Fresh innovation: Urban farm planned for Fergus Falls community

Fresh innovation: Urban farm planned for Fergus Falls community

Making a dream a reality includes
a vision, utilizing your connections,
hard work and the right timing.

For Emily McCune, it has been a year of transition, and the pieces are falling into place to make her dream come to fruition.

After unforeseen circumstances uprooted McCune from her home and the gardens she’d worked years to grow, she’s started anew on West Stanton Avenue. As fate would have it, McCune moved in across the street from a vacant lot, which she has recently purchased and plans to turn into Fergus Falls’ first urban farm, called River City Urban Farm.

Last year, McCune met the then-owner of the lot, who informed her he’d had to demo the home that used to sit atop the property. He asked McCune if she’d be interested in purchasing the property, and in February she became the owner of the 6,000 square foot property that will soon be an area of growth and vibrancy.

“Initially, I was just going to extend my own home garden, and then one day I was just walking around and I got the vision,” McCune said. “I thought, maybe I could get more chickens on this property, and that led to thinking maybe I could do way more on this lot than my own,” McCune said.

Ever since, she’s been daydreaming, researching and talking to the city about the feasibility and legality of her idea. With the go-ahead, she’s looking to acquire another chicken handling permit to allow her four more chickens to her current flock of four.

Her plans for the lot include compost, raised beds, ground gardens, annuals, perennials and rain barrels to begin with, with the ever-expanding idea.

“I really wanted to start brainstorming how to make a living doing what I’m passionate about. It would be great if I could at least make part of my income doing what I love most,” McCune said.

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McCune has been selling produce locally for years, and growing food for herself since moving to Fergus Falls in 2011. With a degree in sustainable food production from M State, McCune is passionate about local, thriving foods communities and is excited to bring her urban farm into the foodscape of Fergus Falls.

“I’ve always thought there was so much more we could be doing to promote a vibrant foods economy in this community. We have enough restaurants, especially mom-and-pop independent ones, that are interested in this,” McCune said. “It’s a trendy idea that a ton of metropolitan areas are capitalizing on; taking these abandoned, lifeless pieces of land and turning them into hugely productive pieces of property that benefit the community.”

McCune wants to promote a resilient and thriving food economy that helps everyone by bringing healthier food to the community as well as gives local businesses the option to use locally grown food that keeps the dollars in the community instead of going elsewhere.

Creating this kind of cooperative community effort will take a village, and McCune hopes to facilitate workshops at River City Urban Farm for people of all ages to learn about gardening and farming basics and sustainability.

With McCune’s position as activities director of A Place To Belong, she’s also going to bring the farm into the mix.

“I’ve gathered enough information from members to find out if there’s enough interest in doing gardening and weeding and just the therapeutic properties of getting your hands dirty,” McCune said. “I absolutely plan on tying in the connection between mental illness and the beneficial properties of a hard day’s work and seeing something that you helped with bloom and blossom.”

The first thing McCune needs, besides the snow to melt and the land to dry, is to secure funding for the urban garden. Donations of physical items like fencing and manual labor are also always welcome.

“If somebody else was doing this and I caught wind of it, I would think that I’d want my name involved in it. It’s cool, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it’s unique,” McCune said.

Hopefully by mid-May, McCune and volunteers will be tilling up the land and bringing in compost and Dick’s Super Soil from Ottertail to make the best growing conditions she’s ever had.

Fencing to keep out the deer and constructing the chicken coop are also top priorities on the list of things to do for River City Urban Farm.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with costs, which can be found at gofundme.com/river-city-urban-farm and McCune can be contacted at libramaid42@gmail.com if anyone is interested in assisting with the effort.

“I’m going to try to utilize every ounce of funding, grants and help available because I can’t do it without it,” McCune said. “It takes a village. I just want to help inspire people and I want people to have access to good food.”

By Kristin Goosen

Source, images, credits & more information: FergusFallsJournal

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