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CREATE: The artful meal and "food system intervention"

On September 14, 2,000 people will join artists and food activists at a half-mile long table down the center of Victoria Street in St. Paul as part of “CREATE: The Community Meal”—a public art project headed by artist Seitu Jones. Designed as a creative “food system intervention,” the project aims to lower barriers to healthy food access in some of city’s most densely populated and culturally diverse communities.
 
While a lot of work is being done in cities to address issues surrounding healthy food access, CREATE is taking a new approach. “We’re making this an artistic experience from the minute 2,000 people walk through the gate,” says Christine Podas-Larson, president of Public Art Saint Paul, which is orchestrating the project.
 
Everything will have an artistic touch, from the movements of the servers and hosts, which will be choreographed by Ananya Dance Theatre, to the blessing by poet G.E Patterson, right down to the 2,000 placemats handcrafted by paper artist Mary Hark using only bio-matter collected from the yards, alleyways and parks of the Frogtown neighborhood.
 
Spoken word artists including TouSaiko Lee, Deeq Abdi, Laureine Chang, Nimo Farah and Rodrigo Sanchez will perform original pieces with youth from Frogtown and Cedar-Riverside. Their work will investigate food traditions of the various cultures that make up the community.
 
Artists Emily Stover and Asa Hoyt are fabricating several Mobile ArtKitchens to demonstrate healthy food preparation around the city. They will be hosted by youth from the Kitty Andersen Science Center at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Youth Farm.
 
Chef James Baker, of Elite Catering Company and the Sunny Side Café—regularly voted best soul food restaurant in the Twin Cities —will prepare the meal with local ingredients grown specifically for the event by area farmers.
 
Guests will be presented with a healthy, locally sourced spread that includes 500 free-range chickens from a farm in Northfield, several vegetable dishes like collard greens and salad, an Ethiopian Bean dish from Flamingo Ethiopian Restaurant’s menu, corn bread and more.
 
Many of the growers, including those from Minneapolis-based Stones Throw Urban Farm and the Hmong American Farmers Association, are based in the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods. The Minnesota Food Association is overseeing all the food production and sourcing.
 
“This is an opportunity for folks to meet their farmers,” Jones says. “Most of the funds are going into the pockets of farmers and artists. So this is an effort also to really pay attention to the local economy.”
 
Jones was inspired to put on this massive community meal while sitting in his storefront studio in Frogtown. He noticed an endless parade of people walking to the local convenience store and returning with bags of groceries. “Many times those bags would be filled not with fruits or vegetable, but with pre-packaged food,” he says.
 
Along with a group of local food activists, he received a grant from the USDA to do a food assessment of Districts 4, 5, 7 and 8 in St. Paul. He expected many of the obstacles the group found preventing residents from making healthy food choices, such as cost and convenience. One finding came as a surprise though.
 
“People don’t know how to make a healthy meal,” Jones says. “While we intuitively know what a healthy meal is, there are some folks that have lost the ability to prepare [one]…it wasn’t passed on.”
 
Jones began hosting small healthy community meals in residents’ homes, backyards and driveways more than a year ago, collecting “food stories” along the way. One story, told by Va-Megn Thoj, of the Asian Economic Development Association, chronicles his family’s journey across the Mekong River while fleeing oppression in Laos.
 
On arriving at a refugee camp in Thailand, he encountered a bright red fruit he had never seen before at a vendor’s stand. The vendor cut him off a chunk to try. The tart sweetness of every apple he has eaten since brings him back to that day, he says.
 
“We all have these food stories, and these stories are written in fats, carbohydrates and nutrients,” Jones says. “These stories go back for generations.”
 
Podas-Larson says Public Art St. Paul is also helping create community meal kits to help communities around the country host their own healthy meal events. Visit the CREATE website to donate, learn more, read more food stories and sign up to host your own table at the community meal.
 
“Food is so universal. Food is something that we all share, and most importantly…food defines us,” Jones says. “In many cultures, the way it’s prepared can be this act of love, and that’s what the community meal is. It is an act of love.”
 

Urban Forage seeking to start Midwest's first urban winery

Urban Forage Winery & Cider House is looking to join the abundance of local beverage startups in the Twin Cities. With the recent arrival of cider brewers and micro-distilleries, Urban Forage’s Jeff Zeitler is asking “Why not an urban winery?”
 
The answer is complicated due to national, state and city regulations. But Zeitler is forging ahead with renovations to the future home of the Midwest’s first urban winery, in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.
 
Zeitler has been making wine, cider and mead with fruit and other ingredients foraged in the Twin Cities for two decades. Whether shaking mulberry trees in Como Park or plucking donated apples from a neighbor’s tree, his process leads to a product with the unmistakable terroir of the Twin Cities. His latest dandelion lilac wine was a big hit at his block’s National Night Out party, he says.
 
To scale the operation up to a commercial level (he wants to produce almost 6,000 gallons of product a year), he hopes to supplement what he can forage with produce past its shelf life—but still good for making wine—from local grocery stores and warehouses. He also plans to use surplus fruit from area orchards and farms. He’s going to have to clear some regulatory hurdles first, though.
 
