As we approach the end of 2014, we have a lot to be thankful for: family, friends, health and Good Food. Locally, our Good Food System is growing in many positive ways, yet there is much more that needs to be done in building a just Good Food System in our community and communities around the country and the world. We wanted to share with you some of our most noteworthy accomplishments of 2014.
Looking forward I know that we can continue to grow the Good Food Revolution. However, in order for our growth to meet the demand we need community minded people to continue to invest in our cause. We hope that you will consider continuing your support of Growing Power this holiday season because “Together We Are Growing Power”.
Happy Holidays to You & All!
Spring is always one of the busiest times of year for Growing Power. We are preparing our outdoor growing spaces for the busy growing season, tending to our livestock and finalizing our weekend workshop series. This spring proved to be an even more challenging time with the late arrival of warm weather and several additional activities being conducted. Each year as we begin this busy time it all seems overwhelming, but the Growing Power staff always digs in and gets the job done.
Once each month, January through June, Growing Power hosts weekend “From the Ground Up” workshops. These workshops, attended by people from all over the world, provide hands-on training in all aspects of developing and maintaining a sustainable community food system. Participants can take part in several breakout sessions that cover topics such as: hoop house construction, mushroom cultivation, aquaponics, sprout production, vermi-composting, beekeeping, and community project planning. Our 2014 “From the Ground Up” workshop series concluded in June, with more than 350 people participating this year. Coinciding with these workshops, Growing Power offers a Commercial Urban Agriculture course through which participants attend workshops for five consecutive months, concluding in May with a graduation. This course provides them with intensive hands-on training supplemented with classroom instruction that focuses on building the individuals skills in preparation for operating their own farming venture. The 2014 CUA training program concluded in May with 10 participants graduating.
On May 10th, Growing Power held our first Good Food Revolution 5K Walk/Run. This event took place in the neighborhood surrounding our Community Food Center at 55th Street and Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee. The route looped through Wisconsin’s largest public housing developments, Westlawn Gardens, providing participants with a glimpse of Growing Power’s community garden in Westlawn. The event was attended by more than 220 people and was supported by the Milwaukee Housing Authority. Additional sponsors included: Whole Foods; Chipotle; Naturally Green Products; Il Mito; Lakefront Brewery; and Natalie’s Juices. We are grateful to all of our sponsors and look forward to hosting this event again next year. We hope that you will consider joining us!In June Growing Power received a large donation of fruit trees and plants from the nation’s largest direct-to-consumer grower of fruit and nut trees, Stark Bros Nurseries. On June 12th 4000 apple, peach, plum and pear trees and blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry and asparagus plants were delivered to Growing Power’s Community Food Center to be used to create urban fruit farms. Growing Power will be working with the City of Milwaukee Office of Environmental Sustainability’s Home Gr/Own Initiative to plant the donated trees and plants on some of Milwaukee’s 2400 vacant lots. Planting is expected to begin this fall, the optimum time to plant fruit trees.
We are also busily preparing for our bi-annual National-International Urban & Small Farms Conference to take place in Milwaukee on November 7th-9th at the Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. This year’s conference will include a special event featuring a conversation with Michael Pollan and Will Allen. Michael Pollan is a 4-time New York Times Bestselling author, James Beard Award winner for best food writing, a 2009 Newsweek “New Though Leader” and one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010. Will Allen is the Farmer, Founder and CEO of Growing Power, a “Genius Grant” winner from the MacAurther Foundation, and was also named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2010. The event will be moderated by author and former Wisconsin Public Radio talk show host, Jean Feraca. This event is open to the general public and tickets will be on sale very soon. We hope to see you there!
Last year, Growing Power received a grant from the USDA to develop and expand our relationships with the Milwaukee Public Schools, concentrating on the Farm to School food movement. The idea is to encourage healthy eating habits among school age children by providing healthy food options in school cafeterias. This grant allowed Growing Power to develop a strong relationship with the MPS food vendor Sysco, a national food procurement company, creating a partnership that will benefit Growing Power beyond the Farm to School activities by enabling us to provide locally grown, sustainable food to even more people. In 2013, Growing Power served 129 MPS schools, reaching more than 40,000 students with the assistance of this grant.
In 2013, Growing Power had a bumper crop of carrots, providing more than 150,000 pounds of carrots. This crop allowed Growing Power to expand our Farm to School efforts to additional Wisconsin Public School districts and Chicago Public Schools. In January, 2014, Growing Power completed the largest farm to school procurement ever in the United States (per USDA), selling 40,000 pounds of carrots to Farm Logix, an institutional food distributor. These carrots were consumed by children in Chicago Public Schools and Wisconsin public school districts. CPS alone received 30,000 pounds and consumed them in one school day.
As we move forward in the Farm to School movement, Growing Power is seeking additional funding from the USDA to expand our efforts and work with additional school districts to provide healthy food options to our school children. Healthy eating habits are started at a young age and we believe that we can make an impact on the future of our current obesity epidemic through our Farm to School programs.
