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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee

Letter from Publisher

Jul 03, 2019 02:26PM

This past spring, I had the pleasure of seeing Growing Place: A Visual Study of Urban Farming, an urban agriculture exhibition that ran at the Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Grohmann Museum. Milwaukee abounds with urban farms today, but the exhibition proved that our city has deep roots when it comes to growing food wherever space allows.

In the late 1800s, when Milwaukee was emerging as an industrial powerhouse, immigrants found work not just in brewing and iron mills, but also in urban fields, growing and harvesting crops such as celery. Planner and conservationist Charles Whitnall, who was influential in developing our stunning Milwaukee County Parks system, had called for fruit orchards to be planted throughout Downtown Milwaukee as early as 1911. Milwaukee led the nation in the victory garden harvests during World War I and World War II. After gardening hit a dip during mass consumerism, brought on by mid-century post-war affluence, Milwaukee activists and mentors again led in reviving urban gardening efforts to teach skills and grow food in areas hit by disinvestment and factory shutdowns during the 1970s and 1980s.

In the 1990s, Will Allen led a resurgence in urban farming, and although his signature project Growing Power has closed, he’s still leading urban farming efforts that teach sustainability and job skills while providing healthy nutritious food for everyone. Promoting similar visions and missions are Walnut Way, Victory Garden Initiative, We Got This, Alice’s Garden, HOME GR/OWN, Cream City Farms, Teens Grow Greens, CORE El Centro and countless nonprofits, government and other public and private entities. Innovative urban farmers are experimenting with hydroponics, aquaponics and microgreens to grow food all year long indoors, circumventing the limitations previously set by Wisconsin’s harsh winters.

I encourage you to support local agriculture by visiting one (or several) of the Milwaukee area’s vast farmers’ markets this season. Or tear a page from Milwaukee’s rich urban agricultural history and continue those traditions by growing your own vegetables and flowers in the yard or on a patio, or even start simple with herbs in small window boxes or planters. There’s an immense sense of joy and calm in playing in the dirt under the sun, smelling the rich scent of the Earth’s soil and watching your seeds sprout and grow into healthy and tasty fresh foods. UW-Extension has a wealth of information for aspiring gardeners (Milwaukee.Extension.Wisc.edu/horticulture).

Urban agriculture is a win-win for everyone, and together we can keep Milwaukee green and growing.

From my green thumb to yours,

Gabriella Buchnik, publisher

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