Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Learning to Feed Ourselves - Growing Power

If crisis offers any yield at all its the efforts of regular folks like this honing their skills as they respond to the opportunities and challenges of rapid change. Something like this should, and could, appear and serve communities everywhere.

Remember, most of the ecovillages of the world do not require building, they're already there, called neighborhoods. What's needed is to connect more of each neighborhood to more of itself. Some neighbors simply haven't recognized where they are and who's there with them.

When yield shows up in tangible and tasty ways like this (with training included) the adoption of successful practices can be more easily spread.

More power to us all.

In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work.

Will Allen was a farmer with land.

Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.

Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a ”living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers, and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include the following: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, perma-culture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth development, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.

Community Food Centers are local places where people can learn sustainable practices to grow, process, market, and distribute food. The prototype for Community Food Centers, as mentioned in our mission, is the Growing Power facility at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

This historic two-acre farm is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee. Since 1999, our 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 a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.

Will Allen, Chief Executive Officer thinks, "If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system."

A simple goal: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community. Growing Power began with a farmer, a plot of land, and a core group of dedicated young people. Today, our love of the land and our dedication to sharing knowledge is changing lives.

Projects and Growing Methods
- Growing Power demonstrates its easy to replicate growing methods through on-site workshops and hands-on demonstrations. There are farms in Milwaukee and Merton, Wisconsin, and in Chicago, Illinois. Growing Power has also established satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi.

Education and Technical Assistance
- Growing Power's educates folks through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities. We also run youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on policy initiatives regarding agriculture.

Production and Distribution - Food production occurs in the organization's demonstration greenhouses, rural farm site in Merton, and urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago. We also distribute produce, grass-based meats, and value-added products through the activities of over 300 small family farmers in the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative and the organization's year-round food security program the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program.

The 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; with two independent fish runs and growing beds for additional salad mix and seedlings; growing a mixture of salad greens;
  • a worm depository 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 anaerobic 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.
The center offers schools, universities, government agencies, farmers, activists, and community members opportunities to learn from and participate in the development and operation of Community Food Systems.

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