WEI recently completed Phase 1 of our Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) collaborative project. Funded by the EPA, and coordinated in partnership with Hennepin County and the Longfellow Community Council, the Hiawatha CARE project worked with the community to identify, evaluate, prioritize, and take action on environmental and public health risks along the Hiawatha corridor in East Phillips and Longfellow Neighborhoods. We are grateful to our many partners and community participants for helping us in this important work.
The CARE project team interviewed hundreds of community members about these environmental health risks. Each person rated the community impact of 20 issues. Five stood out as high priorities: Air pollution and vehicle emissions; Asthma; Clean water; Economic instability; Poor nutrition and obesity.
Health disparities and environmental sustainability rated highly as guiding principles. See the Risk Ranking Report
Throughout summer and fall of 2013, the CARE project team talked with community members at community events, meetings and door-to-door about what community actions and strategies could address these risks. Find the Draft Community Action Plan at: http://bit.ly/1k7QUsn
Pending funds, WEI looks forward to building on this important Environmental Justice work and relationship building with the Phillips neighborhood by implementing the Community Action Plan in the coming months and years. For information contact Aisha Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The East Metro Environmental Justice Education and Action Collaborative (EJEAC) continues working with U of M researchers to secure federal funds for the East Metro Hmong Farmers Research Project. Suyapa Miranda is exploring other options for testing potential toxics levels in soil and produce with the EJEAC community-based steering committee.
In September WEI completed year three of our USDA-funded project: “Cross-Cultural/Cross-Neighborhood Urban Organic Farming—Reclaiming and Regenerating Healthful Traditional Food Systems.” This was a successful partnership with Environmental Justice Advocates of MN(EJAM) that began a year earlier with a MN Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop grant. This CFJC project launched the first initiative in Minnesota to consciously focus on the benefits and practicalities of reclaiming and honoring traditional cultural agriculture skills and knowledge across both cultural and long-standing neighborhood boundaries and barriers as a way to change the conventional food system.
The Community Food Justice Council was created to be the community-based organ that guided the project over the years and included leaders from 8-10 farming groups: Little Earth of United Tribes Urban Farmers (including Sindy Wright, Dawn Segura, Annette Ellias, Darlene Fairbanks and Jenny Bruce); Bev Larkin of the Kwanza Community Garden and Bountiful, LLC; Ly Vang, Mee Yang, Mary Lange and their team from the Association for the Advancement of Hmong Women; Gina Sapp of Gina’s Herb Garden; Ted Wind, WEI Aquaponics farmer; Cherry Flowers and Tim Page of Page and Flowers Wholistic Gardens; Tou Pao Lee of the Hmong Farmers Group; Notando Zulu of Karamu Community Gardens; Christina Elias, farmer/coordinator at Mashkiiki Gitigan (the Medicine Garden of the 24th St. Urban Farm Coalition which included Waite House liason Andrea Nettles, Indian Health Board liason Lanesse Baker, & Indigenous People’s Task Force Director Sharon Day). Current and former CFJC staff and organizers helped keep the dream alive and coordinated including: Karen Clark, Jacquelyn Zita, Valerie Martinez and Felicia Wesaw of WEI and Michael Neumann, Harriet Oyara, and Louis Alemayehue of EJAM.
CFJC farmers participated in numerous training opportunities including business training from Latino Economic Develop Center, WEI’s Growing Power Trainings, Organic Farm School, Aquaponics and Pest Control trainings. The farmers hosted numerous visits and tours from various community groups, scholarly researchers, youth and school groups, local media reporters and a final project site visit from USDA Undersecretary Ann Bartuska.
We celebrated the success of phase one of this new urban farming model at the “Community Food Justice Forum” on August 27, 2013. It provided an opportunity for community feedback and with the generous help of Migizi Communications we created a video of the CFJC’s underlying food justice values and activities: food and farming as medicine and as a human right that can help heal environmental injustice, increased access to healthy food through education, training, and by building strong, culturally respectful community relationships across racial, cultural and geographic boundaries.
Two videos (The Good Earth: Growing Community & Community Food Justice Council) and a brochure document our CFJC work and can be seen here. Note: Beautiful, black t-shirts with the logo are available for sale.
By Registry Program Coordinator, Laurie Allmann
This year, Registry members enjoyed the opportunity to participate in WEI’s Prairie School hikes, led by naturalist Dave Crawford. The autumn gathering was a special event co-hosted by Wild River State Park on the topic of water quality in the St. Croix and Sunrise Rivers, featuring guest speaker Dr. Jim Almendinger, Sr. Scientist at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station. It was a wonderful and well-attended presentation, with important information that is now posted as a feature article on the website St. Croix 360. Check it out at: http://bit.ly/IfEoew
We also held another “walk-about” with Program ecologist Tara Kelly visiting the property of the Wintz family, newest members to join the Registry. This benefit is at the heart of the Registry program. It’s a chance for landowners to walk their property with an ecologist, have any questions answered, and discuss how they might accomplish their conservation goals.
As always, it has truly been a pleasure and privilege to connect with the people who are part of WEI’s Registry community of 15 households. It’s inspiring to know that there are people so appreciative of wildlife and natural areas, who are personally dedicated to being good stewards of their own property. There is truly no way to measure the value of the natural treasures contained in the 320+ acres owned by Registry members—the oak savannas, maple-basswood forests, prairies, streams, fern-filled ravines, sedge meadows and ephemeral pools that ring with frog song in the spring. But we can all be grateful to know that they are held in such caring hands.
The Amador-Sunrise Registry provides conservation education and opportunity for local landowners to connect with others who share an appreciation for the rural and natural heritage of the area. There is no cost to join, and no obligation. Open to residents of Amador and Sunrise Township in Chisago County. Founded by the Women’s Environmental Institute in 2008. Made possible by funding assistance from Embrace Open Space, with support from the McKnight Foundation. For more information contact Registry Program Coordinator Laurie Allmann at Laurie@w-e-i.org.