Sowing the Seeds of Good Health

A hand holds several raw peas.

Every day as the sun comes up, you might find Karl Hakanson helping growers manage manure, check their chickens, or create compost from local sources. It’s the life of a farmer—except that Hakanson, a University of Minnesota Extension Educator, is based at UROC and his “back forty” is North Minneapolis.

A member of Extension’s Small Farms Team based at UROC, Hakanson works to increase access to sustainable food systems by ensuring that farming and gardening resources are available to residents of North Minneapolis. Hakanson uses UROC’s location and community connections to provide opportunities to residents to enrich their gardens, as well as their health.  

As part of his work in North Minneapolis, Hakanson is an organization partner in dozens of urban agriculture initiatives each year including programs like Backyard Chickens and Green with Envy’s Community Garden Composting Project.  Supported by a Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council Planning grant, Hakanson’s team also provides North High School students with horticulture, scientific research methods, and enterprise development experience. The project pairs University agricultural students with Northside community members and Achieve Minneapolis STEP-UP interns in an effort to grow produce for food shelves and grocery stores while promoting career opportunities in agriculture and food sciences.

Tangible products – in the form of fresh produce – are an important part of his work.  “People who have never before tasted a vine-ripened tomato begin to see food in a whole new light,” said Hakanson. “People are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from and how what they eat affects their family’s health.”