Making Noise for Urban Chickens

The news is in: community members are making noise for urban (backyard) chickens, and CMSP is standing on the frontline. Aligning with our values, we see the importance of families knowing exactly where their food is coming food. When a community invests in local food sources, the community prospers. Individuals are able to make healthier choices, support sustainability, and keep their money local.
The trend for urban chickens is growing; with the benefits of backyard chickens being so immense, it’s hard to argue against. A small flock of chickens make less noise and produce less waste than the average household dog, and their waste makes for great compost fertilizer. Great compost fertilizer is far from their best benefit, backyard chickens also:

– Produce healthier, nutrient-rich eggs. In contract to factory produced eggs, backyard chicken eggs have 25% more vitamin E, 75% more beta carotene, and have more omega-3 fatty acids.

– Produce tastier eggs. A hen will drop one or two eggs a day depending on breed. This provides a family with fresh eggs every day. As eggs age, air will naturally seep through the eggshell which degrades both the nutrition and the taste.

– Provide great learning opportunities for the whole family, a seasonal science project, if you may. There isn’t a better way to learn where your food comes from than producing it yourself!

– Build community relationships. Having chickens is a wonderful way to spark conversation with your neighbors and build relationships. Chickens may not be particularly smart, but they sure are interesting!

And that is still only the beginning of what urban chickens can provide for our community. Check out the article in St. Cloud Times to learn more about how your community is standing up and making noise for the right to have urban chickens!

Join us at the “East Meets West” Harvest Dinner!

We’re celebrating community transformation and sustainable food movement building, and we want to invite you to celebrate with us! Join the Central Minnesota Sustainability Project at our “East Meets West” Harvest Fundraising Dinner on Saturday October 26th, 2013 at the River’s Edge Convention Center.

The evening will feature an East African dinner catered by Mogadishu and a live performance by the “Mixed Precipitation” Picnic Operetta Company (based in Minneapolis, MN). The proceeds from this event will support CMSP’s continued growth as we work to develop an urban market garden and expand our community gardening education program in the 2014 season.

Purchase your tickets today by following the link below!


Busy Season in the Gardens

Carrots freshly harvested from our Market Garden in St. Joe.

The summer may be coming to an end, but the busy harvest season is just beginning. All four of our gardens are looking lush, filling up with new fruits and vegetables. Carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers galore, beets and broccoli, they’re all in full bloom. And they’re all available at Sartell Market Monday at the CMSP stand from 3:00 through 6:30. With the abundant garden crops and the success of our last preservation and canning event, the community has demanded we host another preservation event focused around what to do with all the tomatoes. Happy to provide the service, we’re teaming up to plan a date and time for this to happen in late September. We want you to be able to have fresh, chemical-free veggies year round.

Happy Birthday to Dr. James H. Kelly

Today is the birthday of Dr. James H. Kelly, the healer, gardener, and community leader in whose name our garden at the CentraCare Health Plaza is dedicated. As we remember with gratitude the commitment Dr. Kelly had to land and human health, it offers us an opportunity to reflect on all that this commitment means.

At the 2012 Garden Dedication Ceremony

St. Cloud is an urban landscape with a rural heart. We don’t have to travel far from the heart of the city to find wide open spaces, food production at an industrial scale, livestock, and other trappings of an agrarian world. And yet within the city, food-producing green spaces are few and far between. Community Gardens like those hosted at CentraCare, Maine Prairie, Schmidt Park, and SCSU are oases of accessible, local healthy fresh food in a sea of manicured lawns, single family homes, big box stores and concrete parking lots.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship recently hosted a Food Sovereignty Workshop with John E. Peck, Executive Director of Family Farm Defenders. John taught us that recreating urban green spaces as havens of fresh food is not only necessary to sustain our communities, but also a “norm” across the globe.  As John pointed out, a whopping 15% of the world’s food is grown in cities! A surprisingly small number of the world’s food – only 10%! –  crosses a border. Sometimes we look at the industrial food system in the United States and the problem feels so mammoth that it seems hopeless to change it. But the numbers tell us that another world is possible – in fact, it is already here.

Community Gardens like the James H. Kelly Garden at CentraCare are part of the solution. At Kelly Garden, over 40 families – many of whom include employees of the Plaza – are growing their own food, canning and preserving, and eating well all year round. Some gardeners are employing innovative techniques for maintaining their plots – one of our gardeners has a water catchment system rigged above his plot which feeds rainwater to his plants on a timer!

