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(Many Paths)
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Garden Study Trying Out A Better Way To Grow Food
by press release
Partnership between Minneapolis and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community to demonstrate environmental and food production benefits of biochar, focus on healthy food for underserved communities

MINNEAPOLIS – In five demonstration gardens, the City of Minneapolis is studying the effectiveness of combining compost with biochar, a soil amendment similar to charcoal. Biochar works with compost to increase crop yields, improve local water quality by reducing runoff, and combat climate change by holding carbon and nitrogen in the soil where they serve as fertilizer instead of being released into the air where they would become pollutants. Minneapolis is one of the first cities in the U.S. to study the benefits of biochar. The focus of this demonstration project will be increased access to locally grown food for historically underserved communities, including Native Americans.

The study is part of a new agreement with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC). The City and the SMSC share common values in environmental stewardship and sustainability. The SMSC operates the Organics Recycling Facility, the largest single compost site in Minnesota. Due to the many benefits of using biochar, the SMSC and the City seek to work together to promote compost and biochar in their respective communities. This program consists of two main components: producing a biochar/compost mix at the Organics Recycling Facility and developing demonstration projects, including education and outreach. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also involved in the study.

“In our relationship with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, we are working toward food justice and better health for all of our communities,” said Mayor Betsy Hodges. “Making healthy food more readily available for our underserved communities is a building block of equity.”

“We are excited to partner once again with the City of Minneapolis on an effort aimed at benefitting the environment and the food supply,” said Chairman Charlie Vig, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, referencing the SMSC’s donation of honeybees and hives to the City last year. “Helping people of all economic backgrounds access fresh, local food is a high priority for the SMSC.”

Biochar is a charcoal specially developed for agriculture. It can be made from agricultural waste exposed to high temperatures. The City’s biochar is made from sawmill scraps of white oak charred in a zero-oxygen environment at around 500 degrees Celsius. This stabilizes the carbon and prevents it from being released into the environment where it could contribute to climate change. Biochar improves plant growth by making the compost or fertilizer used with it more effective. City and SMSC staff hope to demonstrate biochar’s positive effects on plant growth and soil health in urban environments.

The 24th Street Urban Farming Coalition is using the food it grows in the Mashkiikii Gitigan (Ojibwe for “Medicine Garden,” one of the five biochar demonstration gardens) to help restore traditional diets and combat diabetes, hypertension, obesity and other problems associated with eating processed foods. The Waite House prepares and donates meals made from the vegetables grown in Medicine Garden; at the same time it helps at-risk youths become more employable by training them in the catering business.

The demonstration gardens:

Dream of Wild Health has a 10-acre organic farm in Hugo. Its mission is to restore health and well-being in the Native community by recovering knowledge of and access to healthy indigenous foods, medicines and lifeways.  
Good JuJu Garden in the Philips neighborhood is a community garden run primarily by women in an Ecuadorian community.
LaSalle Community Garden was started in 1997 on two vacant lots at 1801 LaSalle Ave. Approximately 45 plots are available for rent in this garden, including a wheelchair-accessible bed.
Mashkiikii Gitigan (Medicine Garden) is across from the Indian Health Board at 1316 E. 24th St. It is a project of the 24th Street Urban Farm Coalition. The garden has created opportunities for families to maintain and harvest vegetables, created access to healthier foods, and developed knowledge and practices to maintain healthy lifestyles. The project has grown more than 50 varieties of foods and traditional medicines, harvested thousands of pounds of food, served more than 11,895 free meals in partnership with Waite House Community Café, and hosted more than 40 community events.
Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls community garden.


The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community is a federally recognized, sovereign Indian tribe located southwest of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. With a focus on being a good neighbor, good steward of the earth and good employer, the SMSC is committed to charitable donations, community partnerships, a healthy environment and a strong economy. The SMSC and the SMSC Gaming Enterprise (Mystic Lake Casino Hotel and Little Six Casino) together are the largest employer in Scott County. Out of a Dakota tradition to help others, the SMSC has donated nearly $300 million to organizations and causes since opening the Gaming Enterprise in the 1990s and has contributed millions more to regional governments and infrastructure such as roads, water and sewer systems, and emergency services. For more information, visit

The 24th Street Urban Farm Coalition members include staff from Dream of Wild Health, Indigenous Peoples’ Task Force, Indian Health Board, Native American Community Clinic, Ventura Village, Waite House and Women’s Environmental Institute. These organizations and individuals formed the coalition and worked together to create the Mashkiikii Gitigan (Medicine Garden) Project to address food justice issues in the Phillips neighborhood and the American Indian community. The mission of the 24th Street Urban Farm Coalition is to create and nurture the culture and practice of local organic food production, healthy eating, healthy living and related activities along the 24th Street Wellness Corridor and throughout the Phillips community.

The City of Minneapolis has goals around equity and health – health of both people and the environment. Visit for information on local food initiatives in Minneapolis. Or click here for more information on Minneapolis air quality efforts.

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