkweed and big/little blue stem. Conservation interns were busy as bees this fall, collecting close to 13 pounds of seed from over 40 different native plant species. Collecting seed from local parks, like the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary and Lake Phalen, interns will then disperse the native seeds at Willowbrook DNR Preserve and Bruce Vento in areas that have previously had invasive plants removed and are ripe for native species regeneration.


In addition to restoring those bare spots, we will be helping to increase biodiversity in our public parks. Interns will design the seed mixes this winter, based on plant habitat needs, and will then frost-seed (while snow is still on the ground), at Willowbrook DNR site. We’ll be seeding at a rate of 1 pound of seed per acre – covering over 13 acres with beautiful native blooms!



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