Trista Petiz ’25, left, and Natalie Nemes ’25, right. Photo by Jinath Tasnim.
In June of 2021, six St. Catherine University faculty members stood on the grounds of Frogtown Farm, 13 lush acres of green space in the otherwise industrialized heart of St. Paul, mesmerized by the words of co-founder Soyini Guyton as she painted the vision for this sacred space meant to cultivate soil and community. The two-week summer workshop on community-engaged teaching through the Center for Community Work and Learning inspired Ambria Crusan, PhD, RD, LD, and Rafael Cervantes, PhD, to bring their respective CORE classes back to the Farm this fall.
The resulting partnership is a convergence of many University initiatives. Crusan, nutrition faculty, is teaching an honors section of "Global Search for Justice: Environmental Justice," while Cervantes, communications faculty and director of the Antonian Scholars Honors Program, is teaching an honors section of "The Reflective Woman." Together they have incorporated the partnership with Frogtown Farm into these courses. Their students engage in service-learning at the site every Wednesday for six weeks this fall, as well as threading a connection within the honors program for first-year and upper-class students alike to share this experience.
“They’ve been such a help, allowing us to do the ecological maintenance we don’t normally have capacity to do,” says Farm manager Chris Mann.
As an urban demonstration farm, Frogtown Farm is distinct from your average U.S. farm. While they’ve produced 16,000 pounds of organic food to donate back to the neighborhood using a permaculture approach, the nonprofit is beloved for cultivating a sense of community, connection, and nourishment in the area. The Farm hosts plays, cooking classes, youth activities, and other community events, and most importantly, serves as a welcoming space for all who pass through. The St. Kate’s students involved in the project this fall likewise have now been folded into this mission.
“After a session of weeding, mulching, and digging, I always feel a sense of satisfaction that no textbook or lecture could bring me," Josi Aguilera says ’25. "Thank you, Frogtown!”
The partnership continues to evolve, most recently with a Frogtown Farm staff visit to the CSJ Celeste's Dream community gardens and a tour of the St. Kate's/CSJ Food Shelf where Frogtown Farm managers inquired about culturally-specific foods available to University students. As the Food Insecurity Project work at St. Kate's grows with the support of current student and USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Fellow Gao Lee MPH’23, Community Work and Learning looks forward to more shared learning opportunities with our friends from Frogtown Farm!