The Illusion of Spring

As is expected of Minnesota, we have just entered our fourth winter after a teasing week of sunshine and warm temperatures. April showers have consisted of white fluff that causes mayhem on the roads and make us that much more grateful to be working in the warmth of the greenhouses, surrounded by the green growth.

We have begun planting tomatoes which is super exciting! To prevent verticillium wilt, we soaked the tomato seeds in a warm bleach water concentration for 30 minutes before planting. We had all hands on deck for the trial run to help this process run smoothly and time how long the whole ordeal takes. It wasn’t too difficult, we were able to sterilize and plant 12 varieties in just 45 minutes.

We are still growing microgreens, which is always a blast! Harvesting them can be tedious at times, but it is such pleasant and rewarding work. The microgreens are delivered to Centennial Dining Hall and 17th Ave Residence Hall as well as to the Campus Club in Coffman.

Our team of apprentices and service learning volunteers have been busy planting crops in soil blocks to eventually be transplanted once Mother Nature decides spring is really here. The photo on the left brings me so much joy, the vibrancy of the rainbow chard is absolutely brilliant. I’m looking forward to planting more and more crops.

However, the benches in our greenhouse are filling up, so we’re hoping the weather will cooperate and let us get outside soon!

  • Libby

Thriving with New Seedlings and New Knowledge

No rest for the Cornercopia! 

Once again, this week was bustling with activity to prepare for the growing season. Besides continuing with our microgreen production, we planted many new seedlings that will be transplanted into the field when temperatures warm up. We planted chard, snapdragons, kale, zinnias, and tomatoes. The greenhouse is filling up!

Seedling in Mist House
This week we also had a guest lecturer, Michelle Grabowski with UMN Extension, discuss plant pathogens and how to look for and identify them. This is important so that we can limit the damages these pathogens have to our crops in the field and ensure we are selling high-quality produce at market.

Additionally, this week Michael Pollen lectured at the University of Minnesota. Michael Pollen is an important author, journalist, and activist who discusses how nature and culture intersect: on our plates, in our farms and gardens, and in the environment. During his lecture he proposed how cooking can change your life in way of improving family health and well-being, building community, fixing our broken food system, and breaking our growing dependence on corporations. 
At Cornercopia we are excited to be part of a food system that advocates for advancing well-being by nourishing ourselves with fresh food and home cooking. 

Planning, Prepping, Planting

This week, similar to the previous few, has been full with planting and planning. Spring is officially here (as stated by the lunar calendar-- though Minnesotans know we have some time to go) and that means continuous planning for the season. Many of my farming or gardening friends are in similar processes of planning and scrambling. In the nature of preparing, it is often easy to get caught in the hustle.

So as busy time approaches, here is to slowness and to steadiness, to patience and appreciation.

Over the past two weeks, we’ve been able to get a lot done. We have been harvesting and planting
microgreens as usual-- though we have begun planting slightly less amounts in order to leave space
for other seedlings. We have been keeping track with our weekly schedule on which plants need to get
started in the greenhouse. We’ve been transplanting our seedlings, research plants, and even
rosemary clippings (they have sufficiently been creating roots). In addition to all the labor, we have
been trying to keep organized with our organic documenting and tracking system. These past weeks
I learned a bit more about succession planning, in which our supervisor shared with us some helpful
tips on how to organize and layout a succession plan. This type of planning simply means figuring out
how many beds of crops in a rotation pattern you can work with throughout the season. It is a strategic
and utilized form to plan your crops and planting.

Throughout all the planning it has been very exciting to see the labor and love literally grow into
something bigger than us. Below are some photos to hopefully excite your transitional-spring shivers. 
Propagating Rosemary
Red Amaranth Microgreens
Pea Shoots 

Urban Agriculture in the Twin Cities

Cornercopia is located in the Twin Cities area, and so it could technically be considered an urban farm, a term used to describe a food production system in a population dense area. However, due to the benefit of being part of a land grant university, we avoid many of the constraints normally put on urban farms.

Selecting Seeds

Most urban farms in the Twin Cities operate on small city lots, and operate with very few paid staff and resources, but also provide produce to underserved communities. I have been working with urban
agriculture groups in North Minneapolis since starting school at the U, and last summer started working with a new farm, NoMi Roots, to grow food for farmer’s markets and cooperative grocery stores. One of the first things we realized about producing food for market, is that we need to start early, and that means getting our seedlings ready while snow is still on the ground! This year we have been able to use some of the University’s greenhouse space to start seedlings for ourselves and many other Northside community gardens and urban farms. Many of these plants will go to the Growing North Project, which pairs CFANS students with Northside high schoolers to help maintain gardens around the Northside during the summer. The community has stressed a desire for organically-grown produce, and while this is difficult goal to reach, we have pledged to not use pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Brassicas coming up

As an added bonus, we are trying to grow our produce from organic seeds in an organic certified greenhouse this year. So far we have planted all of our brassicas; including Collards, Kale, Broccoli and Kholrabi, as well as a variety of tomatoes. We are very grateful for the resources that the University is willing to share with our Northside community, and hope this partnership can continue into the future.


2018 Summer Internship Positions- Now Hiring!

Cornercopia Student Organic Farm 2018 Summer Internships
Most positons are May- Mid October. Working hours on the student organic farm are typically 8 am until 3 or 4pm M-F. Weekend and evening hours can be put in but not exclusively. Weekly group intern meetings and field walks will be held so that everyone understands the goals for the week. There is a fair amount of overlap with duties between all interns. Non-market managers will help out at the farmer’s market. Everyone will help plant, weed, harvest and processing crops. Pay is $10.50 an hour.

