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Photo: Evan Frost/MPR
Mukhtar Ibrahim gives a presentation about Sahan Journal at the Glen Nelson Center in Minneapolis.

When we lived in Minneapolis, we got to know a Somali-American who worked at our apartment building’s front desk and later ran for mayor. He was a friendly, curious man, who enlightened me a good bit about Islam and Africa. As a child in Somalia, he played soccer games interrupted by camels, and he loved to get news from around the world on the radio and then study the map to see where the news was happening.

Today the large immigrant community in his new country has a different way to get news.

Andrew Lapin reports at the Current, “Support from Minnesota Public Radio is enabling a website covering the state’s immigrant communities to expand into a full-time venture for its founder.

Sahan Journal is the brainchild of Mukhtar Ibrahim, who began his career as MPR’s first Somali-American reporter before joining the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. He has returned to MPR as a full-time network employee focusing exclusively on Sahan, with the network also providing a content-sharing agreement and other material support.

“Ibrahim said he wants Sahan to be ‘a one-stop shop for all things immigrant in Minnesota.’ …

“Ibrahim began the project in 2013 as a side venture, two years after earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota’s journalism school. The name ‘Sahan’ comes from the Somali word for ‘pioneer’ and traditionally refers to a group of respected men from a community who are chosen by village elders to embark on exploratory expeditions.

“Recruiting other writers of the Somali diaspora, Ibrahim published news and information related to East African politics and culture on the Sahan website. He tapped an influential network of contributors. One of Sahan’s former writers, Mustafa Muhummed Omer, was recently appointed acting interim president of the Somali Regional State in Ethiopia, one of the country’s nine governing regions divided by ethnicity.

“ ‘People were really hungry for that kind of content,’ Ibrahim said, adding that English-language news sources for young professional Somalis were hard to come by.

“As Ibrahim started a family and devoted more time to his day job, Sahan Journal fell by the wayside. … Ibrahim knew he wanted to return to Sahan Journal and broaden its focus to capture more of the state’s immigrant population, including Hmong and Liberian residents. After earning a master’s in journalism at Columbia University with the aid of a leadership fellowship from the Minnesota-based Bush Foundation, he redirected his attention to his passion project.

“Ibrahim found a willing partner for Sahan Journal in his former employers at MPR. Reaching the state’s immigrant communities is ‘the number-one priority for me,’ said MPR News Executive Editor Nancy Cassutt. …

“Cassutt said MPR aims to republish five stories a month from Sahan Journal, edited by an MPR News editor. She also said MPR would like to see Sahan Journal cover immigrant communities across the entire state of Minnesota, not just the Twin Cities. …

“Ibrahim also hopes to make mentorship and journalism education a part of his site’s mission. … By encouraging more immigrants to become reporters, Ibrahim said, the community will benefit. ‘We say there’s a lack of diversity in the newsrooms, but in the beginning we don’t even give people a chance,’ he said. ‘So this newsroom will be a place where people can run, can fail, can experiment with journalism.’ ”

More here.

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Photos: Evan Frost | MPR News
Cats are only one of the unusual features of Minnesota’s Wild Rumpus bookstore, which Publisher’s Weekly named the 2017 Bookstore of the Year.

In August, John and family visited friends in Minnesota and, among other adventures, checked out the award-winning children’s bookstore their friends love.

At Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), Tracy Mumford reports on a visit she made to the store in April 2017.

“At the Wild Rumpus bookstore in Minneapolis, Neil deGrasse Tyson is strutting across the floor. A crowd gathers, but this striking figure is not the world-famous astrophysicist — it’s a chicken.

“In addition to over 34,000 books, the children’s bookstore boasts a menagerie that includes Tyson the chicken, one ferret, two doves, two chinchillas, a cockatiel and a tarantula named Thomas Jefferson. (Jefferson’s in a cage, as are several of the other furry and feathered inhabitants.)

“This week, the shop was honored for its long history of serving up children’s books with a side of animal chaos. Publishers Weekly named it the 2017 Bookstore of the Year, making Wild Rumpus the first children’s bookstore to receive the honor.

“For co-founder Collette Morgan, finding out that she’d won was a too-excited-to-even-speak moment. Her tight-knit staff gathered around her when she got the call. …

“Every afternoon after school lets out, the store still fills up with young readers browsing the shelves, which run from picture books through young adult novels. Bookseller Jean Ernest, who has worked there for 20 years, says she has watched the customers grow up right in front of her, transforming from kids into parents who bring their own children into the shop. …

“Amid all the store’s success, and its fast approaching 25th anniversary, Morgan has a message to her younger self, opening the store on its very first day.