To protect and promote Minnesota’s fledgling rural wine industry, the State Legislature passed the Farm Wineries Act in 2012. The statute gives farm wineries special status under Minnesota liquor laws, with a number of special allowances such as Sunday sales, self-distribution and the ability to operate a full restaurant.
 
The law also specifies farm wineries must be located on agricultural land—a sticking point for Zeitler’s “urban winery,” which would be located at 3016 East Lake Street in Minneapolis. He would be able to operate under a previous winery law still on the books, but wouldn’t have the many advantages allowed to farm wineries.
 
Zeitler spent the last year lobbying the State Legislature to even the playing field between farm and urban wineries. “Right now rural wineries have a lot of advantages…and I was trying to get urban wineries put on the same level, but there were a lot of people opposed,” he says.
 
If Zeitler were to mix a certain percentage of barley malt in with cider while brewing, as other cider makers in the area do, he could operate with a brewer’s license and enjoy the benefits offered to brewers under recent state and city legislative changes that have lead to the brew boom in the Twin Cities. But he’s unwilling to do so, which leaves him with a winery designation in the eyes of the federal government.
 
After hiring a lawyer to help interpret state statutes, Zeitler is now confident state law will allow him to sell onsite and operate the winery equivalent of a taproom. Current city regulations, however, would not.
 
So as things currently stand, Urban Forage Winery can produce onsite, distribute via a distributor and sell online. For now, Zeitler says, that’s enough. He will take the fight to the Minneapolis City Council.
 
Regardless, Zeitler plans to begin production in spring of 2015. “If nothing else, we will do production in the basement,” he says. “If we never get self-distribution or sales onsite, well, who knows how long we’ll make it? But we’re going to give it a shot.”
 
 

Dead Media enlivens community around vinyl, books, tapes

Are 8-track tapes, vinyl records or even books anachronisms? Not at Dead Media.

The new shop, which recently opened in Southeast Minneapolis, was started by famed punk rocker Paul Dickinson (of the band Frances Gumm) with Paul Pashibin, John Kass and Joey Franklin. Together they’ve curated a collection of rare, sometimes valuable and occasionally quirky media relics.

“Come in with an open mind and I bet we have something cool for you,” Dickinson says.

Dead Media isn’t just another record store catering to the digital generation rediscovering its parents’ music—though Kass has put together an extensive selection of original press and rare vinyl. Serious collectors and bargain hunters looking to establish collections will find plenty of stock to sift through.

Dickinson’s eclectic collection of books for sale is equally intriguing and expansive. In addition to being able to pick up another copy of The Sun Also Rises, shoppers will also find rare and first edition books from literary icons like Roald Dahl or Phillip Ross, along with more obscure finds like the Sociology of the Salem Witch Trials or old yearbooks featuring Vikings super stars.

Pashibin is also plastering the store with out of print and rare posters, whose artfulness defies the disillusionment of passing generations. Other formats of “dead” media for sale include cassettes and 8-track tapes. Dead Media even operates a VHS rental club.  

“It’s kind of our way of laughing in the face of technology,” Dickinson says. “Everyone thought we would just be downloading everything on a computer…people have been predicting the death of books for 30 years, but people still love books.”

“We’re a store that takes it for granted that its patrons are thinking, cultured beings and not just animals programmed to buy things because they saw them on TV,” says Franklin, who helps manage the store.

Dead Media has an unmistakable anti-corporate mentality that hints at Dickinson’s punk rock roots. He used to own the all-ages rock club and arts venue Speed Boat Gallery from 1988-94, which hosted acts like Green Day and Bikini Kill before being shut down by the city. Dead Media is a more subdued endeavor, with an anti-establishment vein running through it nonetheless.

“It has the same kind of independent spirit I guess” as Speed Boat, Dickinson says of Dead Media. “We’re just trying to have fun with it and be spontaneous.”

Dead Media hopes to help cultivate community that naturally forms around the mutual appreciation of cultural objects forgotten by the “mainstream.”  The store is hosting regular poetry readings from local writers and hopes to offer even more events in the future.

While the space is a bit small for large-scale music events, Dickinson says he and his partners are looking to collaborate with a to-be-announced music venue in the Loring Park area to host shows.

Field guide explores Green Line's natural history

Hidden in the urban jungle of concrete and steel is a whole natural world waiting to be rediscovered and explored, says local artist and botanist Sarah Nassif. The new Green Line light-rail stations, she adds, are a great place to start.

Nassif’s new project, The Other Green Line, supported by Irrigate Arts, asks participants to start thinking of Green Line stations as not only jumping off points to previously unexplored businesses and restaurants, but also as trailheads leading to underappreciated natural beauty and history.

“The more you look, the more you see, and it happens really fast,” Nassif says of taking time to notice the natural world along the Central Corridor.

The Other Green Line is a field guide for amateur urban naturalists. Nassif organized the book into eight, themed nature “forays” along the Green Line.

One follows the path of a wayward black bear that took itself on a walk through the Frogtown neighborhood in 2012. Another explores the Kasota Wetlands near the Raymond Station, which are a remnant of a 1,000-acre backwater once fed by the free-flowing Mississippi.