New this year at CentraCare Health Plaza, we are planting a fruit orchard near the community gardens. As it matures it will become a sustainable resource for a diversity of fresh fruits. We are grateful to the CentraCare Health Foundation for supporting our efforts to create more sustainable and beautiful spaces throughout Greater St. Cloud by funding the orchard.
And we are forever grateful to Dr. James H. Kelly for the inspiration, commitment and leadership in promoting health, sustainability, and community through one simple act: planting a seed.

-Autumn Brown
Executive Director

Nothing beats fresh tomato aroma and a new partnership with the Land Stewardship Project

Welcome, guest blogger, Lindsay Wimmer who is a Minnesota GreenCorps member and is volunteering many hours to CMSP this season!

Can you remember that sweet scent of fresh picked tomato on your hands? I cannot wait to immerse myself in that sweet aroma. Although winter clings to us, the Central Minnesota Sustainability Project is ready for the coming season. As a new volunteer with the organization, I have been swept up into the excited conversations. We have been busy talking, planning, and organizing to prepare for the coming season!

This year we hope to initiate governance boards to empower garden members and continue to establish and enhance the work of the organization. These boards will consist of active garden members, and will provide garden members with more responsibility within the decision-making process and ownership of each of our gardens.  If you are a garden member, you should think about getting involved in a governance board.

Another great program that the CMSP is excited about is the Land Stewardship Project. The Land Stewardship Project is another organization that supports sustainable food and agriculture in the area. It has been exciting to engage with the community and continue to know and hear about the interest in people and food.

On that note, today I am heading out to the Sustainability Expo in town. This annual event brings together players and sustainability projects in the area to learn and celebrate the work that we do. I hope I saw you there!

At any rate, continue with your winter resilience! Summer will be here, and fresh, red, sweet, local tomatoes will stain your hands soon enough.



Big Fat Italian Harvest Dinner Oct. 24 at Nick’s Third Floor

The Central Minnesota Sustainability Project and Nick’s Third Floor Restaurant, in partnership with Mother Nature, have an incredible evening in store for you. Join us on Wednesday, October 24 for a gourmet farm to table dinner featuring a pasta bar with sustainable food grown by local CMSP gardeners and supporting local producers.

Come celebrate the harvest with us as we close out the season during this intimate event. The evening will feature a sumptuous dinner, biodynamic and organic wines for sale by the glass (not included in your ticket price), stories from our gardeners and a short film. We will also share our vision for 2013 and introduce a new way to support local food sustainability through our Sustaining Membership program. Nick’s Third Floor Chef Daniel will be on hand to answer your questions about preparing your gourmet dinner, along with CMSP gardeners and our new Executive Director, Autumn Brown! Hear from Nick Barth, owner of Nick’s Third Floor and Certified Sommelier.

Big Fat Italian Harvest Dinner
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Tickets: $20
5:00 Social Hour | 6:00 Dinner
Nick’s Third Floor Restaurant at DB Searles

Space is  limited. Register online now at or call Autumn at  320.356.0369 to get your tickets.

photo credit: su-lin via photopin cc

CMSP Welcomes Autumn Brown as New Executive Director

On behalf of the entire board and staff at the Central MN Sustainability Project, I am so delighted to welcome Autumn Brown as our new Executive Director.

Autumn has organized at a national level on issues of environmental sustainability, food access, and accessible health care, bringing to her work a particular focus on racial and economic justice. As a strategic planning and organizational development consultant, Ms. Brown has worked with such leaders in the field as We Act for Environmental Justice, Slow Food USA, and the Greenworker Cooperatives. She has developed and facilitated curricula on dismantling racism in the food system, and is a recipient of the Next Generation of Leadership Fellowship through the Center for Whole Communities and the Creative Community Leadership Fellowship through Intermedia Arts.

She shared that she is thrilled to be stepping in at such a critical moment in CMSP’s growth as a visionary leader in sustainable social change and community building here in Central Minnesota. Autumn believes that CMSP is poised to create lasting and inclusive change in our community that lifts up the voices and wisdom of New Americans, indigenous Americans, communities of color, and women.

The hiring of an executive director is a crucial step in the implementation of our strategic plan to build social capital and generate economic opportunity through the development of sustainable food systems in the St. Cloud area.

A huge thank you to our many donors and supporters who have made this hire possible. Please join us in giving Autumn a very warm welcome!

~Katrina Pierson
CMSP Board Chair