Urban Greens was started by Joel and Andrew, friends who grew up together in Indianapolis and studied engineering together at Calvin College. After graduating in 2010, their paths parted. Joel moved to Pittsburgh to join a major player in the energy industry. Meanwhile, Andrew came to the University of Minnesota to earn his masters in environmental engineering, after which he and his wife, Laura, ventured first to Ecuador and then to West Africa, where they partnered with local charities on clean water projects.
An experimental aquaponics system that they built in Joel’s attic in 2014 sparked a dream about launching an urban farm. Andrew and Laura returned to Minneapolis in 2016, and in 2017 Joel moved to Minneapolis with his new wife, Rachel, to help launch Urban Greens. Here is a bit about why they became urban farmers:
I studied mechanical engineering in school because I believed that technology can solve problems, and I went to work for a large corporation in the energy industry because this world has plenty of energy problems to solve. While I still believe that technology can help us solve problems, I’ve come to see that ultimately people solve problems, and we do it primarily through relationships rather than technology. Big business often puts the tech it produces before the people it serves, so I decided to leave the world of big business for that of small business where I get to know our customers, serve them with something of value, and invest in the community I call home.
Also, I love food. I love well crafted flavors and the personal enjoyment of eating, but I also love that food has the power to bring people together as well as introduce us to cultures beyond our own. While I love food, I’m increasingly concerned with our society’s shift from eating food to eating food products, which are so processed that it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s in them and who produced them. Food can bring people together, but food products create a divide between the consumer and the producer. Urban farming has the unique opportunity to restore the relationships between consumer and producer, and relationships are what strengthen our community.
Laura and I value community.
We live in Minneapolis, we work here, shop and eat here, are part of a church here. To us, this is more than a city we live in. It's our community. And we believe that communities are stronger, both socially and economically, when they are more connected. When they look inwards instead of outwards to meet needs.
We want to be a contributing part of this community, and growing food seems like a great way to contribute. We love food. We love to eat it, but like Joel said, food is more than just nourishment. It's an important part of our family's lives and our social gatherings. I'm thrilled with the opportunity to have this role in our community - providing healthy food to our neighbors.