Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are you organic?
2. Why & How do you grow on parking lots?
3. What vegetables do you grow?
4. When does your growing season start and end?
5. Should I buy a full-share or half-share?
6. How do I sign up for your CSA?
7. What are my payment options, and what if I can’t pay the total cost up front?
8. What happens if I don’t pick up my share?
9. Do you have volunteer or work share opportunities?
10. Are there other ways to support your farm than becoming a CSA member?
11. How many seasons have you been growing?
12. Is it safe to eat food grown in an urban environment?

1. Are you organic?

Though not certified organic by the USDA, Growing Lots Urban Farm uses organic standards as the philosophical basis for its agricultural practices.  We’re quite sure that even if we were to pursue certification, the mere fact of our growing in an urban environment would disqualify us from the program in its current form.

Technicalities aside, we use no pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers in our farming practice. This is one tenet of our more fundamental goal, which is to produce food that is equally healthy and regenerative for people, plants, and the soil they both depend upon. For more information, visit our page about Our Growing Practices.

2. Why & how do you grow on parking lots?

The original inspiration for Growing Lots was the work being done out in Milwaukee, WI, by Growing Power.  However, the reasons for pursuing this model of agriculture comes down to land availability in an urban setting.  Finding land to farm in the city is a constant challenge, and we often have to be creative in using niches and unused spaces, like old parking lots!  In addition, bringing beauty, diversity and life to the urban desert is a true gem to behold.

As to the How, take a look at an old blog post on the process our first year. (How To Sprout an Urban Farm) Though some elements of the process have changed, this pretty much describes the process of transformation our vacant lots undergo…

3. What vegetables do you grow?

So many. Here’s a list of the numerous vegetables, fruits, and varieties we’re growing this season, ranging from classic favorites to quirky novelties. We’ve also posted a photographic odyssey of last year’s CSA season here.

4. When does the season start and end?

While the actual dates are often dictated by Mother Nature (especially in the early spring), we are aiming to have our main season CSA running from May 20th to October 14th (22 weeks).  Our new fall CSA shares will run for five weeks from from October 21st through November 25th, just in time for Thanksgiving.

5. Should I buy a full-share or half-share?

We don’t like wasted food any more than you do! That’s why Growing Lots full shares aim to provide an amount of fresh produce that a 2-3 person household can easily use through the week.  You then get your money’s worth through our longer CSA season (22 weeks as compared to a typical 18 weeks), which thus reduces produce waste, again adding to the take-away value for our members.  Bear this in mind when deciding to share a full-share with another member/household.

Our half-shares are set-up as full shares that are picked up every other week.  Half-shares are thus 11 pick-ups per season, and are a good fit for families who travel during summer or don’t cook fresh vegetables as frequently. Our half-share members will get to choose between Track A (starting on May 22nd) or Track B (starting on May 29th) to choose the schedule that works better for their household.

6. How do I sign up for your CSA? 

Once you have decided that a CSA is indeed right for you (no doubt having fallen utterly under the spell of these charming cosmopolitan farmers), simply apply online through the Online CSA Application and pay via PayPal (growinglots@gmail.com) or print out and mail in our 2015 CSA Sign-up to us along with a down payment.  You will have the option of a full-share, half-share, the mushroom-share or fall share.  You can also add an additional donation in any amount to our Share-a-Share Program, which helps supply fresh produce to those in need within our community.

7. What are my payment options, and what if I can’t pay the total up front?

You can currently pay by check or PayPal. If you need to pay over a period of time, we are happy to accommodate you with a 2 or 3 installment payment plan. Contact us directly at growinglots@gmail.com to work out these arrangements.

8. What happens if I don’t pick up my share?

These and other CSA policies are detailed in our 2015 Member Agreement.

Basically, though: make prior arrangements with us with plenty of advance notice or feel free to send a friend in your place. If you simply can’t make it, we’ll happily donate your share to the Community Emergency Services food shelf the following day.

We wish we could be more flexible accommodating in this area, but we’ve found that making exceptions to these rules creates a logistical nightmare for us and often results in wasted produce anyway.

9. Do you offer volunteer or work share opportunities?

Yes! We love volunteers and work shares. Our work share members pay 1/3 the cost of the full-share and are required to put in a 3 hour shift once per week for the duration of the 22 week CSA season.  For more information or to sign up, check out our 2015 Work Share Agreement. Though it may be hard work being a farmer, we know how to have loads of fun while getting the job done!

We encourage volunteers, too, but on a case-by-case basis by prior arrangement. Unfortunately, we’re not able to offer weekend or evening volunteer opportunities. If you want to get your hands dirty on the farm, contact us at growinglots@gmail.com to find out when you can come by.

10. Are there other ways to support your farm than becoming a CSA member?

We honor and cherish all forms of support, and there are many ways you can be a part of what we are building.  If a CSA share isn’t a good fit for you right now for whatever reason or you’re already a member with another farm, you can still support us through our Share-a-Share program. More importantly, this program is a means for us to support our immediate community through dedicated weekly donations to the food shelf.

You can also find us this season at the Tiny Diner Farmer’s Market, each Thursday from 5pm – 7:30pm, June-October, where we will be offering a mix of vegetables and floral bouquets.  We also accept donations of tools or time!

11. How many seasons have you been growing?

Growing Lots Urban Farm is entering its 6th growing season in 2015.  This is the first season under new ownership. Joe and Iman are looking to build on all the amazing work Stefan and Michael have put into Growing Lots and are looking forward to getting to know the members and community that surround the farm. Read more here and here.

12. Is it safe to eat food grown in the city?

We understand that urban farming raises questions of food safety for some people. In the urban environment, the main form of pollution relevant to food production is contaminated soil, which often has traces of heavy metals built up from decades of poor environmental stewardship. Certainly not all soils are contaminated in the urban environment, but if you are growing in your own yard, we strongly encourage you to test the soil for contaminants.

Soil pollution is not a concern at Growing Lots Urban Farm because we literally build our farms from the pavement up!  We lay down an impermeable barrier over existing ground and then bring in fresh soil from Kern Landscape Resources in St. Paul.  They test all their soils and supply gardening mixes for people all over the Twin Cities.

Now to the question of particulate matter getting on vegetables from car exhaust or factories, sadly we cannot prevent this, no more so than we can prevent breathing it all in on a daily basis.  As well, such particulate matter (known as aerosols) actually travels vast distances, so rural farms are by no means immune to this concern (particulate pollution from Chinese factories has been found out on the western U.S. coast!)

Point being, we need to be addressing pollution/poisons in all aspects of our society and lifestyles, without a doubt!  However, that is one of the strengths of urban agriculture.  We reduce the fossil fuel footprint of the food we grow to as low as possible.  If you, our member, picks up the produce at the farm via bicycle, it almost becomes zero!

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