Marketing Manager Position
The sales/marketing manager is responsible for the marketing activities focusing on product, pricing, promotion and placement. Duties may include but are not limited to:

*Coordinating harvesting and post-harvest processing
*Taking inventory pre- and post-market
*Coordinating the market stand
*Ability to project/determine the demands & needs of the market
*Website, facebook and email updates
*Various record-keeping

Often Cornercopia hires two-three marketing managers which share the responsibilities for both Minneapolis and St. Paul market stands. Both market stands are currently on Wednesdays (11-2 in MPLS, 3-5 in St. Paul). In 2018, we will continue to participate in the Good Acre’s Fall Gopher CSA, so helping organize the harvest for the CSA will also be part of this position. This position is typically 25 hours a week.

Volunteer Coordinator Position
Volunteers are an essential part of our labor strategy on the farm and we have lots of interest from all types of people in volunteering on the student organic farm. Recruiting and communicating with volunteers and utilizing them effectively is the motive behind this position. In past years we have organized a number of crop mob volunteer days which were highly successful (20-30 people gathering to volunteer on a weekend day for bigger projects, lunch provided). The Volunteer Coordinator would be encouraged to continue organizing crop mobs and other such events. This position is typically 23 hours a week.  

Duties include:
*Recruitment of volunteers
*Schedule dates & times for volunteer workers
*Assignment of tasks to volunteers as needed

Outreach Coordinator
An important component of the mission of the Student Organic Farm is reaching out to our surrounding community to develop relationships that benefit the University community and our neighbors. The intern filling this position will both work on the Student Organic Farm becoming familiar with all farm operations and perform outreach activities on the farm and potentially in the community. About half of the time will be spent in day to day farm operations, and half of the time on developing other community outreach connections. In the past Cornercopia has conducted outreach activities to a wide range of audiences everyone from elementary age school groups through middle and high school groups, incoming freshmen, and college students, to alumni and the general public. A special project for 2018 is a Hull-less Barley Outreach project with high school students. This position is typically 20 hours a week.  

Food Safety & Composting Coordinator
Overseeing the implementation of Cornercopia’s food safety plan and tracking the onsite composting process are the primary duties of this position. Both of these tasks are fairly simple but require attention to detail as record keeping is involved. An in-depth orientation will be provided for the food safety and composting aspects. This position is typically 20 hours a week.

Weed Management Intern
Weed Management is part of every intern’s job on the farm but this internship will focus on weed management utilizing tractors and mowers. This intern will receive training to safely run and operate various tractors. Primarily the farm’s walk behind tractor but others as well as needed to help with day to day operations that include rototilling or power harrowing areas for bed prep or cultivating for weed control. Other tasks will include: hitching and unhitching implements safely and efficiently; checking and maintaining fluids in our equipment; reporting breakdowns and disrepair immediately to staff; keeping daily records on labor and equipment use; and regular creative problem solving. Having a detail oriented personality is helpful in this position.  For 2018 a special project will be a research project on weed control in Sweet Peppers working with Annie Klodd, Fruit & Vegetable Specialist with Extension. This position is typically 20 hours a week.

Chicken Interns: 
Each summer interns raise broiler chickens on the Student Organic Farm to help increase the sustainability of our fertility source, diversify our farm and raise a high value produce. Our chickens are raised in the poultry barn for the first 4 weeks, after which they move out into the lush pasture on the farm. Outside, the birds are in huts that are moved on a regular basis to give the birds access to fresh forage for consumption. We’d like to hire 2-4 students to care for about 150 birds per batch, with two batches being raised over the course of 12-16 weeks. The intern can be experienced raising birds, or have a desire to learn about raising broilers in a pasture setting. The birds have to be moved once a day and fed and watered twice a day- this intern would work with other interns and staff to create a schedule so that the chickens are always being cared for. Wayne Martin, Alternative Livestock Specialist with Extension is the adviser for this project. This position is flexible typically 15-25 hours a week can be offered.

Strawberry & Fruit Intern:
At Cornercopia in 2018 we will have new fruit tree plantings & annual day neutral strawberry plantings in addition to our already established Orchard area that includes many varieties of Plums, Cherries, Apples, Peaches and Raspberries. Pest monitoring & control are part of this position along with helping to coordinate planting, weeding and harvesting of the fruits of Cornercopia. This position is typically 20 hours a week.

Plant Disease Research intern:
In 2017 we experienced two new diseases at Cornercopia: Verticillium Wilt & Tomato Mosaic Virus. We’ve been creating plans to control these diseases over the winter and will be implementing an experiment in conjunction with Michelle Grabowski, Plant Pathologist with Extension to try and reduce and control the prevalence of both diseases on the farm. This position will help monitor plant diseases and implement plant disease control experiments. This position is typically 15 hours a week.

Crop Production Manager:
This position will focus on making sure that our plantings in the greenhouse and field both transplants and direct seedings are going in and coming out on schedule. Special projects for 2018 include being a liaison to the Nutritious U Food Pantry Plot and a variety trial of Garbanzo beans. This position is typically 20 hours a week.

To apply for any of the above listed positions:
Fill out and return Student Application Form to MISA office (413 Hayes Hall in person drop off or mail to 411 Borlaug Hall) or submit via email to
Additional questions can be sent to Courtney Tchida at
Applications received by April 4th 2018 at 4:00pm will be given top priority.