” ‘You did the right thing. You did the right thing,’ Morgan said. ‘At the time it was: … Why am I doing this when everybody else is closing? But it’s just been the love of my life.’ ” More at MPR, here.

If you are in Minneapolis on November 10, you can hear author Sheetal Sheth read her book Always Anjali at 11. Book blurb: “Anjali and her friends are excited to get matching personalized license plates for their bikes. But Anjali can’t find her name. To make matters worse, she gets bullied for her ‘different’ name, and is so upset she demands to change it. When her parents refuse and she is forced to take matters into her own hands, she winds up learning to celebrate who she is and carry her name with pride and power.”

Some of Wild Rumpus bookstore’s resident cats eat lunch while a book is gift wrapped for a customer. If you visit, you can also meet Neil deGrasse Tyson the chicken, one ferret, two doves, two chinchillas, a cockatiel, and a tarantula named Thomas Jefferson (in his cage).

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Photo: Paula Keller
Actor Luverne Seifert demonstrates techniques of Ten Thousand Things, which brings free, low-budget, high-quality theater to people who are not rich.

A new theater company trains actors to do high-quality, free performances for new, nontraditional audiences. Somehow I knew it would be based in Minneapolis, a hotbed of theatrical innovation in the late 1990s when I lived there.

Theresa J. Beckhusen reported the story at American Theatre.

” ‘If I was going to spend my life making theatre, I didn’t want to make art for rich people.’ This is how Michelle Hensley, artistic director of Ten Thousand Things (TTT), a theatre company in Minneapolis, kicked off a recent conference. …

“The gathering drew around 100 theatre makers from across the country to compare notes about working with the grass-roots theatrical model championed by Hensley’s company. Its motto could be fairly summed up as … art for not-rich people.

“For 30 years Ten Thousand Things has been touring productions to prisons, transitional housing, rehab centers, immigrant centers, shelters for survivors of domestic violence, and more — and all for free. …

“TTT productions are performed in the round, in whatever space their tour sites have available. … Actors mingle with audience members, interacting before, during, and after performances.

“The productions are spare: no lavish costumes, no fancy sets, no lights. Hensley puts a premium on story and language. …

“Many conference attendees shared stories … One incarcerated woman in particular was moved by a wedding scene in The Tempest because she’d missed all the weddings in her family. [Another told] how audience members drove from Tijuana to San Diego just to see a bilingual Twelfth Night. …

“Playwright Kira Obolensky led a session on choosing material that would work in the intimate settings pioneered by TTT. She began by posing a question … : What story would you tell if everyone was in the audience? … ‘I don’t think a lot of American playwrights and directors ask themselves this question.’ …

“Brad Delzer reported that he recently began employing TTT’s model with True North Theatre, his new theatre company in Carlisle, Pa. Sensing an opportunity to bring theatre to places that don’t typically see it, and to connect with the strong military community in the Carlisle area, Dezler toured Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Iliad to a soup kitchen, a men’s shelter, and the town’s Army Heritage Center, before holding two public performances. …

“He had been generally apprehensive about the whole thing, but had particularly fretted about how a six-minute list of wars from the last few centuries would go over. ‘It played really well, he said, noting the power that came from the moment. ‘It surprised us.’ ”

There’s more at American Theatre, here, where you can see how different TTT groups manage to fund free performances.

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Photo: Star Tribune
Police officers working to build a free-standing Little Free Library in Minneapolis as part of an initiative to encourage reading.

According to Libor Jany at the Star Tribune, some Minneapolis police officers are starting to engage with communities in a new way.

“In a partnership with Little Free Library, the department will turn a pair of its police cruisers into bookmobiles with the hope of teaching the importance of reading.

“Community policing officers will carry books while they are making their rounds on the city’s North and South sides. They’ll still respond to certain emergencies, but won’t be dispatched to calls for help, freeing them up to visit neighborhoods without libraries and give away books to anyone who wants them.

