MINNEAPOLIS - Tucked into the Twin Cities is a agricultural gem.
Part of the University of Minnesota, the organic food and agriculture program is a leader in the nation, attracting students from across the country. Cornercopia is the organic student farm on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus.
Courtney Tchida, Cornercopia Farm Manager, explains, "We're teaching students how to grow over 130 different crops. How to plant them. How to harvest them. How to weed them and cultivate them. How to take them to market. Everything from ordering the seed to selling them at the farmer's market."
Those 130 different crops include more than 90 varieties of tomatoes in every shape, size and color! Plus quite a few things you've never heard of!
"I really like ground cherries, says Tchida. "There's a couple other berries we grow like otricoli berries and wonder berries."
Leading the Organic Program is Dr. Julie Grossman.
"This is really important for our region and the Twin Cities in particular because our students at the university of Minnesota largely come from urban and suburban backgrounds so they really don't have the chance, although they might have the interest, they don't have a chance to actually learn about production of food and then how that food reaches consumers," she said. "So we try to emphasize a lot of experiential learning in that program."
Home gardeners can take advantage of what these students are researching. Everything from strawberries you can pick and eat into November to the optimal spacing between lettuce plants to the yield difference in raised versus flat beds.
"We're figuring out new methods of pest control, new methods of growing," adds Tchida. "Figuring out ways to plant faster, to harvest faster that then can be applied in the real world."
"It's very unique. We are one of the leaders in organic and sustainable agriculture nationally and it's been a lot of fun to watch the program grow," says Grossman.
You can take advantage of what the students have learned. A lot of which applies to home gardening. Taste their tomatoes and bring your questions to their open house on September 21. Or you can take home what they grow from weekly farmers markets.