This week on the blog, we’d like to highlight one of our few year-round, full-time farms: Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI). Located 60 miles north of Minneapolis in North Branch, WEI is not only a farm, but also a non-profit working for environmental, racial and food justice through organic farming and policy strategies. Here’s six more things you need to know about this kick-ass group of farmers.
1 WEI is more than a farm.
WEI is an environmental research, renewal and retreat center designed to create and share knowledge about environmental issues and policies relevant to women, children and identified communities affected by environmental injustice. WEI works on projects like their North Circle Food Hub, the Healing Farm for domestic abuse and human trafficking survivors, the Urban Farm Coalition’s Mashkiikii Gitigan farm and research site and other programs that promote agricultural justice, activism and social change.
2 WEI is run largely by volunteers,
WEI relies heavily on their wonderful volunteers to keep their programs functioning at their best. In 2017, volunteers dedicated 4,000 hours! WEI offers a variety of rewarding opportunities ranging from field, orchard or greenhouse work for those who would like to learn about apple orchards and hoop houses, to education and outreach work and sales roles at farmers markets. Learn more.
3 WEI was founded by a State Legislator.
Karen Joy Clark, who has served as a Minnesota State Legislator representing south Minneapolis since 1981, founded WEI with her partner Jacquelyn Zita 15 years ago. As a State Representative, Karen championed environmental advocacy as well as LGBTQ and immigrant rights. Karen also worked as a public-health nurse and OB-GYN nurse practitioner, community organizer and earned a Masters of Public Administration graduate degree from the JFK School at Harvard University.
Karen Clark (center) with volunteers at the Mill City Farmers Market
4 WEI offers classes.
WEI’s Down to Earth School provides an affordable and accessible interdisciplinary education taught by qualified teachers from different walks of life: farmers, artists, writers, therapists, folk school artisans, chefs, activists, thinkers and professors representing diverse social and ethnic communities. Classes and workshops such as Herbalism 101 and their Aquaponic Certificate courses are held on the WEI farm campus in North Branch.
5 WEI is a USDA Certified Organic farm and orchard.
WEI’s Amador Hill Farm and Orchard in North Branch has 20 cultivated acres of organic farmland, including one of the only certified organic orchards in Minnesota. Instead of relying on synthetic chemicals, WEI uses good ‘ol fashioned hand weeding, cover cropping, insect traps and pheromone disruptors for weed and pest control.
Farm Manager Jacquelyn Zita with some amazing Pirat Head Lettuce!
6 WEI is one of MCFM’s only year-round farms.
You can find WEI at all of our markets including our upcoming Indoor Winter Market on Saturday, November 17th. At the Winter Markets, WEI offers a variety of greenhouse-grown and winter storage crops such as: bok choy, cabbage, carrots, fresh herbs, kale, salad greens, onions, rutabaga, spinach, Swiss chard and winter squash.
Why do you love WEI? Leave your thoughts in our new comment section below!