"Urban conservationists may feel entitled to be unconcerned about food production because they are not farmers. But they can't be let off so easily, for they are all farming by proxy." -Wendell Berry
Iman Mefleh- Farm Manager/Owner
Iman grew up near Powderhorn Park, a vegetable lover from a young age. She learned how to cook masterfully with her 2 sisters under the tutelage of her Lebanese grandmother who came to live with them. She participated in and then co-coordinated the Village Parks program growing up and through college, a language, cultural and leadership program for Minneapolis youth as she worked on her Global Studies undergrad and teaching second languages Masters at the U of MN. She taught middle school and high school ESL and French for 5 years in Minneapolis Public Schools with a 1-year hiatus to teach abroad in rural Bhutan where she learned about community, subsistent living. She is also a certified Yoga teacher. When she and Joe got the opportunity to own and manage Growing Lots in 2015, she knew they had to do it. Farming had gotten under her skin through volunteering on a friend’s farm in Massachusetts, as well as through growing the first season of vegetables for You Betcha Kimchi. To do such work in the city she loves felt incredibly right. She loves how Growing Lots merges her diverse skills and allows her to dig deep in her community. The lessons the farm teaches are many and she strives to be a student of the process all while guiding the farm to become more successful each year.
Seamus Fitzgerald- Co-manager
Seamus grew up in Lanesboro, Mn in the quaint Root River Valley. His father taught him how to fish for trout and forage for mushrooms. He can recall until around the age of 9 hating all vegetables except carrots and maybe asparagus. It was not until his father took him to a friends garden to pick fresh green beans that Seamus finally started to understand the difference between canned and fresh produce. His earliest recollections of gardening are helping grandma Iris pick her currants, gooseberries and raspberries and his mom showing him how to plant house leeks and snap dragons. Since then it has been an upward spiral and now he is a produce growing, vegetable eating maniac.
Instead of going to college Seamus decided to explore small scale agriculture based on the inspiration he found perusing anthropology books at the Minneapolis Public Library, his cultural roots and a general disdain for doing anymore desk sitting. Now he has 4 years organic vegetable farm management experience, 6 years total vegetable growing experience, 15 years foraging experience and a lifetimes’ worth of interest in how to contribute to a Just, Ecologically responsible future of agriculture. Over his occupation as a farmer-laborer it has become increasingly evident that we presently have an agricultural system developed through oppression and the blindness it requires to uphold these injustices. Racial injustice, Labor Injustice,Class Injustice, Gender and Sexual Injustice and concurring Land Access Injustices must be confronted and deconstructed if we are to have a successful, resilient agriculture that works for all now and future generations. This is a large part of why Seamus is excited to be stepping into Growing Lots, as he sees urban farming as a wide platform from which to help hold these issues to light, bring visibility to the laborer and through the work of farming, help bolster community awareness and action on the issues that young farmers are facing in order to keep farming for generations to come. Plus he likes feeding people and eating the fruits of his labor. As a Growing Lots Co-Manager for the 2017 season Seamus is looking forward to making rich community connections, growing beautiful, delicious and nutritious produce and walking to work!
Taya Schulte- Co-manager
Taya grew up between small town Iowa and the suburbs of Minneapolis. Her passion for sustainable agriculture was instantly sparked when a friend brought her to a nearby organic farm to volunteer while she was attending college in Moorhead, MN. She had no idea that she wanted to be a farmer until she got her hands dirty. Since that pivotal day, nearly a decade ago, Taya has been dedicated to being a farmer. From then onward she has worked on farms big and small, from the red river valley of North Dakota, to 10,000 feet altitude in the Rocky Mountains, to rural Minnesota. While she is totally happy cultivating rural America, she also has been involved in urban farming and gardening in the Philip’s neighborhood, where she has called home for several years now. Her passion as a grower extends beyond just being a farmer, but an advocate for food justice, racial equality, and fair labor rights. To her being a farmer is all about being a good neighbor.
Joe Silberschmidt- Owner/Events Planner
Joe is the grandson and great-grandson of lifetime Minnesotan farmers and grew up just outside Northeast Minneapolis. He went to school at UW-Madison where he studied Sociology and Environmental Science, founded and ran 2 successful student organizations that worked on community and political organizing, waste management and sustainability solutions in Madison, and has worked on several farms since graduating. He WWOOFed in New Zealand on permaculture farms, worked a bed and breakfast farm in rural Wisconsin, and has done 3 summers on a full-diet, year-round CSA in western Massachusetts. After graduating from the Land Stewardship Project’s Farm Beginnings program with former Growing Lots farmer Michael, he and Iman started their own farm business called You Betcha Kimchi which has been running successfully for over 2 years. Currently, Joe’s focus on the farm is holding spectacular events, like pizza nights! He’s looking forward to many more seasons of urban farming adventures on Growing Lots.