The forays take participants through several different biomes—less identifiable today than they were 100 years ago. Lowertown was once dense forest, for instance. The area around the Victoria Station used to be prairie.

Tower Hill in Prospect Park is one of many glacial hills that once dotted the Minneapolis landscape before most were mined for gravel. Tower Hill still stands because neighbors bought the site and turned it into a park to keep it from being mined.

Tower Hill, Nassif says, “speaks volumes [about] how much the landscape changes because we’re here, and how people coming together and being aware together about nature can have a powerful effect on what’s here for future generations.”

In addition to the eight self-guided forays in the book, Nassif is leading a series of three tours. The first began at Bedlam Theater last Saturday and explored the white sandstone cliffs along the Mississippi River once used as natural refrigeration for kegs of beer, as well as pirate safe keeps and hideouts. Tour goers also noticed stones mined from area quarries and used in the Endicott Building at 141 E. 4th Street.

“It’s just interesting to stand there and realize you’re standing on what used be an ocean, that’s why the sandstone exists—it used to be the bottom of a sea,” Nassif says.

Also in the field guide are lists of area businesses for excursion supplies, and suggestions for where to cozy up to a beer and a meal when you’re finished. “There are tons of new places to explore both in the landscape and in the humanscape,” Nassif says.

Nassif’s field guide contains blank pages to draw and record what you find. You can also share your findings, sketches and stories on The Other Green Line website, where there is a list of area businesses carrying the book and information on upcoming guided tours.

 

GYST gets it together for new fermentation bar

A new gastronomic trend hits Minneapolis’ Eat Street area later this year. GYST Fermentations, a first-of-its-kind fermentation bar from foodie sisters Mel and Kylene Guse, will be “a celebration of all things fermented.”

GYST is a lot more than just wine and cheese—although the sisters, along with partner Jill Mott (an internationally certified and widely respected sommelier), plan to introduce plenty of rare wines and cheeses to the Twin Cities. The bar will feature everything from kombucha to charcuterie, beer and coffee, chocolate and yogurt creations and more. If fermentation is involved, and you can eat it or drink it, you’re likely to find it at GYST.

“We really want to try and bring in products that people haven’t necessarily seen here in Minnesota,” says Mel Guse.

Natives of Sioux Falls, S.D., the sisters’ experienced their fermentation initiation while living in the food-forward San Francisco area. While there, Mel also became a certified sommelier through the International Sommelier Guild. Both sisters worked for Bi-Rite Market—a progressive local foods market started by esteemed chef Sam Mogannam.

Looking to return to their Midwestern roots, the sisters moved to the Twin Cities in 2012 and Mel Guse helped get Broders’ Terzo Vino Bar up and running in Minneapolis.

GYST will feature a 14-person bar as well as table seating. Guse says they hope to cultivate a casual atmosphere reminiscent of friends hanging out with a good bottle of wine in their home kitchen.

“We just want to be welcoming and comfortable,” she says. “A place where people can come in and hang out and learn.”

GYST will offer a healthy dose of education along with fermented delicacies. Knowing what goes into what’s going into your mouth adds to the experience—whether that means stories from the farmstead where the cheese on your “motherboard” originates, or the science behind the kombucha you’re swilling at the bar. GYST will also have a spacious backroom for tasting events and classes.

“We really want to feel connected to what we’re eating and drinking,” she says. “I think you’ll enjoy [our offerings] more with the stories behind it.”

The lease is signed. Build-out plans are in place. Permits have been submitted to the city. All the sisters need now is about $40,000 to make their fermented dream a reality. More than 100 backers have already pledged almost half that amount through a Kickstarter campaign that closes July 25. Once the Guses’ raise the dough and the permits are approved, they’ll embark on a 15-week renovation of their space.

 

Is LoHi East the new old Uptown?

With the recent surge of new boutique businesses opening along and near Lyndale Avenue just south of downtown Minneapolis, the Lowry Hill East area is beginning to look a lot like the Uptown of yore. That is, before national chains like Apple and Urban Outfitters showed up and ran many of the mom and pop establishments out town—or a little down the road.

LoHi East, the area just south of downtown Minneapolis containing the Loring, Wedge and Lyn-Lake neighborhoods, has long been Uptown’s beloved, disheveled sibling. Now, some local businesses are seeking to rebrand the area with a catchy name referencing Lowry Hill East (just as the North Loop is colloquially called NoLo).

“There are some awesome businesses that have just opened up. It’s exactly what Uptown used to be,” says Carter Averbeck, owner of Omforme Design. He’s leading the grassroots rebranding effort.

With a new name, and a new crowd of residents and businesses settling in, the area seems to be shedding its somewhat granola vibe for a trendier, modern-day hipster character. As Averbeck says: “We’re trading in our Birkenstocks for tattoos.”

At least nine new shops and restaurants opened in the area within the last year. LoHi East also seems to be riding the recent wave of development storming the Uptown area. A whole host of new luxury apartments like Blue on Bryant and the Murals of Lynlake, among others, are attracting a new generation of residents.

“Of course, it’s all 20- and 30-something-year-olds and the new shops are right up their alley. If you’re 27 and have a new pad, you want to fill it up with cool stuff,” Averbeck says.

