Inspired by Growing Power in Milwaukee, a collaborative non-profit in Olmsted County called GROWING HOME is driving an urban gardening/job-training/housing project in Rochester.
This urban farming venture will offer employment and training opportunities for youth in alternative learning programs in public schools, for individuals living in supportive housing, and potentially others.
Center City Housing Corp is looking to develop stable housing for families and older youth in Rochester – see report below.Youth Without Stable Housing in Rochester
Growing Home's vision is to market surplus county compost and implement urban gardening as a training vehicle to develop employment competencies in disengaged, homeless or highly mobile (HHM) people. An urban gardening initiative at Rochester Public School's Alternative Learning Center engaged with the group to help launch the early stages of the plan. The long-term vision also includes exploring options for purchasing steam, electricity, and leasing land from Olmsted Co.; building greenhouses; and enhancing the year-round availability of healthy foods.
U of M business development specialist; Olmsted County (Community Services, Environmental Resources and Youth and Adult Services, Public Health, Building Operations); Center City Housing, LLC of Duluth, MN; U of M SE Regional Sustainable Development Partnership; Rochester school district 535; food growers and sellers, educators, a certified compost company, and adult and youth leaders. A large oversight group meets periodically; and the 501c3 volunteer board of directors meets monthly. No staff has been hired.
- Established vision and mission
- Identified implementation vehicles - Compost production - Vermiculture (worms) - Aquaponics - Product packaging, marketing, sales - Job skills training - Agriculture & horticulture education - Nutrition education
- Presentation to Olmsted County Commissioners, November 2012 & July 2014
- Identified resources and consultant for business plan
Critical Next Steps (as of June 2014)
- Reaching agreements between county, city, composter, and workforce development resources to sell bulk compost and provide labor
- Commencing cash flow by selling bulk compost
- Hiring/recruiting a volunteer compost supervisor
- Implementing steps of bagging and selling compost, creating yard waste drop donation program
- Obtaining support funding
- Following subsequent steps in business plan
- Finalized first phase business plan for compost operation
- Established Memorandum of Understanding with Full Circle Organics
- Nonprofit formed
SERP FY2014 spent: $5,044
- $1,750 - Olmsted County
- $1,750 - Center City Housing
- 150 volunteer hours as of Dec. 9, 2013, not counting community meetings - 60 (Olmsted County), 20 (Center City Housing), 25 (Rochester Alternative Learning Center), 20 (UM-Rochester), 25 (UM SE RSDP board)
What help or resources are needed to support next steps?
- Initial cash flow to purchase compost bags and finance leadership
- Leadership, either employed or volunteer, for the initiative
- Volunteer and board guidance to make decisions and prioritize activities
- County and area agency involvement and collaboration
- Recruitment and training of workers and mentors
WHY IS GROWING HOME IMPORTANT TO OUR COMMUNITY? - Studies cite: "15 million US people between the ages of 16 and 24 are not prepared for high-wage employment. Inadequate education or training is a major reason...Ongoing consequences of unemployment...impact not only the individual but also the state. Young people not employed in education or training are more likely to suffer health problems and are five times more likely to enter the criminal justice system."
Growing Home will deliver employment preparation to a population of disproportionately low income individuals through a well-matched mentoring program while simultaneously developing diversified, urban agriculture activities and enterprises that increase the availability of and access to healthy, local foods.