As we approach the end of 2013, we have a lot to be thankful for: family, friends, health and Good Food. Locally, our Good Food System is growing in many positive ways, yet there is much more that needs to be done in building a just Good Food System in our community and communities around the country and the world. In 2012, we stated that we would like to increase the amount of Good Food in our community from less than 1% to 10%. At 10%, locally grown Good Food would change the dynamics of our community. It would affect the health of our citizens as well as impact job creation and, overall, impact the local economy. Growing Power is already making that impact. With the increase of 25 acres of greenhouses and 300 acres of outside production, we continue to grow our local food system.
What we need now is for all institutions to come together to keep growing the Good Food Revolution. Corporations, medical institutions, colleges and universities, planners, politicos, architects, engineers and most importantly every citizen should all be sitting at the community table and planning the next steps in the Good Food Revolution. We cannot continue to live in a community where 34% of our children live in poverty, three out of ten young people go to bed every night without a meal, and diabetes and obesity continue to rise among youth. These conditions lead to cancer and other debilitating diseases. We must act now. We must stop eating food that has low nutritional value and make our Good Food our medicine.
The only way to end the health care crisis is to grow healthy people. Growing Power has made big strides towards building the health of our next generation. In 2013 we installed 50 day care gardens in Milwaukee, grew 500,000 pounds of carrots for regional school systems (including Milwaukee Public Schools), installed several school gardens and developed classroom curriculum that meets the STEM requirements. We also taught hundreds of Milwaukee area youth nutritional education through our Youth Corps program and through partnerships with other youth based non-profits. We know that good eating habits start at a young age and Growing Power is working to instill these habits in Milwaukee’s youth.
We must also continue to grow our food system. We must grow healthy soil. In 2013 Growing Power collected 40 million pounds of food and carbon waste that was used to grow healthy high fertility soil. We need to grow new farmers. During this past year Growing Power trained over 1000 farmers from all over the United States on how to grow this Good Food. We need to grow new food sources. Currently Growing Power is working with the School of Freshwater Sciences to grow healthy fish as a local protein source.
Looking forward I know that we can continue to grow the Good Food Revolution. However, in order for our growth to meet the demand we need community minded people to invest in our cause. We hope that you will continue to support Growing Power in 2014, because “Together We Are Growing Power”. Please see the attached document for specific highlights from 2013.
Farmer, Founder & CEO
In the first half of 2013 Growing Power planned for the upcoming year of expanded growing areas which now include 300 acres of crop land and 100 acres of year round green houses. The expanded growing space required greater operational capacity and organization of our Rainbow Farmers Cooperative (RFC). Data systems and marketing initiatives were upgraded to facilitate greater sales and distribution opportunities. During this time we held our “Weekend Workshop Series” one weekend a month from January through June. 20 aspiring farmers participated in the Commercial Urban Agriculture (CUA) program, attended six months of workshops and were graduated from the program. Several thousand aspiring farmers participated in these trainings. A stand alone three day training series designed specially for aquaponics entrepreneurs, was also held each month.
Our day to day operations continue to inspire thousands of people through tours offered seven days a week, volunteer opportunities at our farms, work opportunities for urban youth, career advancing training for interns, and building the local food system in South East Wisconsin. Food systems were built through our market basket program, our wholesale operation, farm stands at local corporations, and at our café and farm stand.
Some new initatives include our involvement at Westlawn, which is Wisconsins’ largest public housing development. In collaboration with the housing authority and community members a community garden was established. Garden plots were sold for $10 and community members started to garden in their neighborhood. Growing Power provided daily supervision and support for the gardeners through our intern program. All the garden plots were filled with vegetable plants donated by Growing Power. This year Growing Power was part of the Americorps Farm to School Program and had two workers for 20 hours a week. The workers engaged six schools and provided nutrition education, training for teachers on starting gardens and aquaponic systems, and attended open houses to promote farm to school initiatives. The workers developed a curriculum that they used with students.
Significant progress was made in establishing green houses on Milwaukee Public Schools property at the schools. In collaboration with the school district, meetings were held with teachers, principals, and district administrators to establish a protocol for building and maintaining a year round green house at the school for the purpose of growing vegetables to be used at the school. We hope to build the first of these hoop house- green houses this fall and work on creating a template for a microeconomy centered around using the produce at the schools and selling the excess in the local area. Growing Power is also a member of a city wide aquaponic group that facilitates the development of aquaponic systems in school settings throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.
At our main farm and training center we continue to evolve and build additional year round green houses. Our goat operation grows each year with the addition of additional goats and this year we hope to collaborate with the only urban dairy in Wisconsin to make goat milk cheese. Black soldier flies have a new home on the farm with their own feeding station and green house. They are very happy flies and grow by the millions. Eventually their larve will be used to feed our 30,000 fish which are thriving in our aquaponic systems.
We are excited to harvest our expanded fields this fall and we thank your organization for your ongoing support of “The Good Food Revolution”.
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