On Saturday, June 22nd, the 2019 Playing for the Plants series kicked off at the Peace Haven Herbal Garden located in the Harrison neighborhood of North Minneapolis. Community came together in the space to listen to live music, explore the garden, and eat colorful food served by youth. Youth Farm partners with several community members and organizations to help maintain the many native, medicinal, and pollinator plants in the Peace Haven garden. The garden has become a beautiful and lively space, last year 20 Monarch butterflies were counted in just one day! Because of the beauty of this space, Youth Farm’s Director of North Minneapolis Programs, Marcus Kar, wanted to bring community together here, allowing the work of many dedicated people to be showcased and shared with others.

The pieces that brought everything together for this project have been in the works for a long time. Back at the end of the growing season in 2017, Kar partnered with amazing herbalist and professor Erica Fargione of the Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) Herbal Studies Program. The aim of their partnership was to use the Peace Haven garden as an extension of the Herbal Studies Program at MCTC, and to host community learning events surrounding pollinator gardens and native and medicinal plants. This partnership also intended to beautify and activate dormant spaces in urban areas, giving ownership of those spaces to youth farmers, community, and educators in North Minneapolis.

Herbalist and professor, Erica Fargione, poses by the new Peace Haven Herbal Garden sign that was installed during the first Playing for the Plants garden event. Her work in the garden has been monumental to activating the space.

In 2018, Fargione and several volunteers from the Harrison neighborhood worked at the Peace Haven site to develop a medicinal herb garden. There were over 170 volunteer hours logged the first year taking care of the garden. Those hours consisted of planting, mowing, seeding, designing, tilling and watering. The plants that were on the site already were mostly medicinal and pollinator plants, now they are all doing well and the soil is supporting good health. Fargione, Kar, Youth Farm youth staff, and community members continue to maintain the space together.

Marcus Kar poses in the garden with Appetite for Change (AFC) youth and Program Manager, Michael Lee. Many partners like AFC have helped support the progress of the Playing for the Plants series.

Fast forward to 2019 and Kar, along with the North Minneapolis Youth Farm team, organized and hosted a community celebration of their growing, cooking, and eating together. Many community members came out to spend time together, with youth from Appetite for Change even coming out to help prep and serve food. Playing For The Plants strives to connect artists, musicians, chefs, and educators. The event is captured visually and used as a measure of documenting our growing season and the music is recorded live to support the guest musicians and invite the masses to help support the series.  Please visit www.facebook.com/playingfortheplants/ for more info and stay tuned for Playing For The Plants: Episode Two.