The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

New Gandhi Mahal Urban Farm Project seeks volunteers

This summer, look for students and youth on bicycles hauling the fresh produce they have grown in neighborhood backyard farms to the Gandhi Mahal restaurant located at 3009 27th Ave South, Minneapolis. Gandhi Mahal, in partnership with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) and Project Sweetie Pie, is working towards being 100 percent locally sourced and is exploring urban backyard farms as a source. Ruhel Islam and his family founded Gandhi Mahal in 2008. Previously a farmer in Bangladesh, Ruhel has embraced his vision of owning a business that practices environmental responsibility and sustainable, ethical economics. Ruhel’s business motto is “dedicated to bringing peace, by pleasing the palate,” evident in the numerous awards the restaurant has received for Best Indian Food and Best Indian Restaurant from, MPLS/St Paul Magazine, KARE11 and City Pages. In collaboration with community members and partner organizations, the restaurant is now growing its own food, storing it throughout the winter and experimenting with aquaponics and aquaculture.

The HECUA/Gandhi Mahal Urban Farm Project strives to create an economically viable model for other Twin Cities restaurants to engage and sustain local food economies. Given the extremely short growing season in Minnesnowta, sourcing food locally year-round is a challenge. Gandhi Mahal has developed several effective methods, including freezing surplus crops from local harvests and purchasing preserved, locally grown food during the winter.

Most of the locally grown food served by Gandhi Mahal is produced in the backyards of the Twin Cities, each of which is managed throughout the growing season by students or alumni of HECUA’s education programs. Participating in a new restaurant barter economy, community members volunteer their backyards to grow produce for Gandhi Mahal in exchange for benefits at the restaurant. Last year, with only one backyard farm, we produced nearly 2,000 pounds of food. The HECUA farm site managers receive a cash stipend based on the amount of food produced in their plot.

This year, in addition to HECUA site managers, the members of Project Sweetie Pie will be helping grow food in the five backyard farms. Founded in 2010 in north Minneapolis, Project Sweetie Pie is an emerging nonprofit that engages youth, their families, and other members of the community and builds skills and knowledge in urban farming, entrepreneurship, environmental stewardship and community health. Creating and sustaining a local food economy requires not only the effort of the restaurant, but also the effort of community members and organizations.

In the next few months we will be starting seeds, spreading compost and transplanting seedlings into backyards. As the growing season gets underway, we will need volunteers to weed, water and harvest. If you have any interest in local food systems, alternative economies, gardening, youth development and/or building community relationships, please contact us. It takes a community to support a local food system and each contribution strengthens and sustains that system.

Eat at the Restaurant – 3009 27th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN, 55406.

Volunteer with us – [email protected]

Visit Gandhi Mahal’s Website

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