“The program is the first of its kind in the country, organizers say. …

“From a distance, the [Little Free Library] boxes could be mistaken for a birdhouse or an oversized mailbox. An unfinished dollhouse, even. But when they’re finished, officials say they’ll be stocked with dozens of all kinds books. People are encouraged to take a book or leave a book, without fear of overdue fines. …

“Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said in a statement that he was thrilled by the exercise in community building, ‘an incredible way to empower our youth and reach them in a positive way.’ …

“Little Free Library Executive Director Todd Bol started the book exchange in his hometown of Hudson, Wis., in 2009, building the first mini-library out of an old garage door in honor of his late mother. Today, there are more than 60,000 libraries in all 50 states and more than 80 countries around the world. In recent years, the little book boxes have sprung up in far-flung places like Australia and Qatar. …

“For now, available titles to be given away range from children’s books like ‘Camp Wildhog’ and ‘The Box Car Children: The Yellow House Mystery’ to more adult fare, including a well-thumbed unauthorized biography of Martha Stewart.” More.

Trust those Minnesotans to take a great concept a step farther!

A couple of my other posts on Little Free Libraries may be found here and here.

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When we lived in Minneapolis in the late 1990s, we would tell friends back in Massachusetts that we thought the Twin Cities theater scene was the best anywhere. They would say, “You mean the Guthrie?”

No, actually. We meant the many small, more-experimental theater groups that popped up everywhere.

Friday we were introduced to new one, TigerLion, which performed an outdoor “walking” play about Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson at the Old Manse. Above you see one of several stages and the warm-up team performing before the show. (Note also that the audience’s path to the next stage set is lined with apples.)

The highly physical acting style kept everyone from toddlers to adults entertained as did the whacky sound effects, wild locomotive and cabin-in-the-woods creations, and energetic choruses.

When the Royal Shakespeare Theater decided in the late 1970s that the best way to convey the uniqueness of Dickens was to recite chunks of his narration (as in their production of Nicholas Nickleby), I think they changed theater forever. The inventive TigerLion expands on the use of a chorus, at one point having it speak the conversation of the pantomiming protagonists — even the crunching of the apples they eat. (Really funny.)

The troupe wants audiences to delight in nature and save the planet from unchecked exploitation. From the website: “We celebrate human wisdom and the spirit of nature through creative works that awaken, inform, and delight. …

TigerLion Arts presents Nature, the mythic telling of Emerson and Thoreau’s mutual love affair with the natural world.  …

“A professional ensemble of actors takes the audience on a journey through the natural environment as scenes unfold around them. Bagpipes, ancient flutes, drums and rich choral arrangements are intricately woven into the experience. …

“This original work is collaboratively created with writer/actor Tyson Forbes, a direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“In today’s world, we are so estranged from our natural environment, and at TigerLion Arts, we feel that humankind must reconnect with nature in order to survive.  As oil spills into our oceans, as we race through our lives, as we look further and further outside ourselves for the answers, it is our hope that Nature can be a catalyst for our collective healing.”

More.

Photo: TigerLion
Energetic Minneapolis theater group recreating the interactions of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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Photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune
Kate Coleman, outreach coordinator at the Minneapolis Central Library, met with Byron Brooks about his housing issues.

Ever since the Ferguson, Missouri, library created a safe zone for residents during the 2014 riots, my eyes have been opened to the range of services that contemporary libraries offer the public.

In Minneapolis, for example, one library branch has a social worker who focuses on helping homeless patrons find resources.

Haley Hansen at the Star Tribune reports, “Kate Coleman worked with nearly 500 homeless people at Minneapolis Central Library last year … as part of a yearslong effort by the Hennepin County Library system to better help the homeless connect with tools and resources in the area. …

“Coleman’s position allows the library to be more than just a basic reference point for help. She said the full-time role fits in with the library’s overall mission of connecting all parts of the community with help and information. …

“Coleman works for St. Stephen’s Human Services, a nonprofit whose mission is to end homelessness. Her position is funded by Hennepin County’s human services and public health department and the Downtown Council. …

” ‘I think the library allows people to feel human and to just feel like they can comfortably be themselves when they’re here,’ she said. … ‘It’s my job to always keep up with what’s available and stay connected with those other community service providers.’ …

“Coleman asks [clients] about income, disability diagnoses and the length of time they’ve been homeless to help connect them with the services that best fit their needs.”

I suspect that people who are down on their luck may also be treated more courteously at libraries than at overwhelmed social service agencies. I hope the libraries never get overwhelmed.

More at the Star Tribune, here.

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I hardly need to remind readers of this blog that people are people. We are all just living our lives, with more or less the same daily concerns. And the differences are what make things interesting.

