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.
By Brainerd Dispatch on Apr 25, 2018 at 1:00 p.m.
LITTLE FALLS—A culinary cook-off in May will pit three central Minnesota chefs against each other in a kitchen showdown.
Representing their home kitchens in Brainerd, Crosby and St. Cloud, each chef expressed confidence in their skills to accept the culinary challenge of "Minced: The Finer Version of Chopped." The competition will begin 5 p.m. May 15 at Sprout, 609 13th Ave. NE, Door 8, Little Falls.
The cooking competition is one way Sprout seeks to excite central Minnesotans around locally produced food, culinary art and food culture, a news release stated. The public is invited to attend and to learn more about Sprout's food access work, of which proceeds from the event will benefit.
"This unscripted, unsifted challenge will grill three local chefs as they face off in the Sprout Kitchen stadium," stated Minced organizer, Natalie Keane, in the release. "We're not afraid to whip up the food puns for this fun event. We'll need that good humor, and so will the chefs when they find out what we have in store."
Inspired from the popular competitive cooking show, Minced will create cooking challenges by the introduction of unique and bizarre ingredients in a "mystery basket" that must be used in the chefs' dishes. Community members get to watch as the mystery basket foils the plans of contestants as they serve up a dish to impress Minnesota celebrity judges, like cookbook author and chef Beth Dooley ("In Winter's Kitchen: Growing Roots and Breaking Bread in the Northern Heartland," among other titles).
Representing Sage on Laurel in Brainerd will be chef Fred Stumbo. St. Cloud Hospital and Morrison Healthcare's Paul Ruszat will join in the kitchen along with Scotty Stocco from Iron Range Eatery in Crosby.
Chefs will not know what mystery ingredients they will have to work with, but ingredients will represent and celebrate Latin food culture. Ingredients will be sourced from Mi Pueblito Market and Restaurant in Long Prairie. Mi Pueblito owner Gio Garcia has led cooking demonstrations at the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace. Mi Pueblito Market carries a variety of ingredients such as chorizo, dried peppers, and tomatillos, all of which could end up in the mystery basket for an appetizer, entree or dessert.
The public is invited to cheer on their favorite chef over wine and appetizers, helping determine the Popular Choice prize by casting a donation vote. Audience members can toss in a dollar to vote for the chef that impresses them the most. Tickets to attend Minced are $10 and can be purchased by visiting https://tinyurl.com/sproutminced or https://tinyurl.com/mincedfacebook.
Dollars raised during Minced will go toward the launch of the Sprout Mobile Market, which will seek to close the missing meal gap in rural Minnesota by putting fresh local foods en route to designated food deserts. Attendees will learn more about this work and the upcoming social crowdfunding campaign for the mobile market at the cooking competition.
Alyssa Zaczek, firstname.lastname@example.org
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: Sprout accepting applications for ‘Parties with a Purpose’
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Brainerd Dispatch: Sprout announces 2017 market dates, seeks photo/video proposals
Brainerd Dispatch: Oma’s Bread becomes 1st vendor at Sprout’s kitchen at market: Holiday market set Dec. 17
Brainerd Dispatch: Region Five to receive $400K+ in funding for Sprout
Brainerd Dispatch: Progress: Growing a movement – Local food hub connects people with what they eat
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)
Brainerd Dispatch: Local Food Hub Sprouts in Little Falls: Former Crestliner Building Takes New Roots
Youth Energy Summit: YES! Schools Learn to Green Their Cafeterias (PDF)
Morrison County Record: Sprout Growers and Makers Marketplace grand opening to feature special guests (PDF)
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)