Audrey Matson used to be a country girl. Her childhood was spent on the family farm in small-town Minnesota, where caring for cows and chickens was part of the daily routine, and summers meant gardening and canning. College brought her to the city, but she always imagined she’d move back to the country someday. Then she married a man from Minneapolis and fell in love with life in Saint Paul. But her dream of living in the country was anything but history. Instead, she discovered she could bring country living to the city—and help others do the same.
Today Matson owns and runs Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply where, since 2010, she inspires customers to live the country life right here in the city. From seeds and plants to backyard chicken supplies and canning and fermenting equipment, Matson’s shop has local residents covered. Weekend classes are offered year-round, including topics such as cheese making, urban gardening and chicken keeping. And day-old baby chicks can be ordered through her shop each spring. “I love connecting with all of the customers,” says Matson. “Many people start with one pursuit and that leads them into another one. It becomes this whole connected life."
Matson’s own journey into urban farming began about 10 years ago when she was home with her three kids in Saint Paul and decided they needed chickens. Raising chickens was one of Matson’s favorite childhood memories and she wanted to share that experience with her own family, despite their urban address.
“Chickens are like keeping any other kind of pet,” she explains, although at the time, she had to drive outside the city for chicken supplies and resources. Besides providing eggs, chickens also help create amazing compost, says Matson. “There’s a whole cycle that happens with the chickens and the vegetables and the compost.” During the same time, Matson was instrumental in forming the Mighty Midway 4-H Club, which raised chickens for the University of Minnesota’s student organic farm; she also worked at a local garden shop and was pursuing a master’s of agriculture in horticulture.
Over the next few years Matson and her family enjoyed many homesteading hobbies, including gardening, canning and fermenting, and even tapping their own maple trees. But perhaps Matson’s biggest discovery was that there were other urban families interested in the same practices. “I realized there were a lot more people than me who wanted to do more of these old-fashioned skills without having to leave the city,” she recalls. So she decided to do something about it. Given her personal and work experience, opening Egg|Plant felt like a natural next step. “It all came together nicely,” she says.
Matson loves watching customers engage with each other and discover new urban farming practices. “The closer we can all be to where our food comes from, the healthier we are in both mind and body,” she says. Of course there are unique obstacles to urban farming, most notably the space and light limitations, which Matson eagerly helps customers navigate. Her biggest tip to new urban farmers is to think about what you really love to do and what you love to eat, and keep it simple. There is always room to grow.
Go to the Egg|Plant Urban Farm Supply website for products and class schedule.