Averbeck’s business—a home décor shop that specializes in reviving vintage items with singular panache—is being joined by other unique boutiques like Serendipity Road and the Showroom. The latter bills itself as a place “where fashion, jewelry, accessories, furniture and art cooperate.”

New eateries and bars like Heyday and World Street Kitchen are also help generate a livable, vibrant neighborhood where people walk and meander, instead of simply passing through.

“Every storefront that had been vacant for years is now getting snapped up,” Averbeck says. “Right now the revival is in its infancy but it’s moving fast.”

Looking to capitalize on the momentum, Averbeck says he and other business owners are putting together an event this summer that would close off Lyndale Avenue for a big runway fashion show and festival. They haven’t secured the permits to do so yet, but he says the tight-knit business community is meeting regularly with the neighborhood and other business associations to keep the renaissance rolling.








 

Tin Whiskers Brewing "electrifies" downtown St. Paul

Craft brewing continues its march into St. Paul. Tin Whiskers Brewing Company opened its doors to the public last Friday. Located on the ground floor of the Rossmor Building in Lowertown, Tin Whiskers is the first brewery taproom to open in St. Paul’s urban core.

“You have this really cool historic warehouse building with this amazing space—you have artists, you have great food, you have everything you need for a great craft brewing experience,” says Jeff Moriarty, president and one of Tin Whiskers’ three founders. Restaurants like Keys Café, Sawatdee and Black Sheep Coal Fired Pizza are also housed in the Rossmor.

Moriarty is one of Tin Whiskers’ three former electrical engineers turned craft brewers. He met George Kellerman, who heads branding efforts, and Jake Johnson, the head brewer, at the school of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.

That common bond is evident throughout their branding and operations. In the electrical engineering world, the term "tin whisker" refers to a soldering error that leads to a short circuit on a printed circuit board. In the craft beer realm, it now stands for technically excellent beer, brewed with an attention to detail and process one would expect from a group of engineers.

They aren’t bashful about the nerd-factor. Everything from their robot logo, to beer names like Flipswitch IPA and Beta Batch stout evoke the trio’s engineering background, which Moriarty says partly drives their affection for beer.  

“Of course, being engineers, we like drinking beer—it makes us a wee-bit more social,” he says with a laugh.

It’s been a long trip from engineering school to taproom opening. Moriarty and Johnson first started homebrewing in 2006. From Johnson’s mother’s kitchen to Moriarty’s basement, they honed their craft, kept detailed brew logs and sought to perfect the science behind the brew.

They hold an open source policy when it comes to recipes and operations. They are happy to share, within reason, what they’ve learned along the way with others thinking of starting up their own operation.

When it came time for the big move from home brewer to destination brewery, Moriarty says they knew their location would have to be in St. Paul or Roseville to keep the water supply consistent.

“The biggest local component that goes into any brew is local water,” Moriarty says. “We kinda believed in that terroir of the water, so to speak.”

The brewery currently has the equipment to pump out about 1,700 barrels of beer a year. This is just phase one, though, says Moriarty. His vision is to eventually be producing upwards of 20,000 barrels a year through a satellite production brewery in the city.

Right now they are serving up both a carbonated and nitro version of their Beta Batch stout, Wheatstone Bridge (an American style wheat beer) and Flip Switch IPA. All three beers are labeled “Beta” versions, which is engineer-speak for initial batches subject to tweaks and changes.

Their full lineup of rotating beers, including an amber ale and pumpkin ale, will be available at the official Grand Opening the first week in June..

The taproom and brewery is currently open to the public Wednesdays and Thursdays 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Fridays 3:00pm to 11:00 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 11:00 p.m.

 

Cycles for Change bikes into underserved neighborhoods

The bicycling renaissance in the Twin Cities is in high gear. Minneapolis and St. Paul are both working to expand already respectable bicycling infrastructures, and more residents than ever, from all walks of life, are getting around town on two wheels. But, as Jason Tanzman of Cycles for Change in St. Paul is quick to point out, “the reality is the bike movement is a white movement.”

That’s something Cycles for Change, a nonprofit community bike shop bordering the Frogtown and Summit-University neighborhoods, is looking to change.

“Our vision is to build a diverse and empowered community of bicyclists,” says Tanzman, the director of development and outreach for the organization.

In addition to a full service retail and mechanic shop, Cycles for Change offers a host of programming designed to build a resilient and diverse community around bicycling—and it is quickly gathering momentum.

In 2013, the organization lent out 290 bikes from their Bike Library by partnering with community and civic organizations from around the metro to pair eager riders from low-income areas with new sets of wheels for 6-month leases. Riders in the Bike Library program also get a complimentary helmet and lock, and training to be confident and safe on the roads.

The Build a Bike Class brought in 120 area youth who constructed their own bikes from the ground up, learned how to maintain their bikes and mastered the rules of the road before riding out the door, according to Tanzman. Cycles for change also mentored 12 youth apprentices last year—many of them now help design and run the organization’s programs and retail shop.

