Cimarron Community Farm grows more than 10,000 pounds of food annually on a ½ acre lot in Lake Elmo.
“We’re small but mighty,” said Elise Hanson, co-director of the farm. “Everyone deserves access to healthy, fresh produce – whether they can afford it or not.”
Next year, farm officials plan to expand that access through their free summer youth program. Growing Youth, Growing Food was this year’s Great Idea grantee from the Stillwater Area Community Foundation. This was the 10th year of the competition.
The group received an $8,500 grant to expand the program to children and youth living in Cimarron Park, a trailer park in Lake Elmo. Program organizers work with youth planting, watering, managing, harvesting and preparing meals from vegetables grown on the farm. About 40 children between the ages of 5 and 15 took part in the program in the summer.
“While the residents’ experiences cannot be lumped together, it is important to note that many residents live in disadvantaged circumstances,” said Hanson, who serves as co-director with Madeline Esterl.
Fifteen percent of Cimarron residents live below the poverty line; The median household income is $45,326, Hanson said. “Many families can’t afford daycare in the summer, let alone quality, engaging youth programs,” she said. “We believe all children deserve a fun summer, so we want to continue to provide that and grow next year.”
Although Growing Youth, Growing Food “has a small footprint, its impact is big,” said Mary Richie, chair of the foundation’s Great Ideas Competition Committee. “There are no cost barriers for participants and they get a full summer of programming and skill building. We also really appreciate that it is supporting the Cimarron Park community with locally grown, healthy vegetables when rising food prices are such a big problem.”
Each year, the foundation accepts applications from residents, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups with an idea that will benefit local communities. More than a dozen applications were submitted this year.
Foundation officials were impressed that Cimarron Community Farms will use a portion of the proceeds from its Community Supported Farming Program (CSA) to help meet some of the costs of “Growing Youth, Growing Food,” Richie said. “We liked their willingness to make a financial contribution to the program.”
Last year, Wild River Journey, a program run by Wild Rivers Conservancy in partnership with the National Park Service, was the winner. In May, more than 500 students from the Stillwater area explored the St. Croix River on paddle boat excursions.
Other past Great Idea winners include Friends of Fairy Falls, Power of the St. Croix Utility Box Mural Project, Beautify the Stillwater Stairs, River City Sculpture Tour, Pollinator Friendly Alliance of Stillwater, and Friends of Stillwater Area Dog Park.