Sam Radwany at the radio show Only a Game recently described some youthful experiences in Minneapolis that sound both the same and different. The story is about a group of American Muslim girls who choose to cover themselves in keeping with their kind of Islam but who are also enthusiastic basketball players.

“The Twin Cities are home to one of the largest Somali populations in the world. The community is concentrated in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, where these pre-teen players go to school. … Balancing their cultural and religious standards of modesty with sports can be tricky.

“ ‘Sometimes our hijab, our scarves, got off, and we would have to time out, pause, to fix it,’ Samira said. ‘Our skirts were a problem — they were all the way down to our feet.’ …

“Last season, some of the girls opted to wear long pants instead of dresses. But that still put them at a disadvantage when playing other Minnesota teams. …

“And because the girls’ team didn’t have their own jerseys, they had to share with the boys. Ten-year-old Amal says the experience was unpleasant.

“ ‘Horrible! Very horrible,’ she said. ‘And the boys, their jerseys were all sweaty and yucky and nasty.’ …

“That’s where a local nonprofit dedicated to expanding sports and recreation opportunities for local Muslim girls stepped in. … [They] brought in researchers and designers from the university to help the young athletes find a new solution to the stinky jersey problem.

“Jennifer Weber, the girls’ coach, said the players did most of the work themselves, with guidance from the experts. …

“Chelsey Thul from the university’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport described some features of the new uniforms: ‘And so this sport uniform has black leggings. It’s longer, probably about to the knees …

“ ‘The biggest change to the hijab is that it’s not a pullover, so that instead, it fastens with Velcro at the neck,’ Weber said. ‘So it’s got some give to it, and it’s forgiving, and it moves as they move.’

“And of course, with the young girls’ input, there’s a bit of color. Samira and Amal said the team had a lot of ideas.” Read about their design ideas and their delight in the uniforms here.

Photo: Jim Mone/AP
Somali American girls in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis designed their own uniforms for greater freedom of movement.

 

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My husband’s new favorite news source is the US edition of the Guardian, and I can see why. It covers national and world affairs well and has some really unusual articles.

This one by Johanna Derry on Native American cuisine appealed to us both because of several years spent in Minneapolis. Back in the 1990s, there was no Native American food truck, but there was a nice restaurant on Franklin Street next to a Native American store, and we ate there a few times.

Derry writes, “Travel across the US and the cuisine doesn’t change much from state to state. It has a reputation for being sodium-filled, sweetened and glutenous (though, arguably, delicious) food. But chef Sean Sherman, known as the Sioux Chef, is hoping to redefine what we think of as ‘American’ food.

“At his newly launched Minneapolis food truck Tatanka, named after the American bison, dishes are made with ingredients that could be found living or growing locally before the arrival of European settlers. So you can forget processed sugars, wheat flour, beef, chicken and pork, Sherman serves wild rice and taco-style cornflour cakes with bison, turkey or rabbit, topped with wild greens and washed down with maple water. As well as being truly American, the food is super-healthy, organic – and local.

“ ‘We’ve worked with a couple of native-run farms to grow back some heirloom varieties of beans, squash, melon and corn,’ says Sherman.

“As well as introducing Minnesotan foodies to indigenous foods, the truck – which is supported by Little Earth, an urban Native American community – will head out to reservations, too, to reintroduce native populations to the healthier diet of their ancestors.”

Read more at the Guardian.

Photo: The Guardian
Tatanka Food truck, Native-American cuisine in Minneapolis

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Four years ago, I blogged about some beautiful manhole covers is Japan. Now I learn that Minneapolis also has discovered the artistic possibilities of heavy, round metal that lots of people see as they cross the street.

Eric Grundhauser writes at Slate‘s Atlas Obscura blog, “Minneapolis has made its underfoot sewer covers a point of artistic pride, with designs that celebrate the area’s art, history, and wildlife.

“In the early 1980s, Minneapolis began asking artists to design iconic manhole covers for the city. … From David Atkinson’s whimsical summer grill design to Stuart D. Kippler’s introspective geography marker, each of the covers turned what was once a mundane city feature into a unique piece of art. …

“[Kate] Burke created sculpted images of regional icons like the Minnesota state fish (the walleye), the state fruit (Halverson apple), and the state bird (loon). The detailed pieces of steel each feature tableaux of their subject that make most municipal equipment look lazy by comparison.

