CoolBot Helps Seeds of Success Bring Fresh Produce to Duluth’s Food Desert At Lincoln Park Farmers Market

Aimee Foster is the Program Manager at Seeds of Success, a program that works with Community Action Duluth to provide additional employment opportunities for young adults who either have a criminal background or lack of job references to gain proper employment — or, in some cases, both.

Seeds of Success got its start in 2009, while Community Action Duluth has been around since the 1960s. In addition to providing a framework for its crew members to learn both hard and soft skills, get back into school, earn financial aid and receive education coaching, Seeds of Success is largely behind the Lincoln Park Farmers’ Market.

Lincoln Park Farmers’ Market has a unique story behind it. The first market was in 2013, and came about as a response to the local community’s demand for it. The market has been so popular, in fact, that Seeds of Success recently opened a Winter Market to accommodate the needs of the neighborhood residents.

The Fair Food Access Campaign started in Duluth in 2012, when the Lincoln Park neighborhood was a food desert. The market started as a food access program to address the significant health disparities affecting the 8,600 residents of Lincoln Park. There was a ten year life expectancy difference between Lincoln Park residents and those of surrounding neighborhoods.

Neighborhood residents canvassed and surveyed, speaking with one another in order to generate concrete local feedback on what the community was lacking and what it wanted and needed in terms of help. And, so, the Lincoln Park Farmers’ Market was born.

And in just this short time, Seeds of Success has seen tangible results. Last year, the market grew by 300%. The market sees about 125 visitors each week throughout the summertime.

Seeds of Success tries to make their market as exclusive as possible, becoming the first market in Duluth to accept EBT (food stamps) from customers and then match purchases up to $15. Plus, they offer a program called the “Power of Produce Club,” where kids can come and get $4 for free each week to spend on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Seeds of Success is small, but mighty, with only four people on their staff. They currently have two crew members working for them, giving each crew member a hyper focused experience, with more training opportunities and more responsibility than an average job. The crew members are tasked with gardening storage crops to sell at the market, including potato, rutabaga, onions, garlic, beets, carrots and cabbage.

These storage crops were the reason Seeds of Success installed a CoolBot, as they needed a place to keep all of their harvested produce before it was sold at the markets. Their Production and Market Manager had previously worked on a farm that used a CoolBot, so he knew about it — how the unit is able to provide an affordable, effective and easy solution to cold storage.

Seeds of Success raised funds through a local business that does work in the community and a local health system/hospital, ultimately purchasing two CoolBots to help them keep their produce fresh.

“When we got the CoolBot, the delivery guy was super helpful,” says Aimee. “Our two crew members put them both up in about a day. It was super simple,” she explains. “We currently have our CoolBots just inside the building right now, pulled off from wall. They’re working great and I love how quiet they are.”

Aimee would definitely recommend the CoolBot to anyone, acknowledging how it has become an “invaluable asset to their program and what they’re trying to accomplish.” She appreciates how it’s been “super easy to work with Store It Cold” and how responsive and helpful the customer service staff has been with Seeds of Success, helping them to brainstorm ideas and happy to answer her questions, helping her to figure out a budget.

Additionally, Aimee likes how easy the CoolBot is to use and install, allowing for the flexibility to move the unit if they need to in the future.

In addition to the storage crops grown by Seeds of Success crew members, the Lincoln Park Farmers’ Market possesses a wide variety of other local vendors. Lincoln Park Farmers’ Market includes local food producers, individuals and established farms — plus homemade kimchi, bread, canned foods, coffee, honey, cookies and other baked goods.

Duluth Community Garden Program conducts monthly gardening workshops at the market, too. The weekly summer market runs from June through October, and now Seeds of Success will be opening a new Winter Market in Duluth’s Harrison Community Center from November through March that will be open twice per month.

The market has been so successful that Seeds of Success will also be opening a second one this coming summer at a different location, in partnership with local healthcare provider Essentia Health.

The second market location will also be a food access market, with the same sort of programs at the Lincoln Park Farmers’ Market: the 1:1 EBT match up to $15/market system, the Power of Produce Club and other various programming with Duluth-based organizations.

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