Farm Fresh to Urban Communities in the Midwest

by Growing Power
"From the Ground Up" Weekend Workshop - Aquaponics
"From the Ground Up" Weekend Workshop - Aquaponics

BRRRRRR! The start to 2015 has been chilly. Even though it has been sub-arctic, Growing Power’s systems are producing tons of food each week. The hoop houses are growing the sweetest spinach you’ve ever tasted and cold hardy kales, collards and brassicas that make a delicious winter salad mix.  This has allowed us to generate funding for our operations and provide a living wage salary for our staff. At this time of the year we are focused on starting seedlings, planning and meeting with partners and buyers and kicking off our training programs. The ‘From the Ground Up” weekend trainings and the CUA-Commercial Urban Agriculture training program that supports 20+ new farmers from across the US. Along with our day-to-day activities like providing hands on environmental education to local youth and adults through tours and volunteer opportunities, giving technical assistance to budding farmers and small farm enterprises; providing interns with meaningful work experiences, and growing good food for local communities, Growing Power continued to see growth in all areas of operation.

We are also planning for our 2015 Gathering in Chicago for the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative. GFJI gatherings bring community food systems practitioners together to discuss strategies of how to dismantle racism in their work and to share cultural traditions and healing work. In the past, Indigenous seed saving and storytelling; Gourd rattle making; Food Justice Zine making and many other interesting and culturally rich workshops take place.

The closing of 2014 brought the realization of the impact that Growing Power has on Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the United States and even the world.  In 2014, Growing Power composted 60 million pounds of waste, provided fresh produce snacks for 45,000 Milwaukee Public School students, offset 60 tons of carbon and nitrogen, produced more than $750,000 worth of crops on 200 acres of growing space, and raised 50,000 fish and millions of red wiggler worms. In addition the Growing Power headquarters in Milwaukee saw 30,000 visitors, over 1,700 volunteers and 371 youth corp graduates.  Growing Power also provided the necessary training for 10 graduates of the Commercial Urban Agriculture Training program.  These participants will move forward towards the first phase of their own urban farm plans.

As Spring approaches we are excited to get growing and have a productive season, stay tuned for updates on our continued growth.  We have set some high expectations that we fully intend to exceed. We would like to thank YOU; our enthusiastic supporters for helping us bring the Good Food Movement to life.  We are genuinely thankful for all the ways in which you help us to impact communities that need it most.  

Growing Greens in Hoop Houses
Growing Greens in Hoop Houses
Commercial Urban Agriculture class getting started
Commercial Urban Agriculture class getting started
Will Allen showing vermicomposting winter style!
Will Allen showing vermicomposting winter style!
Growing micro greens - pea shoots and sunflower
Growing micro greens - pea shoots and sunflower
Swiss Chard Seedlings
Swiss Chard Seedlings
Participants streching for the 5K
Participants streching for the 5K

Dear Friends,

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.

  • We started the year by making history with the largest farm to school procurement in the history of the USDA, by selling 40,000 pounds of carrots to Farm Logix, a farm to school procurement organization.
  • Growing Power had more than 30,000 visitors tour our Community Food Center located at 55th Street & Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee.
  • In May, Growing Power held our first Good Food Revolution 5K Walk-Run, with more than 200 people participating.
  • During the summer months, we installed 30 gardens at Milwaukee licensed daycare facilities with the assistance of a grant from the City of Milwaukee’s Community Development Grants Administration.
  • We distributed more than 3,000 bags of fresh produce through our Farm to City Market Basket program.
  • In November we began the Haitian Aquaculture Project, a program through which Haitians will visit Growing Power to be trained in aquaponics and upon their return to Haiti, will be joined by two aquaponics experts to continue that training. This revolutionary project was funded by the U.S. Haitian Embassy.
  • More than 400 people were trained in community food systems through our “From the Ground Up” workshop series held one weekend each month, January through June.
  • In June, 8 people graduated from our Commercial Urban Agriculture program.
  • 1450 people from across the globe visited Milwaukee November 7-9 to participate in our 3rd National-International Urban & Small Farms Conference.
  • Growing Power received funding from the USDA to launch the Fresh Moves program, a mobile market program that will serve some of Chicago’s largest food deserts with repurposed Chicago Transit Authority buses.  
  • At our Chicago, Milwaukee & Madison locations we continued our Youth Corps program, through which more than 350 youth were engaged in sustainable agriculture and food literacy.
  • We started the Farmers for Chicago workshop series – a series of 6 workshops throughout the spring to train new growers in Chicago. This project is funded primarily through a grant from the USDA Community Food Project program.
  • In partnership with Root Cause, we re-launched Fresh Moves Mobile Market through an anniversary grant from the Polk Brothers Foundation. Fresh Moves is a program that will provide Chicago’s food deserts access to fresh and healthy produce via mobile markets made from re-purposed Chicago Transit Authority buses.
  • Once again we exhibited at the Chicago Flower and Garden show with an elaborate display of edible and ornamental plants. Growing Power also collaborated with the Chicago Park District and presented two bee keeping and mushroom workshops at the Flower and Garden show.
  • Youth Corps members partnered with After School Matters Culinary Program to grow produce for their teen cuisine buffet, attended by over 100 participants.
  • We began selling Growing Power produce at 10 Chicago area Food Oasis-Walgreens stores in Chicago’s food deserts.
  • The first class of Badger Rock Middle School 8th graders graduated in June. They learned about sustainable agriculture methods from participating in Growing Power programming during their middle school years.
  • Growing Power Madison continued to offer free monthly community dinners to the neighborhood surrounding the Badger Rock Middle School.
  • We collaborated with the Odyssey program, an adult education program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. This partnership is facilitated by one of Growing Power’s board members, Ariel Kaufman.

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!

Conference participants get a tour of our farm
Conference participants get a tour of our farm
Elementary students get to meet our fish
Elementary students get to meet our fish
Our market stand at Juneteenth in Milwaukee
Our market stand at Juneteenth in Milwaukee
A hoophouse is built during our weekend workshop
A hoophouse is built during our weekend workshop
Volunteers assist with our seedling transplants
Volunteers assist with our seedling transplants


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!

Carrott Bumper Crop
Carrott Bumper Crop

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.

Sysco/GP Farm
Sysco/GP Farm

 Dear Friends,

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.


Will Allen

Farmer, Founder & CEO


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Organization Information

Growing Power

Location: Milwaukee, WI - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Growing Power
Project Leader:
Cassie Brayton
Milwaukee, WI United States

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