Village Food Hub - High Tunnel!
by Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly - June 21st, 2023
The Village Agriculture Cooperative is a non-profit organization based in Rochester MN that serves 200 families that represent 24 different countries. Their mission is to source land in under-utilized urban areas to create family farms that produce culturally relevant foods which sustain indigenous traditions and nourish diverse communities.
The Village became part of the Farmers’ Market Food Hub Aggregation program last year with the opening of The Village Farmers’ Market at the History Center of Olmsted County. This year they were able to expand their farmers market, offering wonderful veggies and cottage food with the addition of music, food trucks, cooking demos, and now also accept WIC and SNAP!
As they grow their market, they are also growing their food hub by making connections with local schools and food shelves to help their farmers sell to a broader range of buyers in their community. Through their food hub efforts they have been very intentional about prioritizing BIPOC and emerging growers to stay true to the mission of The Village.
The biggest issue The Village contends with is land access for their farmers. To address this, as well as adapt to the shorter Minnesota growing season that many of the farmers are unaccustomed to, they have wanted to build a high tunnel for the past five years. The original planned location experienced major flooding, and after a delay in construction they ended up losing the space. With the partnership of the History Center, which doubles as a heritage farm, they started the building process last fall and this spring, “All of a sudden it was time to put on the skin [of the high tunnel]!” - Chris Allen (The Village Farmers Market and Food Hub Manager).
In June, 10 people came to volunteer and in two hours they had the high tunnel skin on! A few final steps are needed to make the high tunnel fully functional: installing the heater and fans and amending the soil. They’re also looking forward to painting the doors pink—Jose Jimenez, the Farm Maintenance Manager is from Puebla, Mexico where many of the buildings are pink. This color will make everyone smile, remembering familiar but far-away places. The Village logo will also be added. Their goal is to have it ready to start planting in the late summer and fall.
“It felt so exciting… it took well over a year… putting the [high tunnel] skin on it as one little community of people in under two hours, it felt so exciting… such a transformation!” - Chris Allen (The Village Farmers Market and Food Hub Manager)
The high tunnel will allow them to grow culturally relevant foods that they weren't able to before because of the MN weather. Village farmers crave certain things from home but can’t afford it in specialty stores or have to drive up to the twin cities to find it. They are currently growing 14 different varieties of tomatillos, as well as Asian greens and Managu (an African herb) in their research plots to compare their pest control capabilities and flavors.
Visit them at their market on Tuesdays from 4-7pm at the History Center and sign up for their food hub market share boxes that you will be able to pick up at the market starting this August!