Stone's Throw Agricultural Co-op unites urban and rural farmers

It's an age-old problem -- urban farms have trouble finding enough viable land, while rural farms have trouble reaching people in the cities with their produce. That's one thing the new Stone's Throw Agricultural Co-op aims to solve. As a partnership between a Twin Cities micro-farming collective and three out-of-town farms, the organization embarks on its maiden growing season and in many ways represents the new wave of farmers in the region.

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Run by a board that includes members from each farm, the co-op presently works out of South Minneapolis, but will move to St. Paul's east side this summer. Its member farms are Stone's Throw Urban Farm, which cultivates several micro-farms in both St. Paul and Minneapolis, the Latino-owned Long Prairie-based Agua Gorda Cooperative, Cala Farms in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin and Whetstone Farm in Windom, Minnesota.

Each brings something different to the table. Agua Gorda, a worker-owned organization and Cala Farms, a certified organic farm run by two brothers, have both had support from the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC). The proprietors of Whetstone Farm previously worked with Stone's Throw Urban Farm, but now raise livestock and storage veggies outside the Twin Cities.

Having an urban presence has helped the entire cooperative publicize their joint CSA and find other outlets for their products. Alison Hoyer, the group's CSA manager explains, "Our urban farm does a significant amount of work connecting with activists and community organizers in the neighborhoods they farm." Produce stands in the Phillips and Frogtown neighborhoods help get the foods that are grown and produced out in the marketplace. That beats the situation that Agua Gorda was in last year, when they had fine vegetables rotting on the vine with nowhere to sell them.

The main goal of the co-op is to make farming the full-time job of its participants. At this time, many of the farmers still have side gigs to subsidize their farms and support their families. Simultaneously, Stone's Throw hopes to offer up local, pesticide-free foods to folks who don't normally have access to affordable, healthy produce and proteins. For example, they are working with the Waite House, a local food shelf to put more of their farm goods in their larders.

Keeping up with this collective is a must for the sustainability and social justice set. For now, the co-op is busy marketing and selling CSA shares, but once the selling season gets fully underway, they'll plan community outreach events that feature artists, storytellers, volunteering opportunities and more. And they are always on the lookout for more aspiring farmers with limited resources to add to their roster.

For more information, visit the Stone's Throw Agricultural Co-op website.

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