[by Sherry Staub — Editor’s note: Sherry Staub, an Iowa food activist, attended the Growing Power Urban Ag Conference over the weekend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Here is her report.]
What is “Growing Power”? It’s the energy that drives a movement, no, a revolution of urban gardening that is sweeping the nation. It is also a non-profit organization in the “food desert” of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where lives and communities are transformed through the availability of fresh food that includes vegetables, tilapia, perch, turkey, duck, goat cheese, and honey.
Growing Power is a resource for others who want to establish sustainable urban gardens through workshops hosted by the founder, Will Allen and his dedicated staff. That’s what they did this past weekend in Milwaukee, hosting people from literally all over the world at a conference some 800 strong. Speakers from all over the country shared expertise on everything from “Edible Landscapes” which is basically turning your entire front yard into a vegetable garden, to how to transform your school lunch program through collaborative efforts of school food service administrators, distributors, farmers and parents.
The Growing Power Facility itself is a perfect model of a “closed-loop” system. It starts with a literal mountain of compost, rich with nutrients provided in part through the services of 5,000 pounds of worms! It’s a complex system of rainwater containment, solar water heating, and natural water-filtration all designed to make the whole operation truly sustainable. From the soil in which to plant the garden, to the water necessary for plants and fish, to food for the animals, and finally to the food for human consumption…..the waste from which is used to produce the soil in which to plant the garden….and on it goes.
And it’s not just about food. You hear words like “justice,” “dignity” and “community” as often as you do “compost,” “nutrients” and “livestock.” Growing Power hosts dozens of Youth Corps workers every summer as well as interns from universities all over the country. Young people who readily make the connection to the earth and whose lives are restored and fulfilled as they strive to help the rest of us in make that connection too. Lives are changed in the process.
It is truly an agricultural art form. Spiritual, relational, beautiful, inspirational.
For more information check out the website @ growingpower.org
Sherry Staub volunteers with the Progressive Action for the Common Good Local Foods Initiative, which includes Farm-to-School, and co-facilitates a Community Garden at St.Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa.