Category: Uncategorized

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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Join us in the garden for a fall work day!

Get out your green thumb and join us to help put our gardens to bed for the winter! Tasks include late season harvesting, plant tear out, weeding, compost, cover crop seeding and more! You will learn more about growing food, community building, youth internships and Urban Roots by working alongside our staff and awesome interns.  RSVP by 10/31 to join us in the garden!


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Urban Roots, Youth Grown Produce at the Mill City Farmers Market!

Farmers market season is at its most bountiful during September & October in our opinion! We love the late summer crops that are still producing like peppers, tomatoes and summer squash…just to name a few.  As those crops start to peter out with the cooler temps, we welcome tasty greens such as kale, cilantro and arugula and our favorite root crops like watermelon radish, purple potatoes and leeks.  You can find our booth every Saturday through September & October on the Chicago Mall at the Mill City Farmers Market, full of fresh veggies and our talented youth Farm Sales Crew selling the crops they grew! September hours are 8am-1pm and October hours are 9am-1pm, so mark your calendars and stop on by to shop this beautiful market.  Remember the market doesn’t cease with the weather changes, it moves into the Mill City Museum every other week throughout the winter, we will post those dates soon and you can pick up storage crops and our small batch garden canned foods all season long.  See you at the market!

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Welcome Ashley Grell, our new GreenCorps Member!


We are pleased to welcome Ashely Grell as our new GreenCorp Member, serving Urban Roots 2016-17.  Ashley is a graduate of St. Catherine University (2013) with a degree in biology. Her study abroad in Germany, where she focused on environmental studies, inspired her return to the Twin Cities to implement many of the same green living practices.

Her role as a GreenCorp Member at Urban Roots will build on her work with the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory where she engaged in community education on a wide variety of topics, including natural history and global conservation. Her experiences with other non-profits also focused on education, outreach, training and building volunteer relationships. We are grateful to have her expertise on board to help expand our public programming and enhance our volunteer outreach. Ashley’s goals are a perfect fit for Urban Roots Programs, she notes: there are a few goals I would like to achieve this year serving at Urban Roots. One is to learn about and better understand the local conservation issues that impact Minnesota, especially in the Twin Cities area. Urban Roots works on a variety of conservation and preservation projects, including habitat restoration, implementing and maintaining rain and pollinator gardens and citizen science projects which include insect surveying, water sampling and forest inventories. I hope to learn more about various conservation practices and different ways of preserving natural areas. I would also like to add to my experience and knowledge about education and outreach, expanding my experience to include youth education and outreach. Finally, I am excited to learn more about local gardening and the environmental and social benefits it provides to local communities. “

In her spare time, Ashley enjoys exploring new areas of the cities-favorites include downtown St. Paul and Northeast Minneapolis. “I try to get out and experience new events, festivals, music and food as often as I can. I also enjoy branching out to greater Minnesota to explore new hiking trails and smaller towns that have interesting histories.”


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Amazing Partners and Teen Youth Council Make Open House a Hit!


The Youth Council interns were hard at work weeks before this year’s Open House-making flyers, calling community partners, and emailing funders to join us for the fun-filled night! All the planning and prepping paid off last Wednesday evening. It was great for interns and staff to visit with old and new faces-alumni interns, CSA members, neighbors, partners and friends from afar. Touring our demonstration site and talking over all the new projects we have put together this summer was a bit hit. New to the event was the wood fired pizza oven built by our partners at First Lutheran. The Cook Fresh interns spent the day preparing the pizza dough and produce from the gardens with other toppings to create fabulous tasting pizza. Our amazing friends and supporters, Yia Vang, Union Kitchen chef, and Barry Madore, a CSA members and owner of Fire on the Bluff kept the pizza coming all night long. Yia and Barry have partnered with us this summer on multiple occasions and we are so grateful for their help and expertise in the kitchen. Interns rounded out the menu with homemade zucchini bread and watermelon. It was definitely a night full of appetizing snacks.


 Interns welcomed community members with an Urban Roots Open House Passport, which guided them throughout our site to learn about all the programs, play games designed by interns and join in a raffle for a chance to win prizes donated from each program. Each activity led by the interns was designed to teach the participants about the work that they do and showcased the knowledge that they have gained about sustainable agriculture, parkland restoration, and healthy eating. The Youth Council interns also got a chance to put their public speaking skills to use leading multiple site tours throughout the evening.


 HarveStar intern, Tony, thought it was great fun and noted that it challenged him to become better at initiating conversations and hosting an event. “I really hope that next year’s Open House is even bigger and better, as all of them have been each year!” Thank you for joining us last Wednesday and we hope to see you all again at next year’s Urban Roots Annual Open House!

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Notes from the Field…Cook Fresh Crew Summer Lunch Program

The Cook Fresh Grow Crew have been busy in the kitchen preparing lunches for all 60 interns every Tuesday this summer! Each week, we have an amazing guest chef come into the Urban Roots kitchen to teach the Cook Fresh youth various culinary skills, how to prepare different cultural dishes, and how to use our home grown fresh produce in a variety of ways.

