By Maria Surna Manka, Published in IQ Magazine
Arlene Jones and her family own a farm near Brainerd and are passionate about expanding economic opportunities for farmers in the region. In her years partnering with the University of Minnesota Extension Service and the nonprofit Renewing the Countryside, she has helped other growers find opportunities to sell their products throughout Central Minnesota.
At the same time, the Region Five Development Commission was working with local organizations who wished to buy locally sourced food from area growers.
When Jones and her growers and Region Five and its buyers discovered each other, their shared passion and creativity led to big ideas. “We were like a local foods roadshow,” Jones explained. As they spent time together in the community talking about the aggregation and distribution of local food, the groups started working on the idea of a food hub, which connects food producers with institutional buyers—including restaurants, hospitals, and schools—and end consumers.
The happy result of that brainstorming is Sprout, a Little Falls-based nonprofit that promotes health, economic development and self-reliance by facilitating the availability of locally produced food, products and art.
We spoke with Jones, who is now Sprout’s general manager, and facilities utilization director Natalie Keane about what’s budding at this dynamic organization.
Power of Three--Sprout’s work is focused on three main areas: The Growers & Makers Marketplace, the Food Hub and the Kitchen.
Gatherings--Six times a year, about 40 growers and makers gather to sell their products at Sprout’s 7,500 square foot marketplace in Little Falls. “Each market is completely different,” said Keane. “You’ll see different items at each one because we make sure there’s a diversity of products.”
Leveraging Support--The Initiative Foundation has partnered with Sprout since its inception by supporting a feasibility study of local foods in the region and then helping to match and leverage funds to launch Sprout. The Foundation has also provided numerous AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers along with USDA funding.
Fresh Direct--As a Food Hub, Sprout connects local growers with local buyers. It also rents its licensed processing facilities to support growers who are building their businesses and working with larger buyers.
They’ve Got Goods--More than just veggies and jams, the Marketplace hosts artisan bread makers, chaga (a fungus that grows on birch trees in cold climates) vendors, and even a young jewelry artist who donates half her proceeds to nonprofits. While Sprout encourages new and diverse growers and makers to apply for a booth, the waiting list is growing.
Sarah Winkelmann, Lakeland Public Television
Tonight, class was full of vegetables.
“Fresh herbs, radishes and a lot of those summer squashes,” said Tomas Zimmerman, chef and owner at A.T. The Black and White in Little Falls.
One of the things Chef Tomas talked about in his class tonight was kitchen safety and that when you’re cutting herbs, make sure to tuck back your fingers before chopping.
But after safety, tonight’s biggest lesson was about the efficient use of local produce.
“It’s a good way to connect the farmers with the community,” Chef Tomas said. “Shopping local is a big thing, and getting local produce to help those farmers out is a really good asset to the community.”
Chef Tomas was full of ideas to incorporate plants like bok choy into your dinner.
“Showing us different flavor profiles – so if you don’t like it in this variation, you can try it in something new – helps us further expand our abilities and skills in the kitchen to really use the local product that we can grow here in Minnesota,” said Sprout employee Natalie Keane.
And those ideas can also help not letting any produce go to waste.
“The biggest culprit of food waste is actually us as individuals in our own kitchens,” Keane said.
But in tonight’s kitchen, it was all about bringing together the community.
“It really showcases just how special it is to have culinary experts like Chef Tomas, how special it is to have a rich agricultural region and to showcase our farmers in a light where they are the folks that are actually feeding us in this region,” Keane said.
It was a time for all farmers, consumers and chefs to come together.
“I want to support local farmers, and personally, I am a vegetarian, so I like to see where my food comes from and where it is grown,” said attendee Kimberly Augstin.
Everyone in attendance had their own reason to pick up some new skills.
“I belong to a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] and I also did last summer and I really, really enjoyed it, but sometimes there was too much food and I wanted to figure out what to do with it all,” said attendee Candice Koopmeiners.
So no matter how much fresh produce you get, there is always a fresh way to cook it.
“I don’t know everything, I never will, but that’s one thing I like about this industry is you are always getting new products and new ways to do stuff, new techniques,” Chef Tomas said.
Catch the full story at LPTV.org
Alyssa Zaczek, email@example.com
Published 8:00 a.m. CT April 2, 2018, St. Cloud Times
LITTLE FALLS — Sprout Growers and Makers Marketplace wants to create a legion of locavores. And no, that's not a type of dinosaur. A locavore is a person whose diet primarily consists of locally grown, raised or produced food. But to eat local, you first must learn how to cook local. At least, that's the idea behind Sprout's locally focused cooking classes, which put interested folks of all skill levels in the Sprout kitchen with a Central Minnesota chef to learn how to utilize fresh, local food.
"The cooking classes are a great way of breeding a vibrant food culture in our region, because they're really hands on. It's fun, it's entertainment, it's social," said Natalie Keane, facility utilization director at Sprout, which celebrated its two-year anniversary April 1.
The 5013c non-profit, which also includes a food hub for aggregating and delivering locally grown produce to large-scale consumers like hospitals and schools as well as individuals, is focused on food culture. Read More...
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Brainerd Dispatch: Region Five to receive $400K+ in funding for Sprout
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USDA Rural Development: USDA- Rural Development- From the Desk of State Director Colleen Landkamer (PDF)
Morrison County Record: Sprout Food Hub and Marketplace has really grand opening in Little Falls (PDF)
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Brainerd Daily Dispatch: Sprout Plans Second Holiday Market (PDF)
Brainerd Daily Dispatch: Holiday markets offer local food, artworks (PDF)
Morrison County Record: New Food Hub and growers’ marketplace is sprouting in former Crestliner building (PDF)
Brainerd Dispatch: SPROUT, Region Five Selected for WeatlthWorks Economic Development Program (PDF)
Minnesota Connected: Central Minnesota’s Food Distribution Network–From Little Falls to Pine River (PDF)
Brainerd Dispatch: Farm to School in 3 Area School Districts (PDF)
Aitkin Age: Fresh Produce Promotes Healthy Eating (PDF)