Many of the people joining Cycles for Change represent populations Tanzman says are not adequately represented in the bicycling movement. The fastest growing groups of bicyclists nationwide are people of color, according to a report by the League of American Bicyclists.

From 2001 to 2009, the percent of all trips that are by bike in the African-American population grew by 100 percent. Trips by Asians-Americans grew by 80 percent and Hispanics took 50 percent more trips by bike during that period, while whites saw a 22 percent increase, according to the equity report.

When it comes to making decisions about where new bike lanes will go or advocating for how new bike trails are designed, people of color and people of low socioeconomic status aren’t adequately represented at the table, Tanzman says.

“No matter how many people of different racial groups ride bikes, there is an underrepresentation of people from low-income communities and people of color in the decision-making bodies,” Tanzman said.

In many ways, these are groups that would particularly benefit from improved bicycling infrastructure. “A bike is a way to save money,” he says. “A bike is a way to live a healthy life.

According to Tanzman, 25 percent of the households in the Cycles for Change neighborhood don’t have access to a car. “Then of those other 75 percent that do, they might have one car in the household, and maybe it’s not that reliable, maybe it costs a lot of money to gas it up every week,” he says.

“There are so many natural opportunities to build alliances and really make the bicycling movement a multi-racial, multi-ethnic movement that it’s not right now.”

Cycles for Change is hosting a Spring Celebration Monday May 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 pm at the shop, 712 University Avenue East.

First & First plans creative campus in St. Paul's Midway

The innovative developer that brought Minneapolis such imaginative properties as The Broadway, Aria and Icehouse Plaza is taking on its biggest project yet with its first venture into St. Paul. First & First is moving ahead with the redevelopment of a 5.5-acre, multi-structure property at 550 Vandalia Street in the Creative Enterprise Zone to be known as Vandalia Tower—a nod to the old water tower that will become a focal point of the property.

Founder and head visionary Peter Remes says he plans to transform the property into a dynamic campus housing an array of creative tenants from woodworkers to graphic designers, artists, architects and more. He says negotiations are also underway with potential craft brewers and restaurants. One of the defining features of the campus will be what Remes describes as a “secret garden” courtyard in the center of the complex.

“It’s a big campus, a big project by almost anyone’s standards,” says Remes, who grew up less than two miles from the site—a fact he says gives the project particular personal significance.

The 205,000-square-foot property sits one block north of I-94 and two blocks south of University Avenue where the new Metro Transit Light Rail Green Line will start running June 14.  In many ways, the location speaks to another of First & First’s defining missions—to connect a place’s past, present and future; preserving it’s heritage while breaking transformational new ground.

The Midway area of St. Paul has a rich history as both an industrial center and transportation hub dating back to the end of the 19th century when James J. Hill imagined the area as a central connection point for the Great Northern Railway.

More recently, the Vandalia Tower property embodied the industrial past of the area as home to the King Koil Mattress factory. Remes plans to keep that history close to the surface as he reinvents the property as a modern mixed-use centerpiece to a neighborhood already gaining recognition as a center of creative activity and commerce.

“That’s when the magic occurs, in terms of being able to honor that past and let that history breathe, and yet infuse it with modern day amenities…and just really have this juxtaposition that occurs when you walk in that can be very thought provoking,” Remes says.

The main building is currently home to around 30 tenants including a growing community of woodworkers, artists, and other creative entrepreneurs. Some have worked out of the crumbling building for years, while others are newly recruited tenants.

Nordeast Makers moved into the building last fall. Hundreds of members use the large shared workspace—and its collection of top-of-the-line equipment—to tinker, build and create everything from art and furniture to innovative software and technologies.

Remes says these are the types of tenants he hopes to attract and cater to at Vandalia Tower. “What they bring to the table is that energy we hope to continue to build upon and to grow,” he says.

First & First hosted a meeting with current tenants last month, many of whom are worried the lofty development plans will increase rents that would price them out of their spaces. Remes says that while modest rent increases are likely, the goal is to keep as many of the creative tenants already there as possible.

“We want these people to prosper, we want them to do well, and that goes for the neighboring businesses, as well,” he said.

 

Urban Organics: Twin Cities first indoor organic aquaponics farm

With the ceremonial snip of ribbon made from kale, the old Hamm’s Brewery building in East Saint Paul kicked off its new life last week as the Twin Cities first large-scale indoor organic aquaponics farm.

By combining fish and vegetables, the Saint Paul-based Urban Organics hopes to supply a steady stream of hyper-local organic fresh produce to Twin Cities’ consumers year-round.

Urban Organics utilizes an innovative closed-loop water filtration system designed by Minnesota-based Pentair. Fish raised in large tanks provide nutrients to feed the plants. In turn, the plants’ root systems clean the water before it’s recycled back into the fish tanks.

Urban Organics co-founder Fred Haberman says the system allows the operation to produce crops 40 percent faster using only 2 percent of the water traditional forms of farming require to grow the same volume of veggies. Once all six floors of the building are up and running, Urban Organics expects to produce 720,000 pounds of greens and 150,000 pounds of fish annually.

