Growing Power and Urban Food Growing

Last October, Agriculturalist Will Allen was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Genius award for his work developing sustainable urban food growing models.

Here is Will Allen talking about his work and why developing urban and inner city food growing centers is where it’s at:

He is the founder of Growing Power, an inner city farm in Milwaukee, what was once considered a food desert – a region where all food was being trucked in and sold in convenience stores, fast food outlets, and big box stores.

Please visit Growing Power’s website to see the scope, scale, heart and vision behind the work being done. They are aiming to build closed system farming – they are composting to grow their own soil, developing vertical aquaponic systems, raising their own flocks of chickens. If you can, do the three minute video tours — pretty amazing!

We’re all inspired over here. As land and water become immediate conservation concerns, we should all be looking at models like Will Allen’s.

Growing Power began in 1999 on the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee — on just two acres. The original vision is still the same “Community Food Center has provided a wonderful space for hands-on activities, large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs.” In ten years, the operation has grown, and in that two acre space the size of a small supermarket “live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.”

Their urban farm currently includes:

– six greenhouses growing over 12,000 pots of herbs, salad mix, beet greens, arugula, mustards, seedlings, sunflower and radish sprouts. These greenhouses also host production of six hydroponic systems growing Tilapia, Perch, and a variety of herb and salad greens, and over 50 bins of red wriggler worms;

– a aquaponics hoop house with two independent fish runs and growing beds for additional salad mix and seedlings;

– three hoop houses growing a mixture of salad greens;

– a worm depository hoop house;

– an apiary with 5 beehives;

– three poultry hoop houses with laying hens and ducks;

– outdoor pens for livestock including goats, rabbits, and turkeys;

– a large plot of land on which the first stage of the organization’s sophisticated composting operation is located including 30 pallet compost systems;

– an anerobic digester to produce energy from the farm’s food waste; and

– a small retail store to sell produce, meat, worm castings, and compost to the community.

And they are reaching out and educating. They offer schools, universities, government agencies, farmers, activists, and community members opportunities to learn from and participate in the development and operation of Community Food Systems.

Just think. In the space smaller than the Costco on Iwilei, we could have something like this.

Something to think about as our food security issues continue to grow. We can do only so much on our own. Might be time to start working together.

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