We have already had the pleasure of inviting six guest chefs, from a variety of culinary backgrounds, to share their cooking background with the interns. The first week of the summer program was kicked off with some traditional “Soul Food” led by guest chef Darlene Fry, who brought her intuitive cooking methods to the Cook Fresh crew, challenging them to use their senses and use zero recipes! The menu was diverse and included some great southern style greens, mixing up tradition with the use of some pac choi from one of our gardens.

The following week brought another fantastic menu from Birchwood Café’s Head Chef, Marshall Paulsen. He brought in some great contributions from the café, such as their very own black bean burgers, fresh granola, their buttermilk blue cheese salad dressing, and some incredible Birchwood Birdseed Bread. The youth learned how to make a refreshing quinoa salad with some beautiful produce from our gardens, as well as some amazing wedge salads that highlighted a summer crisp lettuce that the youth harvested just the day before.


Extending on the cultural cuisine theme, our next two lunches included menus from across the world. Ping Wang, a professor at Metro State University volunteered her time to teach the crew about traditional Northern Chinese cooking and the history behind it. The youth helped prepare some amazing stir fry, as well as a sesame kohlrabi salad, and some delicious Chinese bread rolls. The week after, Rajen Rayan came back to Urban Roots for a third year in a row to help prepare a flavorful Indian menu. The interns prepared a traditional chicken curry, which surely gave them a good arm workout from all of the stirring! They also prepared a cucumber yogurt salad that had everyone in awe because the secret ingredient was pineapple!

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Just before our Birchwood Booster Club Dinner, Union Kitchen’s Yia Vang came by to cook lunch to be inspired by the crew before the big fundraiser that week. Yia brought great enthusiasm to his menu, highlighting the summer grilling season by bringing in his very own Brazilian style grill to cook up some insanely delicious grilled chimichurri pork and chicken! The interns had a blast grilling up the meat and some of our fresh vegetables, even in the 90 degree Minnesota summer heat!

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Most recently, we had the pleasure of inviting head chef, Taelyn Lang, from COOK St Paul into our kitchen to craft up some amazing Korean Bi Bim Bop. Using fresh cabbage, summer squash, beets, dragon beans, chard, kale, and carrots from the Urban Roots gardens, the interns were able to put together some incredible Korean side dishes, with the addition of copious amounts of chili flakes (which even went into a beautiful fruit salad)!


With just two lunches left, the Cook Fresh Grow Crew are more than excited to learn how to concoct some more dishes from the fantastic chefs that will be helping us out! The last two weeks of the summer program bring in two last guest chefs. First, we will be inviting food stylist, Kimberly Colburn, who just recently visited the entire Cook Fresh crew to show them the tricks of food styling, like how the professionals make cereal look so perfect on the box! To wrap up the summer lunch program, Beth Dooley, a passionate local food advocate and author of the book “In Winter’s Kitchen” will be joining the youth to make an delectable last meal for all of the interns for the summer.

Also, be sure to come out to the Urban Roots Open House on August 10th, from 4-6:30! The Cook Fresh crew will be there selling our very first Urban Roots Cookbook that they have developed, featuring all of the dishes from the lunches, as well as their own favorite recipes and more! You don’t want to miss it!

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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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Bay Lake Retreat

The cool rain falling didn’t stop Urban Roots interns from blazing trails, hauling boulders, and tipping canoes-intentionally-at Bay Lake Camp.  The camp lies two and a half hours North of here, on an island in the middle of Bay Lake. To arrive to BLC, campers pull up to a dock where an old wooden phone is fixed with a sign noting that before the phone was installed folks rang a bell to get transported to camp-now campers call with cell phones!  Within ten minutes of our call, a gregarious, pony-tailed man pulls up in a big pontoon and boards 20 campers.  Adding to the feel of adventure, the rain poured extra hard for our trip across the bay.

Urban Roots was lucky enough be able to take our youth interns to this magical place for a two-night retreat and service-learning trip.  In our short time there we were able to help the camp rebuild their washed-out road, after the deluge of July 11th, build a new section of trail, weed the gardens and repair the garden fence, clean out downed branches, stack wood, bake bread, and make pizza. Campers squeezed in a few rousing games of capture the flag and mafia, and of course jumped in the lake for a swim and a paddle.

Bay Lake Camp is owned by First Lutheran Church, the campus where our office and demonstration site are housed.  Camp directors, Brenda and Ray, generously invited us to come get some fresh air and put some of our skills to work in a restorative setting.  They made us all feel welcome with their kindness and homemade food, including Ray’s famous BBQ chicken.


At closing campfire, youth noted the pride they felt assisting with camp chores, joy for the experience, and gratitude for the friendships made and strengthened.  That night, with open windows from our bunks in the lodge where we slept, we listened to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof and the distant call of a loon. Thanks Bay Lake for taking us away to bring us closer together.

Reflection BLC


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