The endeavor does more than grow fresh organic vegetables that go from harvest to kitchen table in hours. Urban Organics also addresses a confluence of challenges associated with rapid population growth, as it simultaneously confronts modern concerns with the global water supply, disparate food systems, sustainable energy, and urban renewal. That confluence, Haberman says, is “outrageously exciting!”

Haberman is passionate about the economic development component of Urban Organics—one of the major motivators behind the site choice, for which the City of Saint Paul chipped in $150,000 toward the purchase price.

“This was a brewery that employed a ton of Eastsiders for a very long time,” said Saint Paul City Council President Kathy Lantry at the opening event. “When it became vacant [in 1997], it was a huge blow to the neighborhood.”

Haberman and co-founder Dave Haider both draw inspiration, and the occasional consultation, from Will Allen, a former professional basketball player who was given a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” for his work spurring urban renewal through sustainable agriculture in inner-city Milwaukee, Wis.

“Will Allen really took aquaponics and used it to transform a food desert…into a food oasis,” Haberman said at the event.

It’s not the first time Haberman and Haider have pursued a mutual passion in a big a way. The duo also worked together putting on the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships in Minneapolis.

Their new endeavor is not without its challenges.

“No one’s made money at this that we know of,” Haberman said. “We know the demand for local organic produce that is fresh year round is very high. Where the challenge is for us, is being able to create enough production and grow capacity in a very expedited, efficient way so we can get the cash flow positive.”

The farm is currently growing two kinds of kale, Swiss chard, parsley, basil, and cilantro, as well as raising tilapia. Through an exclusive partnership, all of the farm’s production is currently on shelves at select Lunds and Byerly’s stores around the Twin Cities.

Haberman says they plan to continue experimenting with different leafy greens and will likely try raising striped bass as other floors of the building become operational later this year.

Kyle Mianulli

Night market debuts June 14 in St. Paul's Little Mekong

The vibrant blend of sights, smells, sounds, and people milling together at Southeast Asian night markets can be a vivid sensory and cultural experience. This summer, the Asian Economic Development Association (AEDA) is bringing a slice of that life to the Twin Cities.

Throughout the summer, AEDA will hold five outdoor night markets in the Little Mekong business and cultural district of Saint Paul, between the Mai Village and Little Szechuan restaurants on the 300 block of University Avenue. The first market will be held June 14, the same day the Green Line’s light-rail service begins.

The Little Mekong district is home to a high concentration of Asian residents and businesses. Of the almost 80 establishments on the five-block stretch of University between Mackubin and Marion streets, about 75 percent are Asian-owned according to a 2013 AEDA study documenting the impact of Central Corridor Light Rail Transit on the area.

Many of these small businesses were hit hard by light-rail construction over the last several years, according Theresa Swaney, AEDA’s communications coordinator. AEDA hopes to bring needed visibility, and customers, to businesses still reeling from the disruption. Swaney also hopes the night markets will help breathe new life into the area as a nighttime destination. “It’s sort of shifting the idea of what’s acceptable, and possible, at night,” she says.

Like farmers markets, the Little Mekong night markets will host local farmers selling fresh produce, but also up to 30 different vendors selling specialty food, art, and crafts. “It’s sort of this mix between a festival and a farmers market,” says Swaney. “It’s going to be a little more entertaining and a little more exciting than just getting your vegetables.” Artist organizer Oskar Ly is planning live performances, art, and activities as part of the market.

Organizers are currently looking for businesses and vendors located from throughout the Twin Cities to participate. Unlike many markets, applicants don’t have to be established. “We’re pushing toward new vendors,” Swaney says. “We want these people to have an opportunity to sell their stuff, and if they do well, maybe draw them into opening a brick-and-mortar business in the district or along University.”

AEDA also hopes the night markets will help lay ground for a new public plaza and community gathering space at the site. A rundown building used mostly for storage currently sits in the middle of the plot. The organization recently held a series of workshops and community meetings to gather input on redeveloping the site.

Source: Theresa Swaney
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Urban Growler and MMAA debut new film on women and beer

Whether through images of the early English barmaid, American sitcom brewery workers Laverne and Shirley, or the Miller Lite Girls passing out promos at sports bars, women and beer have had a dynamic, sometimes complicated relationship through history.

For Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak of Urban Growler Brewing, however, it’s pretty simple.

“We happen to be women and we happen to brew beer,” Pavlak said before a screening last week of “The Love of Beer,” a documentary about women fighting to end gender stereotypes surrounding the craft beer industry in the Pacific Northwest. The film and discussion, part of the Minnesota Museum of American Art’s First Friday Film series, also showed how women are taking hold in the craft brewing industry all over the country.

According to Doug Hoverson, author of “Land of Amber Waters: The History of Brewing in Minnesota,” who led the discussion with Loch and Pavlak before the screening, temple priestesses in ancient Mesopotamia are credited with beer’s invention.

Women also brewed the family’s beer during the early Colonial era. In Medieval England, housewives would make ale and advertise their brew by hanging a broom over their door. These pop-up alehouses were so successful, the aristocracy eventually levied a tax against them, Hoverson said.

