By Julie Ristau, Chief Operating Officer
Regi and Julie present the farm design at the 2017 “Let’s Talk Climate” gathering hosted by MN 350, held at the Main Street Project Farm.
Change is the only constant in life. For Main Street Project, 2019 is turning out to be a year of significant growth and change.
Here’s a quick look back.
Ten years ago, Main Street Project began incubating a big idea, hatched by our Chief Strategy Officer Reginaldo Haslett Marroquin (Regi), to design and build a new system for raising free-range poultry that would be accessible to immigrant communities and produce economic, ecological and social benefits at every level of scale.
Our focus has always been on people who are most impacted by large-scale farming and food industries—primarily immigrant Latinx, many of whom bring a historical connection to sustainable farming methods with them when coming to the United States. In 2010 we started working with Latinx residents in Northfield to establish a bilingual training program and field test an approach to establishing small-scale, poultry farms. We developed prototype buildings, paddock designs, and feed mixes on Northfield area farms. We learned from the dozens of Latinx and youth agripreneurs, who raised more than 60,000 chickens in our hands-on training program and made improvements to the model based on their observations and experiences.
We partnered with organizations in South Dakota, Mexico and Guatemala to adapt and field test the model under different social and ecological conditions. And with research partners helping us evaluate our work every step of the way, we are confident that this model has great promise for building strong local economies, enhancing food security and food sovereignty and strengthening the connections between urban and rural neighbors.
The Farm Takes Center Stage
In 2017 Main Street Project acquired 100 acres of farmland in Dakota County that would allow us to centralize and expand our farmer training and systems research operations at the scale of a small family farm. The farm’s purpose is to anchor local community efforts to build wealth, create value-added farm and food enterprises, and to demonstrate the triple-bottom line benefits of our regenerative model.
Now in its third year of establishment, the farm is coming into its own as a living laboratory for landscape restoration, soil health, and water quality. It’s becoming a hub of community innovation around food security and inclusive access to healthy food. And it strengthens our capacity for de-risking farmer transitions from conventional to regenerative agriculture through field demonstration, training and technical support.
It’s taken a decade (and a village) to bring Regi’s vision of a Poultry-Centered Regenerative Agroforestry system to life as the model we have incubated gains momentum with farmers and consumers. The next phase of growth will require building regional infrastructure to support emerging clusters of new, regenerative farmers in several states. Regi is moving on from Main Street Project to take up that challenge as President of the newly formed Regeneration Agriculture Alliance. We wish him every success.
The Main Street Project Board and Staff are deeply grateful for Regi’s wisdom, vision and hard work through the years. As he leaves, Main Street Project is stronger than ever, with a talented staff, solid financial support, a thriving 100-acre farm and plans for a regenerative future.