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Urban Organics redefines former Hamm's Brewery space

Urban Organics, an urban fish and produce farm, is leading the way in redeveloping a portion of the historic Hamm’s Brewery site in St. Paul, which has been vacant since 1997.  

The farm will be modeled on Growing Power, a nonprofit organization in Milwaukee, according to David Haider, who co-owns Urban Organics with his wife, Kristen.

“Urban agriculture and aquaponics can change the way food gets to people,” Haider says.

The plans center on aquaponics, which “is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a re-circulating system,” according to the Growing Power aquaponics website.

Urban Organics will use a vertical farming system that produces fresh, organic food year-round, including tilapia, spinach, lettuce, herbs, and microgreens.

“It’s a way we feel we can give back,” says Haider, who grew up near the old brewery. He has another personal connection to the place: His great-grandfather worked there for 40 years.

Urban Organics will fill several of the five-and two-story buildings on the premises; they will be revamped in several phases. The first phase, which will probably take three months, will run between $500,000 and $750,000, he says.

To handle the weight of the tanks and other equipment and materials, Urban Organics needed “overbuilt buildings” like those on the site, and the brewery has an aquifer as well. “It’s a great water source,” Haider says.

The food produced will go to local restaurants, markets, co-ops, schools, food shelves, and more. Urban Organics also plans to offer various educational programs on the process.  

“We’re trying to come up with a proven model, to get them into every city,” he says. “We’re all pioneers in this, trying to figure out the best method.”  

He hopes to get fish in the tanks by June.

“I think it’ll be a great thing for the neighborhood,” he says. “Hopefully other businesses will follow suit.”

Source: David Haider, Urban Organics
Writer: Anna Pratt
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