Author: Urban Roots

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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Kick Off Spring Fun with Urban Roots!

Get your green thumbs ready to join us this Saturday, April 22nd,  for our annual Earth Day volunteer event! Spring planting is right around the corner, and we need your help! We’ll kick off the day in the gardens by shoveling compost, raking, and planting, and we’ll end the day enjoying a picnic lunch. You’ll be able to plant your own tomato plant to bring home as a reminder of a fulfilling day giving back to our community. RSVP on our website, or email

Join us on Saturday, May 13th  for our Urban Roots Garden Volunteer day! We need help prepping our six urban garden plots for the bountiful summer season. Get your hands dirty raking, weeding, planting, harvesting, and much more. Come have some fun in the gardens with the people who make Urban Roots great, learn a few gardening tricks and enjoy a healthy snack! Sign-up on our website or email for more details.

Kick off your summer on May 20th at the Department of Natural Resource’s Take Aim at Summer Fun event! Take part in a variety of outdoor activities all in one location — all for free! Try archery, canoeing, fishing, geocaching, and a buckthorn art activity. Check out our event page for details, and let’s celebrate the warm summer weather together!

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Welcome Clara and Saba!

We are excited to have Saba Andualem and Clara Lind join the Urban Roots team!

Clara, our Donor Development Manager, is a Luther College graduate with degrees in International Studies, French, and Political Science. During her year abroad in France, she was involved in multiple organic farming programs, where she learned the value of edible landscaping. Her experiences with the sustainability program at Luther inspired her to move down to Kansas City after graduation to run environmental campaigns for The Nature Conservancy, along with various other human rights campaigns. Clara is excited to be living in the Twin Cities, and is even more excited to be a part of Urban Roots! 

Saba, our Cook Fresh Coordinator, is a University of Minnesota, Duluth graduate whose focus and experience has primarily been on food systems. While living in Duluth, she helped start a CSA farm, which fostered cooking classes, weekly zines, lots of produce, and farm tours. After working for two years as the gardener for Common Roots Café, she spent a season farming and cooking her way through New Zealand. She continues her involvement with the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, consisting of 21 members who work in different sectors of our food chain and community. The Council envisions a vibrant local food system that enhances the health of all residents, protects the earth, increases economic vitality, expands social connectedness, and improves food security. Saba is specifically involved with the local food procurement group and is excited to integrate these topics in with the Cook Fresh curriculum!


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Get your Peanuts! Popcorn! Salads?

Once again Roots for the Home Team will be bringing fresh, local, and youth-grown salads to the Twins stadium. Early this March, Urban Roots interns teamed up with Roots for the Home Team and some of the Twin Cities’ expert chefs for the annual salad creation session.  Roots for the Home Team Director, Sue Moores, gathered Urban Roots, Appetite for Change, and Urban Ventures youth and their food narratives and recipe ideas for a testing and refinement session at St. Paul College.  “Every dish has a narrative,” noted Union Kitchen founder, Yia Vang.  It was up to youth participants to create that narrative by bringing their stories, foods we grow, and favorite flavors together.  This year, youth created three amazing salads that will be for sale at the Twins and Gopher Stadiums this summer: “Ode to MN,” “East Side Pad Thai,” and “Home Run Super Crunch.”

“East Side Pad Thai” is a fresh, crunchy twist to the classic comfort-food noodle dish developed with Yia Vang of Union Kitchen.  The dish is a gorgeous, savory combo of veggies: sugar snap peas, matchstick carrots, baby bok choi, and red cabbage, drizzled with a Pad Thai sesame oil dressing and finished with a sprinkle of cilantro.

“Ode to MN” features all MN grown veggies, raw and finely chopped, mixed with MN barley.  It is dressed with a gorgeous pink, sweet and tangy cranberry vinaigrette and topped with salty sesame seeds.  Target Field’s own chef, Paul Johnson, coached the youth through this recipe creation.

“Home Run Super Crunch” incorporates the signature pickling methods of Chef Shack’s Lisa Carlson and Carrie Summer, with Urban Roots’ home-grown kohlrabi, cherry tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, mint, and green onions, arriving at a tangy, savory, crunchy dish topped with toasted pecans.  Make sure to visit us on the weekends at Target Field this summer (see our calendar for game dates) and enjoy a tasty, fresh salad!

