My name is Anders Gurda and I’m one of three of the new crop of urban farmers working with Backyard Harvest this season. A city kid hailing from Milwaukee, I grew up with a small vegetable garden in my backyard, shaded by Locust trees and our house, picked over by rabbits, cherry tomatoes stolen by chipmunks, and raspberries picked by hungry kids on summer vacation. I knew the trials and tribulations of urban farming at an early age. I eventually left the city for rural Northern Wisconsin to attend Northland College. While at school I spent my summers working for small-scale organic farms in the area, honing my skills and knowledge base on the whet stones of droughts, Midwestern monsoons, good years, and bad.
Feeling a city-sized hole in my life after graduation, and tiring of blaze orange and snowmobiles, I decided to move to the biggest and best of them all and headed to New York City to work as an environmental educator for the NYC Parks Department. I brought inner-city kids into city parks to teach them about everything from botany to native cultures to eco-art. I also spearheaded the revitalization and curriculum development of a Community Center’s youth garden in Harlem, helping me to see urban farming as an effective ligament that not only connects people with their local food systems, but to the larger natural world around them. Spurred by my experience in urban agricultural education, I shot across the country to Olympia, WA to take a job as the Education Program Coordinator and Farm Assistant for a non-profit youth empowerment farm called GRuB (Garden Raised Bounty, “without U, we’d just be GRB”). After a year of farming and teaching, the Midwest again called my name.
A relatively new transplant to the Twin Cities, I’m finding a fertile community of gardeners, activists, organizers, good-thing-doers and great-idea-havers. I’m excited to dig into these cities’ soil and plant myself in backyards throughout the area. We’re cultivating the land and we’re cultivating each other, building a community centered around local food and meaningful connections. There’s no other mission I’d be happier to live out.