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Eyesore or worthy experiment? Sunken greenhouse pushes the envelope in Minneapolis. [Star Tribune]

12/12/16

Underneath a mound of earth in a small northeast Minneapolis backyard something groundbreaking is happening: Food is growing in the dead of winter.

“It’s so hot in here that the tomatoes are out of control,” said Greg Strong, one of several volunteers who tend the experimental garden. They call it a walipini — a Bolivian word for a solar-heated greenhouse with earthen walls.

It sits in the backyard of Sarah Lawton, pastor of the nearby Northeast United Methodist Church, where volunteers also tend a large community garden on the church’s front yard. Volunteers built the makeshift greenhouse at the parsonage, hoping to create a prototype for how to grow food year-round in harsh climates.

But this fall, the experimental garden was challenged by the city in response to complaints that it was “an eyesore,” ­Lawton said. Now the city is studying the issue and developing guidelines for regulating garden structures like the one in her backyard.

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Photo credit: Kim Palmer, Star Tribune