A healthy community requires healthy soil.” This idea spurred a consortium of researchers, farmers, and community garden practitioners to dive into the challenges–and opportunities–of urban agriculture. Their efforts, now in a second year, may highlight how urban soil can be a resource for human and environmental health.
“We can benefit from how we manage the environment,” says researcher Jennifer Nicklay. “Clean water, clean air, and agriculture benefit us, our waterways, and wildlife. We put a value on crop yield, which is all well and good. But in urban ag, we’re in such proximity to other humans. The other benefits become really important to think of as a whole.”
Nicklay is a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota. Along with researchers at the University of St. Thomas and Hamline University, all located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, Nicklay is working with four urban growers to understand the contributions of city soils.
The growers have unique approaches to their urban plots. One group emphasizes community building and education, another culturally-relevant food. Another uses a community-supported agriculture model, while a final group emphasizes community reconciliation over yield.