The Farm at the Arb is a destination within the destination that is the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum.
Though the Farm at the Arb is a few miles from the main entrance — visitors get there by taking a spur road off Three-Mile Drive or a short hike using Three-Mile Walk — the hilltop spot is a favorite for Arboretum fans.
It includes a restored, iconic Red Barn; an award-winning Bee and Pollinator Center; crop plots showcasing grains, seeds and U of M-bred apples and grapes; and — new this year — an adult education center, complete with a new state-of-the-art Kitchen Classroom, surrounded by a new 5,000-square-foot Foodscape.
Officially named the Burton and Virginia Myers Education Center, the new building (dedicated in July 2023) includes a spacious and tech-equipped Kitchen Classroom for hosting hands-on cooking classes for adults — in person and virtually statewide — all year long.
This summer, the Arboretum hired Beth Fisher, a local culinary star and longtime restaurateur, to run the culinary curriculum that caters to Arboretum visitors and members, corporate groups, U of M teams and more. Fisher is a household name and creative force in the Twin Cities culinary scene, having played key roles in shaping local restaurants and brands, including Lucia’s, The Whitney Hotel, Wise Acre Eatery, Thirty Bales, Rustica, French Meadow and most recently Kruse Markit.
“Supporting local farmers has always been at the core of who I am as a chef,” Fisher said. “So getting to be a part of the Arboretum’s new culinary center of adult education is a perfect fit for me.”
Arboretum Director of Education Tim Kenny said Fisher’s many years of also teaching at venues such as Cooks of Crocus Hill and Kitchen Window make her the perfect person to stand at the helm of the Arboretum’s culinary education programming in the new building.
“Beth has an incredible history in the culinary arts,” Kenny said. “At the Arboretum, she’ll be creating a new and exciting culinary learning experience.”
Fisher will have fresh produce close at hand for her classes during the growing season thanks to 5,000 square feet of new gardens surrounding the education center.
Known as The Foodscape, the surrounding gardens were designed and planted by extension educators Julie Weisenhorn and Jon Trappe along with help from a team of master gardener volunteers with a goal of showcasing the beauty of diverse and unexpected food plants, sustainable landscape design and innovative growing methods.
While some plants are organized in agricultural-like rows, other areas use food plants — such as flowering herbs, berry shrubs, various kales and cabbages, peppers, rainbow chard and edible flowers like calendula and nasturtiums — in stylish groupings that are suited to a home landscape, public garden or community garden.
The Foodscape contains four different areas that repeat concepts that already exist in other areas at the Farm at the Arb:
- The Edible Front Yard Garden brings in elements of the existing Fruitful Way fruit walk at the Farm at the Arb, showcasing under-used backyard fruits such as chokeberry, strawberries, blueberries and more.
- Traditional row-type Vegetable Gardens with irrigation echo the rows of the existing Market Garden tended by the Farm at the Arb Apprenticeship program for aspiring food-growing entrepreneurs.
- The Meadow for Sharing features plants for both pollinators and humans with a nod to the nearby gardens at the Bee and Pollinator Center.
- The Living Patio repeats the Farm at the Arb Gathering Lawns and reminds visitors that a “patio” doesn’t have to be a hardscape surface such as pavers or cement.
Interpretive signage highlights each key area while plant labels identify the different cultivars and varieties for visitors.
“The Foodscape is the central hub that brings together all areas of the farm,” Weisenhorn said. “In addition, as a garden that surrounds a newly constructed building, it also provides us as extension educators the opportunity to experiment with plants and techniques, and to demonstrate solutions to common challenges in Minnesota landscapes.”
The Education Center
The Burton and Virginia Myers Education Center also contains restrooms for visitors and offices for Arboretum staff. It also serves as the statewide home to the Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, and several Extension Horticulture Educators.
“It’s exciting to see so many programs at the Arboretum and beyond converge in such a beautiful and educational venue,” Kenny said.
Visitors are invited to visit The Foodscape at any time, but it is best viewed during the growing season from spring to fall. Master gardener volunteers will help tend the gardens and are happy to answer your questions from visitors as well, offering public education in real-time. Weisenhorn said folks should keep an eye out for educational events and pop-up demonstrations, too.
Once established, the garden can provide real-world examples to address topics such as sustainable landscape design; climate change impacts on food production; edible and pollinator-friendly plant selections; drought-tolerant turfgrass species; pruning and winterizing tips; winter seed sowing; mushroom logs; and ways to limit pesticide/herbicide use.
The Farm at the Arb
If that’s not enough to get visitors out to the Farm at the Arb, the site also features demonstration orchards that showcase Minnesota-bred apples and grapes using modern trellising and netting techniques for maximum production. A digital Farm Crawl guides visitors around the farm and through Minnesota grains such as corn, soybeans, sugar beets and sunflowers and crops of the future such as Kernza.
A farmer’s-style Market Garden is home to the Arboretum’s Apprenticeship program focused on careers in growing food. Finally, a rotating Garden Gallery spotlights cultures through the lens of cultivated foods. The 2023 Garden Gallery theme is “Food, Land and the Great Migration,” documenting the key foods of the movement of African-American people, who traveled from the South to the North from 1916-1970.
Events at the Foodscape will be posted on the Arboretum’s website. Keep up to date by following the Arb on social media, becoming an Arboretum member and/or subscribing to the Arboretum’s twice-monthly eNews.
You can sign up for many types of classes at the Arboretum, including culinary sessions with Beth Fisher.
Editor’s note: Sarah Jackson is a former journalist, editor and garden writer who found her calling as the public relations/media specialist at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska.
Jackson’s column on the happenings at the Arboretum will appear periodically on the Eden Prairie Local News website. Contact her at email@example.com.
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