“Some of the covers even feature small hidden details such as a worm in the state apple, or a pheasant erupting from the bronzed image of the state grain (wild rice).” More here.

I love that the Minnesotan sense of humor is part of the artistic effort. Reminds me of Massachusetts sculptor Mags Harries, who is still associated with the bronze banana peels, orange skins, and broken crates she embedded among the produce vendors in the Haymarket in 1976.

Photo: J Wynia/Creative Commons
Manhole cover in Minneapolis.

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It’s hard to read about the deprivations of refugees, especially the children and especially in winter. That’s why I appreciate hearing about any kindness extended to them. National Public Radio recently had a story on the kindness of Clowns without Borders.

Laura Secorun-Palet writes, “On a cold November morning, 300 children gather in a soccer field in Zaatari, a Jordanian village next to the country’s largest refugee camp. …

“Today the children are not lining up to collect food coupons or clothes from NGOs: They are here to watch the clowns.

“On the ‘stage’ — a space in front of a velvet curtain covering the goal — a tall, blond woman performs a handstand while doing the splits, while two other performers run around clapping and making funny faces. As the upside-down woman pretends to fall, the children burst into laughter.

“The performers are circus artists from Sweden …

“Clowns Without Borders is a global network of nonprofit organizations that, for the past 20 years, has been spreading laughter in the world’s saddest places. The group’s most recent annual report says more than 385 artists performed 1,164 shows for its chapters in 2012 in 38 countries, both in the developing world and for refugees and other disadvantaged children in Western countries.

” ‘It’s very important to give kids a chance to be kids again,’ explains Lilja Fredriksson, one of the Swedish performers.” More here.

Another way to help refugees is through the wonderful Minneapolis-based nonprofit American Refugee Committee.

Photo: Bilal Hussein/AP
Lebanese clown Sabine Choucair, a member of “Clowns Without Borders,” performs for children in June at a Syrian refugee camp in the eastern town of Chtoura, Lebanon.

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When I lived in Minneapolis (1997-2000), I liked to walk in Loring Park. It was a lovely oasis located right downtown. The only problem was you really had to watch your step. Canada Geese frequented its pond and besmirched the grass and sidewalks.

Then one year, the city had an idea. It planted tall grasses around the perimeter of the pond. Before you knew it, no more geese! At the time, I was told that geese didn’t like the way the grasses feel on their feet when they come out of the water. But an article yesterday about the use of tall grasses at an Ohio airport said birds like geese fear long grasses because they could be hiding predators.

Whatever works.

Scott Mayerowitz reported the story for the Associated Press. “One Ohio airport is now experimenting with a new, gentler way to avoid bird strikes: planting tall prairie grass. …

“Says Terrence G. Slaybaugh, director of Dayton’s airport. ‘If we are going to protect the long term use of airports in an increasingly populated area, we need to be less intrusive and find ways to contribute in a positive way to our surroundings.’

“The thick grass has other benefits: preventing water runoff, taking carbon dioxide out of the air and requiring only one mowing every three years. Bird lovers are also excited about the use of non-lethal methods to keep birds away from the airport. The airport’s neighbor, the Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, has been working closely with aviation officials on the tall grass project.

” ‘It’s a watershed moment. Our airport is embracing it,’ says Charity Krueger, executive director of the center.’ ” More here.

Photo: Chris Gregorson 
Loring Park, Minneapolis. Note the tall grasses around the pond.

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Whatever works.

Curator Scott Stulen pays attention to what attracts people. At the avant garde Walker Museum in Minneapolis, he actually tapped the popularity of cat videos — and created a mini sensation.

Now at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Stulen is curator of the visitor experience.

Writes David Lindquist at the Indy Star, “Newly hired as the first-ever curator of audience experiences and performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Stulen’s assignment is to attract people to the museum’s galleries as well as 100 Acres art and nature park, Tobias Theater, outdoor amphitheater and Lilly House and gardens.

“He comes from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where his track record includes the surprise success of the Internet Cat Video Festival, which brought 10,000 people together in a field in 2012 and then 11,000 paying customers at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. …

“The cat video festival debuted at Open Field, a space adjacent to the Walker where Stulen co-developed projects with the museum, independent artists and the public.

“ ‘We had the ability to do more experimental programs that didn’t make as much sense inside the museum, and had a lot more creative freedom,’ he said.” More here.

2013 Internet Cat Video Festival at the Minnesota State Fair.

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Could this be real? It’s a bike path above the traffic.

