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Green Awards Interview

June 23, 2011

Green Awards Interview

Hello all!  To kick off the summer months we thought it would be a wonderful time to share just one of the many great programs that The Minnesota Project has created and is still working on!  Instead of the usual blog post where we inform you of what has happened and plans, we thought it would be fun to make it more of an interview-based blog!  After much back and forth e-mailing and discussion, I interviewed Heidi Coe, the leader of Fruits of the City.  Here is what she had to say!

Can you describe the project that allowed you to become a Green Awards finalist?

Fruits of the City started as a neighborhood-gleaning program in 2009. This consists of finding fruit tree owners who do not want or need all their fruit, and then organizing teams of trained volunteers to harvest that fruit for donation to local food shelves.  In the first two years, FoTC donated over 39,000 pounds of fruits. Our goal for 2011 is 36,000 pounds, the equivalent to 6500 family servings.

Fruits of the City added a new component this year called ‘community orchards’ and this is how we became a finalist in The Green Awards.  This involves planting mini-orchards on unused and underused public and corporate land, then organizing and training volunteer teams to maintain those trees and harvest the fruit for food shelf donation.

What were some of the challenges you faced while working on this project or still face?

Well, time is always an issue. We wish there were more hours in a day.  We always need more homeowners and notification from homeowners when their trees are ready.  We are also looking for volunteers as neighborhood coordinators and in August, we will be looking for gleaners to help with the harvest this fall.

What are some of the intended plans for utilizing the funds you received for being a finalist?

Our goal is to establish pilot community orchards around the metro area with the money we received from The Green Awards, and we are excited to say that we have already started!  We will publicize our actual orchard planting days, as we get closer.

As we install throughout the metro, we would like to develop a strong working model that we can take to other locations, nationwide.

Is there a certain goal or aspect about this project that makes you want it to be successful?

The far-reaching potential of this project excites me.  There is so much unused land that could be converted to food producing landscapes in order to provide fresh, local produce to a demographic of people who have limited access to it.

What makes you passionate about this project?

This is exactly where my heart is and I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be. It all just makes sense:  the number one mission of feeding people fresh, nutritious food, along with the benefits of keeping food local, and impacting the environment in a positive way by planting trees. I feel incredibly fortunate to be involved in this endeavor.

Had the idea of becoming a Green Award finalist crossed your mind when you first started this project?

No, we didn’t know about The Green Awards when the community orchard concept was born, or should I say sprouted?

What about this project may people not know just viewing the front lines of things?  Perhaps a lot of work hours put into it or free time that you’ve given up.

There is a lot of behind the scenes work that has to take place in order for neighborhood gleanings and community orchards to happen.   It takes financial support from community minded foundations and funders such as SUPERVALU Foundation and General Mills Foundation.  Thanks to the patience, knowledge, and passion for the program of the Minnesota Project’s Executive Director Dave Glenn, it’s happening.   Also, a huge thank you to the board members, volunteers and interns for their help in making it a successful program.   This is definitely a team effort, it wouldn’t work any other way.

Now how about some Green Awards Background??

Now that you have heard Heidi’s, take on everything how about a little background on The Green Awards?  First of all, this is a great program! The program recognizes individuals who are trying to make differences in their communities submit their projects in one of four categories.  The first category is “Green Civic Leader”, which is an elected official such as a mayor who is making a positive impact.  The second category is “Green Entrepreneur”, which is an inventor or business owner that focusing on improving the environment.  The third category is “Green Local Organizer”, which is someone outside of the business world with an idea to positively create social change and impact the environment.  The fourth and last category is “Green Parent”, which is a parent or guardian who positively impacts the environment and inspires change in the community.  The Fruits of the City “Community Orchard” program was submitted in the Green Local Organizer category.

These submissions are then available to the public for voting on which one they though was the most innovative.  The public was able to vote at least once per category, per day.  A panel of experts then judges these choices to choose the top three candidates in each category that will become finalists.  Within these final 12 finalists, the top four candidates were chosen.

Green Giant sponsors the Green Awards with a goal to recognize those who are trying to make a Giant difference in their communities.  Only 12 finalists were chosen out of over 240 entries nationwide.  Community Orchards was in great company, some of the other finalist includes “Nice Ride Bike Share” in Minneapolis and “A New Way to Move” in Minneapolis.  Here is a link to the Fruits of the City video on the Green Awards page, http://goo.gl/LVf2i.

To learn more about The Green Awards you can check out their website at: https://www.thegreenawards.com/

For more information about Fruits of the City go to http://www.mnproject.org/food-FruitEducation.html  or contact Heidi at hcoe@mnproject.org

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