Marketing beer by using images of women is a familiar strategy. But marketing beer to women isn’t a new concept, either. One ad from the late 1960s—a time when women purchased most of the beer for the household—shows a bottle of beer nestled amongst a bouquet of pastel-colored flowers. In the 20s and 30s, Guinness was billed as a nutritious beverage for gestating and nursing mothers.

In 2011, Chick Beer ruffled some feathers with the release of “the first beer specifically for women.” The bottles, covered in labels shaped like black cocktail dresses, were packed in purse-like cases with white sequins, thus embracing a hyper-feminine stereotype. “Marketers insist on marketing beer to a particular vision of women, which doesn’t always fit,” Hoverson said.

In contrast, neither Urban Growler’s logo nor messaging identifies the company as women-owned and -run. Loch says the product appeals to women, instead, with flavorful, quality beer—sometimes with a more moderate alcohol content. The brewery opens this spring in the Creative Enterprise Zone of Saint Paul.

“We want to be pretty much gender neutral,” Pavlak said. “We have lived our lives believing we can do whatever we want to do, and have felt a lot of craft brewers are very inclusive. We want to continue that tradition.”

Pavlak and Loch aren’t the only women making suds in the industry. Deborah Carey founded New Glarus Brewing Co. in Wisconsin as a gift to her home-brewing husband, Dan, in 1993. “Dan makes amazing beer, but Deb is in charge,” Hoverson remarked. New Glarus teamed with German-based Weyermann Malting, also led by a woman, to release the Two Women American style lager in 2010.

“Hopefully,” Hoverson added, “we’ll get to the point where this will not be particularly newsworthy anymore.”

Source: Jill Pavlak, Deb Loch, Doug Hoverson
Writer: Kyle Mianulli
 

Lydia’s Place brings fresh angle to co-working movement

A new co-working model is joining CoCo, Joule, and other innovators in the Twin Cities’ growing co-working movement. The newcomer is Lydia’s Place, nestled in a dense pocket of nonprofits in the Creative Enterprise Zone near the new Green Line in Saint Paul.

Founded by former adman and current Lutheran pastor Scott Simmons, Lydia’s Place is co-working oriented around the common good. Simmons says he hopes to seed both a professional and faith-based community of altruists at Lydia’s Place.

The new venture aims to satisfy two modern day needs with one stroke. First, it provides office space and equipment to a workforce that is increasingly independent, freelance-based, and according to Simmons, professionally isolated. “It’s fulfilling a need that’s not being filled,” says Simmons, who worked for nearly a decade as a freelance advertising copywriter.

Secondly, as attendance at traditional faith services continues to drop, religious leaders are looking for new models to sustain worship communities. “People’s lives don’t revolve as much as they once did around religion,” Simmons says.

With backing from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Saint Paul Synod, Lydia’s Place is a Lutheran mission. While most of the current “Lydians,” as they call themselves, come from Lutheran backgrounds, Simmons says faith affiliation is not a prerequisite for joining the co-working community.

“This is a place where anybody, whether they’re atheists or agnostics, are welcome,” Simmons says.

In theory, Lydia’s Place isn’t all that different from other co-working spaces in the Twin Cities. When you put a group of motivated self-starters together in a communal professional environment, collaboration and mutual benefit ensues.

While many new co-working spaces seem to be gauged toward entrepreneurial and tech startups though, Simmons says Lydia’s Place is couched in the idea that some people are more motivated by helping others than the prospect of a billion dollar IPO.

“We are gifted and are called, whether by God or by our basic humanity…to use those gifts not just to improve our own lot in life, but the entire world, and that includes people at the fringe,” Simmons says.

The benefits of this type of co-working are already manifesting. Rev. Margaret Kelly recently started Shobi’s Table, which seeks to serve and empower the homeless population in Saint Paul. Kelly plans to incorporate a food truck into the new ministry, staffed and maintained by those struggling on the margins.

She is now teamed up with another Lydian, Tom Melander, who has a background in career guidance services. The two hope to incorporate workforce development into Shobi’s Table’s mission.

Eric Darling is new to the co-working community. His startup, Donormite, seeks to connect charities with donors through the gifting of specific items, rather than money. Darling is now working out of Lydia’s Place part time, and is helping connect others at Lydia's place to donated office furniture and equipment through his new online donor platform.

Lydia’s Place opened in January and is still small, but growing. Simmons says there are currently at least nine core collaborators working from the space at least occasionally, and says he is fielding more calls from interested people every day. He’s already talking about expanding into a bigger space in the same neighborhood.

There’s currently no official fee to use the space, though there is a suggested donation for those who plan to be there regularly. “At this point our model does not have to be an economic model,” Simmons says. “It’s a relational model. We want to build community.”

Simmons plans to have the space completely supported by co-workers by August 1 this year.  With collaborators giving what they can, the venture is less than $100 a month short of that now.

Source: Scott Simmons
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Northgate Brewing expands to include taproom, more craft ales

After just one year, Northgate Brewing is upgrading to new digs. The Northeast Minneapolis brewery just signed a lease on a new space at 783 Harding Street NE, which will include a 1,500-square-foot taproom.

Co-owner Adam Sjogren says neither he nor his partners anticipated the rapid growth. At around 750 square feet, Northgate’s current location at 3134 California Street NE is one of the smallest brewing spaces around. “We were very small,” Sjogren says. “There was not a lot of room to grow.”

