What a whirlwind. Whoa.
Last Tuesday morning, I left on a road trip with a friend to attend another friend's wedding--in middle-of-nowhere western Wisconsin. The wedding was this past Saturday. With that many miles to travel, we chose to extend a bit on both ends to visit friends, family, and make an urban-agriculture tour of it.
Starting pre-wedding, last Wednesday, we visited Growing Power in Milwaukee. Imagine greenhouses growing food all winter in Wisconsin. Not only that: imagine that underneath two shelves of greens, in the middle of the greenhouse they're raising 10,000 tilapia in a single tank-- made out of simple materials like 4x4s, plywood and plastic liner. It's brilliant: with a single pump, they're able to fertilize the plants with fish waste and purify the fish water via the plants. Closed-loop.
After the wedding-- in rural farm country-- we headed back for the city. In Chicago, we swung by a Chicago Growing Power site in downtown Grant Park, picked a few veggies (kale, mustards, sorrel, and chard), and then headed over to peek through the fence at Growing Home. I posted a youtube video of theirs a couple weeks back on my facebook, but it never made the blog:
They're involving homeless folks in urban ag through a job training program if I understand things right. Unfortunately, with 450 miles to drive before we reached Chicago, we didn't make it before closing. Oh, actually, it was Sunday. Wouldn't have mattered.
Next, we made the trip from Chicago to Detroit. There we visited D-Town Farm, a project of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Better than anything else, it's their History Page, that articulates what and why they're doing what they're doing. I admire their work greatly. Later in the day, we spent nearly an hour with an Americorps intern named Kaitlyn who works with the Greening of Detroit. Especially interesting was information about the Garden Resource Program (GRP). ("The Greening" is a partner of the GRP). The GRP supports 1200 gardens in the city, about 2/3 of those home gardens, the other 1/3 are community and school gardens. For $10 a year plus willingness to volunteer on a work day or offer other support to the program, gardeners get free seeds, compost, reduced garden workshop prices, etc. Lastly, we visited Earthworks a program of a Catholic Soup Kitchen. As Brother Bob told Lindsay and I, Earthworks grew out of a child asking one of the monks (who was writing up a grocery list) "What gas station are you going to get your groceries at?" In such a question, they recognized great potential to educate young folks that food comes-- not from gas stations-- but from the earth.
This morning, in Ypsilanti, just down the road from Detroit, we toured the city with Amanda Edmonds, Executive Director of Growing Hope, who I met in Atlanta at the American Community Gardening Assn annual conference back in August. (Click here for that blog post.) In seven years, they've supported 50 community and school garden projects. They host a weekly farmers' market; have partnered with 80 low-income families in their community to install gardens at their homes in the past two years; host community garden leadership training once a year; grow and educate twelve months a year using "season extension" greenhouses; bake pizzas in a cob oven that will shortly be protected with a living-roof; sell raised-bed kits; tour 2000+ people yearly through their urban farm; and more. An amazing organization. And the reason I admire their work: they're very intentional about partnering, facilitating, and supporting. They avoid creating dependencies by doing things "for" people. Instead, they build community capacity so folks can do for themselves: community development at its finest.
Okay, so that wasn't quick. Oh well. I learned so much this past week, and it's such exciting stuff I can't hardly keep it to myself. Roll on food movement. Tallahassee, the wave is approaching. Get ready for a heck of a good-eating, local-growing, everybody-learning ride.
I'm nearly home.