Importance of homegrown goods emphasized in seminar

University faculty member holds classes on how to grow a garden in an urban environment.

An increased interest in urban agriculture is resulting in more opportunities for education. Courtney Tchida, student personnel coordinator for the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture and member of the teacherâÄôs guild with the Permaculture Research Institute, is holding the third of three workshops tomorrow at the Minnesota College of Art and Design about how to grow vegetables and sustainable gardens in an urban area. âÄúThereâÄôs been a pretty strong interest in urban agriculture lately, and I was trying to key in on that and provide educational opportunities for people that were interested,âÄù Tchida said. The third workshop is full, but Tchida said she was planning to run the same presentations in May to provide those that missed a session another chance to attend. Participation and interest were high during the entire series, Tchida said. She said there were between 30 and 50 at each, and that she was âÄúvery happyâÄù with the turnout. The third workshop Tchida is hosting will focus on bio-intensive gardening. Tchida will discuss the components of gardening on a small scale, such as digging double beds, how to utilize compost and how to help growth reach maximum potential in a small area. The first workshop, held in late March, focused on people that had little to no land or resources. She discussed case studies, marketing strategies and how to grow an urban garden. The second workshop focused on people with less than five acres on which to grow. The workshop covered things like crop rotation and how to deal with weeds. âÄúThe idea is that you start in your own backyard and then move onto your neighborâÄôs backyard and eventually you have enough for a sort of farmerâÄôs market,âÄù Tchida said. Stephanie Hankerson, Community Garden Organizer for the South East Como Improvement Association , said she added the events Tchida is hosting to the community calendar because she said there was a growing interest in her neighborhood. She said more people are realizing that self sufficiency is important in these economic times. âÄúThe economy is getting people thinking about their food bill,âÄù Haukerson said. âÄúIt used to be, they would to go to Cub and pick up things that came from Mexico, or wherever, and it just doesnâÄôt make sense anymore when they look outside and see a little space with sun that could be productive.âÄù In fact, Dan Halsey, who worked with Tchida to set up the classes, said that membership in the Permaculture Research Institute, blog interest and the number of community gardens have all increased within the last four or five years. He attributed this to a number of different factors, including the economy, climate change and education. He said although he was biased, he believed that early education in urban gardening was important and that people he called âÄúearly adoptersâÄù would be at an advantage. âÄúCourtney is the leading edge of all of this (urban gardening),âÄù he said, referencing a student organic garden she runs and research she is involved in. TchidaâÄôs presentations are based on her research and studies she has done. There is a $20 charge for non-Institute members, and $15 for members for each class. More information on future classes can be found at the Permaculture Research InstituteâÄôs website.