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Lawmakers support Minnesota urban agriculture effort

ST. PAUL -- Forget farms taking up thousands of acres, massive tractors and full grain bins. Instead, the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee on Wednesday turned its attention to urban farming, small plots that often produce vegetables f...

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ST. PAUL -- Forget farms taking up thousands of acres, massive tractors and full grain bins.

Instead, the Minnesota House Agriculture Policy Committee on Wednesday turned its attention to urban farming, small plots that often produce vegetables for families.

"Urban farming is a way to really bring communities together," Michael Chaney of Project Sweetie Pie said.

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The bill being discussed, by Democratic Rep. Karen Clark of Minneapolis, calls for $20 million to build up urban agriculture. Half would be set aside for people of color and American Indians.

The committee gave Clark's bill an initial approval.

Nadja Berneche of Gardening Matters said honey bees and mushrooms would be appropriate for the smallest of areas. "They can be really productive on a small scale."

Bernach said that urban agriculture can improve an area's economy and help build a community. Clark said that her bill also could provide healthy food to urban residents, helping with obesity and other issues.

"Residents are looking for a way to grow their own vegetables," said Xiongpao Lee of Frogtown Farm, a five-acre growing area near downtown St. Paul.

Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, questioned Clark on the money she wants.

"It seems like a pretty hefty amount," Nornes said, adding that he wondered whether all the money could go to one entity.

"It is a significant amount of money..." Clark said. "Your idea to set some limits might be good."

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Committee Chairman Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, noted a heavy minority presence in the committee, along with rural agriculture leaders. "I have not seen this much color in this room in a long time, and it is beautiful, just beautiful."

Related Topics: AGRICULTUREFOOD
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This piece was written for Prairie Business, which covers business in the Dakotas and Minnesota. To receive a free digital edition each month, see the instructions at the bottom of this story.