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GROW-IT Center

a a building with a greenhouse front area pictured on a sunny day; several planter beds growing various plant types; a closeup of recently sprouted plants in a black plastic planting container

The GROW-IT Center will be a community-university urban agricultural Gateway for Research, Outreach, Workforce Development, Innovation and Teaching.

Partners envision a year-round learning hub for scientists, students of all ages and community practitioners to exchange knowledge and grow healthy communities. Our purpose is to generate and disseminate best practices in sustainable urban food production, healthy food production and access, and ecological preservation, and to inspire and prepare the next generation to address these issues.

With sincere thanks to our incredible partners and generous contributors, the GROW-IT Center's fully-renovated research lab and greenhouse, located at 445 Maria Avenue, opened in fall 2019. A multi-purpose addition will be completed by fall 2021!

University departments, community organizations and neighbors who are interested in exploring community-university collaboration related to these purposes are encouraged to contact

  • urban food production
  • healthy food access
  • environmental sustainability.

GROW-IT Center strategic goals

  1. Increase educational opportunities  - for youth, community members and university students
  2. Propagate plants - growing and contributing edible plants for community-based market gardens, local food pantries and backyard producers, and native plants for local ecological restoration
  3. Expand workforce development opportunities  - in areas such as entrepreneurial food production, greenhouse management, community-based gardening, environmental restoration and aquaponics
  4. Create and expand associate-to-baccalaureate degree career pathways - with college partners
  5. Conduct applied research - to meet the needs of traditionally underserved partners and local food producers, while contributing to the national discourse on issues related to agriculture, food and sustainability
  6. Enhance local E-12 STEM education - in partnership with area youth organizations and local schools
  7. Strengthen community outreach - through demonstrations, workshops and continuing education
  8. Showcase our partnerships - that is, best practices and reciprocity in community-university work.

Thank you to our GROW-IT Center partners

The GROW-IT Center is made possible through the contributions of many dedicated individuals from the Dayton’s Bluff community and Metropolitan State University, the Planning Team and Design Team, and unwavering support from university and Minnesota State leaders, local funders and public officials.

Primary Partners

  • Metropolitan State University, notably the Department of Natural Science and Department of Psychology
  • Urban Roots, East Side St. Paul's largest youth employer
  • Friends of Swede Hollow, a grassroots environmental, community-building group
  • First Lutheran Church, an urban mission-oriented ELCA congregation.

Public Officials

  • Councilmember Jane Prince, City of St. Paul Ward 7
  • MN Senator Foung Hawj
  • Commissioner Dave Frederickson, MN Department of Agriculture
  • MN Representative Sheldon Johnson
  • MN Representative Rod Hamilton

Funding Sources

  • Otto Bremer Trust
  • Bush Foundation Community Innovation Fund
  • F.R. Bigelow Foundation
  • City of St. Paul Neighborhood STAR Program
  • CHS Foundation
  • Hardenbergh Family Foundation
  • Manitou Fund
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture
  • The McNeely Foundation
  • Minnesota State
  • The St. Paul Foundation

GROW-IT Center Design Team

  • Pamela Anderson, Principle, 292 Design Group
  • Mark Asplen, Associate Professor and Department Chair, Natural Sciences, Metropolitan State University*
  • Hayley Ball, Executive Director, Urban Roots (2020–)
  • Jodi Bantley, Associate Director for Civic and Community Partnerships, Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship (ICES), Metropolitan State University* ** ***
  • Karin DuPaul, Neighbor and Board Member, Friends of Swede Hollow*
  • August Hoffman, Professor, Psychology Department, Metropolitan State University*
  • Christopher Maas, Director of Facilities, Metropolitan State University
  • Greg Mellas, ICES Director, Metropolitan State University*
  • Patsy Noble, Senior Director of Programs, Urban Roots (through August 2020)* **
  • Steve Reed, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Metropolitan State University
  • Francis Schweigert, Dean, College of Community Studies and Public Affairs
  • Kyle Swanson, Dean, College of Sciences, Metropolitan State University
  • Deb Vos, Associate Vice President for University Advancement, Metropolitan State University
  • Maureen Acosta, Development Director, University Advancement, served as a principle member of the original GROW-IT Center Planning Team, Spring 2015 to the present.

* Also served as a member of the GROW-IT Center Planning Team (October 2014-January 2018)
** Planning Team Co-Chair
*** Design Team Co-Chair

GROW-IT Center in the News