Well, why not? If Minneapolis can build a complex system of second-floor skyways that allowed me to walk to work without a coat in deep winter 1997, why not?

Ben Schiller at FastCoExist explains.

“In most cities, cycling infrastructure isn’t much more than a few dotted lines on the road. But that’s not how it is in the Netherlands, one of the world’s most cycle-friendly nations. Dutch cities have dedicated lanes that separate cars and bikes, making cycling an activity for young and old, female and male–not just the adventurous few.

“A good example is [an] elegant circular bridge in Eindhoven, in southern Holland. Called the Hovenring, it lets cyclists completely avoid other road users and cross the busy A2 highway with minimal fuss. It also makes for better road flow, according to Gerhard Nijenhuis, an employee at IPV Delft, the firm that designed it.” Read more.

Photo: FastCoExist
In the Netherlands, bikers ride on top of this rotary.

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And speaking of payment systems, community-supported agriculture has been around for years and, more recently, community-supported art. I blogged about the approach here in 2011, when the Cambridge Center for the Arts embraced the concept.

The NY Times has written about it, too. Randy Kennedy lays out the principles: “For years, Barbara Johnstone, a professor of linguistics at Carnegie Mellon University [in Pittsburgh], bought shares in a C.S.A. — a community-supported agriculture program — and picked up her occasional bags of tubers or tomatoes or whatever the member farms were harvesting.

“Her farm shares eventually lapsed. (‘Too much kale,’ she said.) But on a recent summer evening, she showed up at a C.S.A. pickup location downtown and walked out carrying a brown paper bag filled with a completely different kind of produce. …

“ ‘It’s kind of like Christmas in the middle of July,’ said Ms. Johnstone, who had just gone through her bag to see what her $350 share had bought. The answer was a Surrealistic aluminum sculpture (of a pig’s jawbone, by William Kofmehl III), a print (a deadpan image appropriated from a lawn-care book, by Kim Beck) and a ceramic piece (partly about slavery, by Alexi Morrissey).

“Without even having to change the abbreviation, the C.S.A. idea has fully made the leap from agriculture to art. After the first program started four years ago in Minnesota … community-supported art programs are popping up all over the country …

“The art programs are designed to be self-supporting: Money from shares is used to pay the artists, who are usually chosen by a jury, to produce a small work in an edition of 50 or however many shares have been sold.”

Read all about it, here. Could be risky if you really don’t want a sculpture of a pig’s jawbone. But if you look at it as supporting the arts, you are likely to be satisfied with that side of things — and there’s always a chance you will love what you get or find its value increase.

Photo: Zoe Prinds-Flash
Drew Peterson’s prints and Liz Miller’s collages were among the art for members of this C.S.A., community-supported art, in Minnesota.

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Once upon a time, mine workers were paid in paper chits that could be redeemed at the company store. (Remember the song “Sixteen Tons,” by Tennessee Ernie Ford and “I owe my soul to the company sto’ “?)

A while back I saw a story in the NY Times about refugee gardens, and there was a picture of someone using wooden coins to buy produce. It turned out that people were not being paid in wooden coins as miners were paid in paper. Instead, the City of San Diego was encouraging poor residents to pursue good nutrition by giving them wooden coins for shopping at farmers markets.

The coins were really just a footnote to Patricia Leigh Brown’s story, which focuses on a national movement to help immigrant farmers get back into the occupation they know best.

“Among the regular customers at [San Diego’s] New Roots farm stand are Congolese women in flowing dresses, Somali Muslims in headscarves, Latino men wearing broad-brimmed hats and Burundian mothers in brightly patterned textiles who walk home balancing boxes of produce on their heads.

“New Roots, with 85 growers from 12 countries, is one of more than 50 community farms dedicated to refugee agriculture, an entrepreneurial movement spreading across the country. American agriculture has historically been forged by newcomers, like the Scandinavians who helped settle the Great Plains; today’s growers are more likely to be rural subsistence farmers from Africa and Asia, resettled in and around cities from New York, Burlington, Vt., and Lowell, Mass., to Minneapolis, Phoenix and San Diego.”

Read how it works. (And click on the slide show to see the wooden coins. My eyes were drawn to them because my father’s favorite “good-bye” line to toddlers always was, “Don’t take any wooden nickels”!)

Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times
Khadija Musame, right, with a customer from Somalia at the New Roots Farm stand in San Diego.

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