Mission: To operate and promote the use of sustainable urban farming as a vehicle for education, job training and employment.

Vision: A collaborative, integrated urban farm that strengthens lives by providing meaningful work with dignity and by promoting healthy and sustainable communities.

Values: Building on Existing Successes and Resources, Environmental Stewardship, Financial Solvency, Resource Conservation, Learning and Growth, Good Health.

What is Growing Home?

Growing Home, a non-profit organization, is creating an urban farming venture in Rochester, MN, that will offer employment and training opportunities for youth in alternative learning programs in public schools, for individuals living in supportive housing, and potentially others.

How did Growing Home get started?

Growing Home grew out of a desire to provide employment and training opportunities for residents of a permanent supportive housing development for homeless families and youth. The conversation began in 2011 among county departments, social service agencies, civic and government leaders, supportive housing developers, agriculturalists, and others in Olmsted County. The collaborators developed a vision to market surplus county compost and implement urban gardening as a training vehicle to effectively advance development of employment competencies in disengaged, homeless or highly mobile (HHM) people. An urban gardening initiative at Rochester Public School’s Alternative Learning Center engaged with the group to assist in launching the early stages of the plan. The long-term vision also includes the exploration of options for purchasing steam, electricity, and leasing land from Olmsted County; building greenhouses; and enhancing the year-round availability of healthy foods for our community.

What has happened so far?

Three collaborators pooled funds to finance the composition of a business plan in 2013. This plan, with budgets and targets, documented the need for a community-wide capacity building approach to plan implementation steps over the next five years. Upon business plan completion and review, eleven collaborators agreed to form a voluntary board, who then initiated formation of a 501c3 organization, with Center City Housing LLC, Duluth, MN acting as the fiscal agent.

Who is currently involved?

Growing Home is now a collaboration of Olmsted County Environment Resources and Youth and Adult Services, Center City Housing, Inc., University of Minnesota SE Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, School District 535, food growers and sellers, educators, government, public health, a certified compost company , and adult and youth leaders. A large oversight group meets periodically; and the 501c3 volunteer board of directors meets monthly. No staff has been hired.

Critical next steps (as of June 2014) include:

  1. Reaching agreements between county, city, composter, and workforce development resources to sell bulk compost and provide labor.
  2. Commencing cash flow by selling bulk compost.
  3. Hiring/recruiting a volunteer compost supervisor.
  4. Implementing steps of bagging and selling compost, creating yard waste drop donation program.
  5. Obtaining support funding.
  6. Following subsequent steps in business plan.

What help or resources are needed to support next steps?

  1. Initial cash flow to purchase compost bags and finance leadership.
  2. Leadership, either employed or volunteer, for the initiative.
  3. Volunteer and board guidance to make decisions and prioritize activities.
    • Board members meet monthly for 1-2 hours and provide ideas, guidance, connection, and expertise to assist in reaching program goals.
    • Board members advocating for the project at other venues and in other situations in the community.
  4. County and area agency involvement and collaboration.
  5. Recruitment and training of workers and mentors.

Why is Growing Home important to our community?

Growing Home’s efforts to provide employment training are supported by multiple studies that cite lack of job skills and preparedness as a primary cause of poverty:

“15 million US people between the ages of 16 and 24 are not prepared for high‐wage employment. Inadequate education or training is a major reason. Individuals ill-prepared for employment are more likely to live in poverty… Minority low‐income youth have the most challenging time finding employment and typically experience the lowest employment rates” (Collura 2009).

Growing Home’s job skills training program will be evidence-based, and will incorporate mentoring by local residents who are culturally and emotionally prepared to work with diverse participants. Growing Home will deliver employment preparation to disproportionately low-income individuals through a well-matched mentoring program, while also developing diversified urban agriculture activities and enterprises that increase the availability of healthy, local foods.