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News & Views of Phillips Since 1976
Sunday May 19th 2024



by Cherry Flowers, Growing the Backyard CHAT

Introduction to this Special Feature: Growing the Backyard Community Health Action Team (CHAT), one of ten CHATS of the Backyard Initiative (BYI), encourages and celebrates the growing of culturally relevant foods and medicinal herbs in the Backyard neighborhoods. What better way to encourage growing than to honor those who are already growing food and provide resources for those who wish to join the movement?! A number of gardens located in the Backyard are featured in the article below and on pages 6 and 7 of this issue. The Growing the Backyard CHAT did our very best to connect to as many gardens in the BYI area as we know about. They have various missions and what they do with their produce may vary as well. While each is unique, they are connected by the commonly held belief: “fresh produce, picked and eaten minutes and steps from where it is produced is fresher and higher in nutrients than produce from any other source”.

If you did not see your garden or favorite market in the BYI area featured in this special feature, let us know. We would love to connect with you to share information, skills, the passion for growing and news about the Backyard Initiative. Contact: Tim Page, 651-271-3795,

The work of the Growing the Backyard CHAT has taken us from garden to garden collecting stories, making connections, sharing resources, lending a hand and arranging events. We worked with Patsy Parker to organize a compost bin building project at Paradise Garden. Working with Janet Court, Penny Arcos and her son from Paradise Garden, we helped families to construct ladybug houses at the Midtown Global Market. We worked with staff from Lutheran Social Services (LSS) to facilitate a seed starting project with children in the after-school program. We also assisted LSS and neighbors Siama Matuzungidi and Dallas Johnson, to organize a garden-side event at 24th and Portland featuring music, face painting, tea sampling, ice cream, and garden tours. Working with Rebirthing Community/Communities of Light CHAT and he TEENS CHAT, we represened the Backyard Initiative at the MayDay Festival at Powderhorn Park.Recently, we assisted in representing the BYI at the Hue-Man event and at Open Streets on East Lake Street and Franklin Avenue.

Other activities of the Growing the Backyard CHAT include:

Spoke at the monthly APOD (A Partnership of Diabetics) meeting to share information about growing healthy food.

Established a permanent display featuring herb plants that can be used to make medicinal tea at the Backyard Initiative”'s Resource Center in the Midtown Global Market. Part of this display includes an aquaponics system

Hosted six, Garden-In-a-Box raised beds from the MN Horticultural Society.

Organized a community conversation on season extension techniques including aquaponics, hydroponics, hoop houses, and more.

Collaborated with various organizations including Hope Communities, Urban Ventures, Lutheran Social Services, and the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC).

BYI Farmers Market at Cup Foods, 38th and Chicago with Teen CHAT member Carl Lobley every Monday 3-6PM.

In short, it has been a busy year so far, but we are not done yet! The Growing the Backyard CHAT is also involved in other important aspects of food justice such as food distribution, preparation and marketing with the essential guidance of two other CHAT team leaders, Collie Graddick and Candis McKelvy. None of the work of this industrious CHAT team, however, could have begun without the inspiration of BYI area resident, Hashep Seka.

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