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Ryan Johnson, Published October 14 2012

TEDx presents ideas for a better Fargo

FARGO – Mobile gardens, a bicycle renting program and a new culinary institute could be coming here if some community members have their way.

During the city’s third TEDx event, a locally organized offshoot of nonprofit organization TED that aims to share “ideas worth spreading,” the more than 100 attendees who packed ecce: art + yoga heard from speakers discussing the “City 2.0” theme.

But Sunday’s event included a new feature – seven two-minute “action pitches” from locals who had ideas to make the community better, if they can get the support, funding and help to turn their vision into reality.

Kimberly Hess, the owner of flower shop Prairie Petals, said urban gardening is growing. But she said there’s an easy way to make it even bigger – converting old, unused school buses into “mobile urban gardening” vehicles.

Hess suggested school kids could plant the seeds each spring and check back throughout the summer to see how their plants are doing. She said the idea could boost momentum for gardening in the community in a way that can’t be done by simply holding classes and seminars.

“Let’s take the lesson, and the produce, to the people,” she said.

Aaron Feickert said it’s a good time to extend the “collaborative consumption” model that exists in libraries – which allows people to get the benefit of a product without buying it – to transportation. He suggested the city invest in a fleet of rentable bicycles that could be used for an hour, a day or even longer by paying customers who want the freedom of being able to get around without the hassle of maintenance and costs of purchasing a bike.

Heather Ranck said the nation could benefit from an expanded version of a program offered here by the Fargo Rotary that offers computer training and free use of Rosetta Stone software to teach English to the refugees who resettle in the community.

Joe Burgum said a three-day event that will take place next September could help solve the community’s problem of raising its “innovation climate,” and said 15 of the world’s best innovators will come here to compete in the categories of technology, education and preventative health for a prize.

Former Fargo Theatre Executive Director Margie Bailly said the community has about 30,000 college students, several established universities, a large number of talented chefs and all the other ingredients to support a new venture – the Red River Valley of the North Culinary Institute that could offer four-year credentialed degrees. She said the school could help show off the locally grown crops and produce, as well as locally raised livestock, while creating new dining opportunities.

Fargo Commissioner Mike Williams said the city already has a good idea of what residents want. About 8,000 people offered their vision of Fargo by 2030 in a “mind mixer” and said the top priorities were flood protection, infill over sprawl, more arts and culture, increased bike and walking trails and implementing design standards.

“The goal should be the best ideas win, and you get that when you engage the community,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587