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Cooking Fresh with Nicole Chimbetete (U of M Masters of Public Health Student)

Nicole is a graduate student at the University Minnesota in the Masters Public Health Nutrition program through the School of Public Health. With hopes of being a Registered Dietitian after graduation, she aims to work collaboratively with those in under-served and underrepresented communities. Nicole is currently an intern for the Cook Fresh Program where she is teaching our Urban Roots youth about nutrition, culinary practices and food safety. As an added twist, she is integrating cultural sensitivity to the cooking skills with culturally-oriented recipes.  Each recipe and cooking theme feature new and unique ingredients that inspire the youth to expand their taste experiences and cooking boundaries. Most of these ingredients include vegetables grown right here at Urban Roots, such as radishes, peppers and cilantro. After cooking, youth gather around the table to share and taste what they made, providing a hands-on, rewarding experience!

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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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Phalen Freeze Fest=Outdoor Fun!!

At times it felt more like a thaw fest than a freeze fest, but those who came out to Lake Phalen on Feb 11th had a wonderful time finding fun in winter. Over 250 community members came to try out ice fishing, boot hockey, snow shoeing, kick sleds, join in a story walk, fire-starting and marshmallow roasting. Urban Roots interns have spent the last month working with local puppeteer Daniel Polnau building the puppets and working on the performance to showcase the Ojibwe legend of Shingebiss, the duck that stood up to Kabibona’kan, the Winter Maker. The performance was narrated by Jenn Hall from New Native Theater.

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Partners for this annual event include: the City of St. Paul, St. Paul Parks and Recreation, St. Paul Natural Resources, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District, Wilderness Inquiry, Tips Outdoors, St. Paul Public Library, Polar Devils and Ramsey County with support from Clean Water Land and Legacy Funds.

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Harvestars Hard at Work – The Crop Planning Project

In January and February our gardens sleep, but there’s no rest for the growers! Harvestars Imogene and Tony have spent the past three weeks reviewing last summer’s plantings and harvest and planning for 2017! The two Harvestars (our lead intern position), first reviewed all 63 varieties of produce grown last summer and then made notes about the crop’s successes and failures: productivity, flavor, resistance to disease, color, popularity-to name a few criteria. The interns then categorized the crops by family and whether they grew best in the cold or warm season, using this information to decide which varieties we should grow again, and what new cultivars could be introduced. They were rewarded with every farmer’s favorite endeavor; pouring over seed catalogs with all their delicious photographs and colorful descriptions of veggies, fruits, and flowers. Imogene and Tony made notes with a proposal for each new variety they had selected and then presented it to their two supervisors, Jaclyne and Summer. The most convincing arguments won and our 2017 seed order is on it’s way!

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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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Tis' the Season for Urban Roots Preserves!

At the end of each growing season, interns and staff at Urban Roots develop and process preserves to sell in our Market Garden Program, long into the winter months. It is a great way to utilize surplus, late-season harvests from our gardens with crops such as heirloom tomatoes, poblano peppers, jalapenos, garlic, onions, apples and more. With garden flavors highlighting each recipe, we source-in citrus, vinegars and spices to transform each product into a delicious small-batch preserve. We source organic and sustainable products and this year, in order to increase production of our apple butter beyond the apples grown in our small orchard, we purchased local, tart apples from Hoch Orchards in LaCrescent, MN. Another exciting new product for sale, sourced from our Conservation Program hives……..for the first time ever……Raw Honey! We partner with Pollinate Minnesota to manage urban honeybee hives at our office demonstration site, utilizing the hives as an educational tool across all three programs.

This year’s tasty, small-batch preserves are: Salsa Verde, featuring roasted tomatillos, poblano peppers, garlic, onion and cilantro with a tangy lime and pepper kick. Next up, Spicy Tomato Jam, featuring heirloom tomatoes, serrano peppers and ginger with a spicy, sweet flavor. Our Spiced Apple Butter features tart apples, cardamon, clove and brown sugar for a sweet, fruity, spreadable treat! The Raw Honey has been hand-processed on site and is Grade A for amazing!

The Market Garden crew sells our products at the Mill City Farmers Market Winter Markets through March. If you are interested in purchasing our products, the market would be a festive stop to pick up some Urban Roots preserves and other delicious local foods from a variety of market vendors (full vendor list available on the MCFM website). Winter Market dates are Saturdays, from 10am-1pm on the following 2017 dates: 1/14, 1/28, 2/11, 3/4, 3/11 and 3/25.

For those interested in purchasing preserves before the holidays for gifts and entertaining, we will have two open office dates on December 19 from 9am-1pm & December 21 from 1pm-5pm for you to pop in and shop! Please call our number on the front door when you arrive. We accept cash, checks and all major credit cards for payment. Happy eating this holiday season!

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