This farm team has been converting vacant lots to tiny farm plots all over Minneapolis since 2011.
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If you ever find yourself walking through the heart of Minneapolis, keep an eye out for something unusual: a farm.

What — a working farm plot in the middle of a city? Yep.

16 different farm plots, to be exact, across Minneapolis–St. Paul.


They look like this:

A Stone's Throw lot in the Twin Cities. Image by Carina Lofgren Photography.

Since 2011, Stone's Throw Urban Farm has been busy morphing vacant lots in the Twin Cities into farms that give back to local communities.

"[Our lots] range in size from 0.11 acres to 0.5 acres," farm employee Caroline Devany explained to Upworthy. "Most ... were formerly residential spaces, but several have had less conventional past uses, such as a bowling alley parking lot and [a] funeral home."

Houses, a bowling alley, a funeral home, all converted into small fields that produce a wide variety of crops: tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, eggplant, greens, herbs, carrots, beets ... the list goes on.

A straight-up RAINBOW of veggies. Image courtesy of Stone's Throw Urban Farm.

So, tell me again why we don't just convert all our unused urban space into farmland?

Farming in the city is a bit out of the ordinary, so it understandably comes with a unique set of challenges.

Though a bowling alley may sound like a cool place to grow onions (or kale, or oregano), the soil quality of vacant lots is another issue entirely. Many of the plots used by Stone's Throw have soil that requires careful attention and added nutrients.

Stone's Throw uses waste from local breweries to produce compost that can help bring depleted soil back to life.

But being "part of, and accountable to, multiple communities," as Caroline explains, provides the farm with many opportunities for unique solutions to match those challenges.

For example, Stone's Throw recently began using waste from local breweries to produce compost that can help bring that depleted soil back to life. Old beer to veggie compost!? Yes, please.

A farm employee sprays crops with fish emulsion, a natural fertilizer. Image by Carina Lofgren Photography.

As a visible part of so many different communities, Stone's Throw tries its best to be a good neighbor — and it has many neighbors. The farm offers a sliding scale, EBT-accessible market stand and hosts volunteer and skill share opportunities for the community.

They also partner with rural farms outside the city (who lack the urban advantage of visibility) in a cooperative called Shared Ground.

Of course, this uncommon land use doesn't come without its naysayers.

The aftermath of the 2009 foreclosure crisis allowed space for new ideas about best uses for land. Areas that had previously housed commercial businesses were suddenly available for new, creative uses. That's what allowed Stone's Throw Urban farm to get up and running — with so many vacant lots, the city was open to using some of them for farming.

But Caroline explains that "as the market recovers, people are interested in seeing built development." Stores. Offices. Housing developments. "Traditional" urban land uses.

An aerial view of one plot in St. Paul. Image via Google Maps.

As a result, sustainable land access is one of the biggest challenges faced by Stone's Throw. In fact, the farm's future may depend on their ability "to better articulate the ways that urban agriculture is a form of development with many benefits to urban residents."

But the Stone's Throw team is determined and optimistic.

And they're not about to let the challenges of urban farming get in their way.

What's more, they're noticing changes in the way the community — and policymakers — talk about issues of food and development. And that gives me hope.

It's not easy to cultivate healthy and just communities, but a little grit and diligence can go a long way. A fondness for weeding probably doesn't hurt either.

Image by Carina Lofgren Photography.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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