Mayor R.T. Rybak eats homegrown


Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak wants you to eat better. Which is why he created Homegrown Minneapolis, an initiative designed to "improve the growth, sales, distribution, and consumption of healthy, locally grown foods within the city and the surrounding region." That means more community gardens, easier access to local foods, and, ideally, trimmer waistlines for the city's residents.

The mayor talked with us about the program and some of his favorite places to eat in the Twin Cities:

1. How is Homegrown Minneapolis going? Very well. Homegrown touches on so many aspects of the local food movement, from supporting growing food-based entrepreneurs, to getting electronic benefits transfer at our farmers markets and co-ops, to getting the city's land use regulations right, to supporting neighborhood and community efforts to establish community gardens. The important thing is to keep the momentum growing and getting people to eat healthier and support the expanding local food economy. We are both working to realign the city's rules and regulations with these values and doing a lot to support the work of community-based efforts.

2. What have been some of the initiative's successes thus far? Among the many projects going on, the City of Minneapolis, through the Homegrown Minneapolis initiative, has --partnered with communities to establish more mini-farmers markets in lower-income communities that generally have less access to healthy food; --worked with several farmers markets to accept payment via Electronic Benefits Transfer (food stamps); --conducted an inventory of small business resources and community kitchens and is exploring ways to market these resources to emerging food entrepreneurs; --established a Community Garden Pilot Program that makes vacant lots available to community gardeners; --and is developing an Urban Agriculture Policy Plan that will present recommendations for land use changes to support community garden and urban agriculture activities within the city.

3. How has the initiative influenced your own diet? My wife and I have been regular shoppers for years at farmers' and other local markets, but we've increased the amount of food we purchase from local producers. The more farmers we know, the more we buy directly from them. We also love buying local foods at places like the Midtown Global Market and Local D'Lish.

4. What are some of your favorite things to pick up at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market throughout the summer? Almost everything, but a few things stand out: beets, rhubarb, heirloom tomatoes, and grass-fed beef. Also, once watermelons are in season, we pick up at least three a week.

5. Do you have any favorite places to sip a cool drink this season? Stella's rooftop, Lucia's, La Chaya, Common Roots.

6. What restaurant in St. Paul is tempting enough to make you cross the river? Several: Cossetta's, the Bulldog (I love the two Bulldogs in Minneapolis, too, but the location in Lowertown Saint Paul right across from Mears Park is great), Trotter's Café, Mai Village. And heading west into another "Saint," I also love Yum in St. Louis Park.

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