For seven years, the City of Minneapolis has made select vacant lots owned by its Community Planning and Economic Development Department (CPED) available to lease for community gardens. In 2016, the program was expanded and now there are more than 100 lots available as part of the program. Leasing is both open to community gardens and market gardeners.
As part of the expansion, Council Member Jacob Frey requested an end-of-season report from CPED staff to assess the success of the program. That report is ready and will be received by the City Council’s Community Development and Regulatory Services Committee (CDRS), which oversees CPED, on Tuesday, January 17th.
Urban agriculture organizers see this as an opportunity to garner support for meaningful improvements to the program. In November, the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Policy Council presented three recommendations to the Mayor and City Council after consulting extensively with gardeners who have used the program. These recommendations are:
Expand leasing to other City owned and managed property such as Public Works
Support more staff time for management of the lease program
Allow gardeners to purchase lots after a certain number of lease years
Join with organizers and the Food Policy Council in asking Council Member Frey to support these recommendations! Call his office at 612-673-2203 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know that you support them. (Feel free to use the talking points below!)
Click here for more information about the garden leasing program. If you’d like to read Homegrown Minneapolis’ recommendation letter to the Mayor and City Council, click here. Want to attend the CDRS Committee Meeting (1:30 pm on Tuesday 1/17)? Contact Martin “Farmer” Brown at 612-455-0384 or email@example.com
Talking Points for speaking with Council Member Jacob Frey:
- Expand leasing to other City owned and managed property such as Public Works: Like CPED, the Public Works Department and Property Services own and manage land that could potentially be used for urban agriculture. Some participants in the garden lease program engaged by Homegrown Minneapolis cited specific examples of lots they were interested in that were managed by Public Works and thus not currently part of the program. Unlike CPED lots, these lots have little to no development pressure, and could provide a longer term solution to the land access challenge.
- Support more staff time for management of the lease program: The most common challenge raised about the lease program in the engagement by Homegrown Minneapolis was the speed at which their questions were addressed. Committing additional staff time commensurate with the increase in the number of lots would ease the burden on the single CPED staffer who manages the program and improve the relationship between the City and the gardeners and farmers who participate.
- Allow gardeners to purchase lots after a certain number of lease years: This has been the most consistent ask of community members throughout the seven years of the lease program. Land ownership is an equity issue and, in this case, a food security issue. Short term leases on these properties impede soil improvements and infrastructure development, and leave gardeners and farmers vulnerable to economic forces beyond their control.