With almost ten times the square footage, including the taproom, the new space will allow Sjogren to experiment with different brewing techniques that will be even more true to the brewery’s focus on English session ales.

“We really want to be able to have the space to do some barrel aging, some real ales—cask stuff—and be able to make some one-off batches and test them in the taproom to see what people really like,” Sjogren says.

Most English-style ales get a bad wrap in the States, Sjogren says. They don’t pack the same slap of citrusy hops and don’t have the same high alcohol content Minnesota beer drinkers have become accustomed to in their microbrews.

By nature of the ingredients and brewing process, these session ales don’t travel or store well, Sjogren adds. They have to be enjoyed fresh, and thus close to where they’re produced. He and business partner Todd Slininger grew fond of the earthy freshness these beers offer while traveling in the British Isles several years ago.

“It’s really good over there, but it gets represented poorly, we think, here in the States,” he says.

There will soon be more of Northgate’s fresh session ales. The brewery produced around 300 barrels in its first year, according to Sjogren. That was distributed between 30 different tap accounts around town and about 40 liquor stores. With the added space, Sjogren expects Northgate will have the capacity to produce around 1,500 barrels the first year.

Northgate’s new space will share a building with the soon-to-open Wander North Distillery—a new venture by Brian Winter who is looking to distill quality spirits from locally sourced grains. Winter and Northgate’s head brewer Tuck Carruthers used to play on the same rugby team, according to Sjogren.

Collaboration between the distillery and brewery is a foregone conclusion, Sjogren says. What might such collaboration look like? Sjogren says Northgate could make a “wash”—the process of rinsing the yeast used to brew a batch of beer for reuse—then give the wash to the distillery to use and age for spirits.

Sjogren attributes a good deal of Northgate’s early success to the supportive craft beer community in Northeast Minneapolis. Several other recently opened breweries have experienced similar growth and expansion in the last year and half. Indeed Brewing Co., Dangerous Man Brewing Co., and 612 Brew are among them.

“It’s as true as everybody says and most people don’t believe,” Sjogren says of the mutually supportive craft beer scene in the Twin Cities. Northgate Brewing plans to open its new space later this year.

Source: Adam Sjogren
Writer: Kyle Mianulli

Sunrise Market: old-world traditions, gluten-free options

The grand opening of Sunrise Creative Gourmet Market on Saturday, March 8, continues a 100-year-long tradition for the Forti family of bringing hard working Minnesotans authentic Italian cuisine. The new venture at 865 Pierce Butler Route in Saint Paul includes a retail location, factory outlet, and large-scale cooperative commercial kitchen with dedicated gluten-free space.

Fourth generation owner Tom Forti is building on the foundation laid by his great grandfather in 1913, when he opened the original Sunrise Bakery in Hibbing. Guilio Forti emigrated from Rome in the early 1900s to work in the mines of southern Minnesota. Already in his 50s, he soon decided to leave the mine and return to his former craft—baking artisan Italian breads.

Sunrise Creative Gourmet holds its Italian heritage close while bringing age-old recipes into the modern age. Many of the recipes used today have been passed down from generation to generation, according to Forti. Using imported Italian equipment along with locally sourced ingredients maintains another level of authenticity while incorporating modern flare.

“It’s an emotional investment in the product,” Forti says.  “We’re a very prideful family and we take great pleasure in knowing people like our food.”

That pride was reaffirmed Saturday. With more than 500 customers stopping in to sample both classic and new fare from Sunrise, the small market was bustling from open to close. “It’s great for a little shop like this…we had no idea what to expect,” Forti says. “It was a pleasant surprise.”

Forti’s father started his own spinoff of Sunrise Bakery when he opened Sunrise Deli in Hibbing, incorporating fresh pastas, Italian meats, and more to the family’s line of baked goods. He and Tom’s mother own and operate the deli today, while his aunt and cousin run the original Sunrise Bakery, both in Hibbing.

Tom Forti is now bringing a new perspective to the family business. After graduating from the University of Saint Thomas in 2001, he went to work in the food industry, spending three years working retail and restaurants in Idaho. He moved back to Hibbing in 2004 to bring a wholesaling aspect to the family business. For the past nine years he has been working for Trudeau Distributing, a specialty grocery distribution company.

Through that role, he’s formed important relationships with Twin Cities’ grocers and co-ops, he says. He’s also become a familiar sight at area farmers’ markets, where he staffs the family stand.

While the Saint Paul retail expansion is an exciting development for the family business, it’s the cooperative commercial kitchen component that has Forti’s passion cooking.

“This building is going to service as retail, but really, we’re here to produce gluten-free pasta and hopefully gluten-free entrees,” he says.

With half the space dedicated for gluten-free production, Forti is looking forward to bringing in up to 12 other small- to medium-size businesses to use the space and sell their products in the marketplace up front.

The Sunrise Market will carry products from all the family’s related businesses including, fresh, frozen and dried pastas, sauces and porketta, as well as signature potica, biscotti, and other baked goods.

Source: Tom Forti
Writer: Kyle Mianulli
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