GROWING POWER , Inc
Growing Power is a sustainable urban agriculture center located in the city of Milwaukee. It was founded by Will Allen to introduce healthier food options to the urban community, while simultaneously demonstrating a sustainable model for local food production.
In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens
who needed a place to work.
Will Allen was a farmer with land.
Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.
Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a ”living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers, and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include the following: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, permaculture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth education, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.
The simple truth is that it all starts with the soil. Without good soil,
crops don’t get enough of the nutrients they need to survive and
when plants are stressed, they are more prone to disease and pest
problems. That’s why we grow our own compost and vermicompost –
10 million tons of it a year. That compost goes onto every growing bed
we raise crops on. Because we know what goes in to the compost,
we aren’t worried that the soil is contaminated with lead or other
chemicals that humans just shouldn’t eat.
At Growing Power, we raise all of our crops sustainably, which is a term that means we grow produce
at or above current organic standards but we have not been certified organic by the U.S.
government. Currently, it just is not a priority of ours. We would all much rather be in the fields than
filling out lots of paper work for the government.
To grow sustainably means that we do not use any synthetic chemicals –
fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides – on any of our crops. We prefer to do
things the old fashioned way; we hand pick weeds, we control pests with
beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and we use foliar compost tea to help
control pest and bacteria problems. As a very last resort, we use only
certified organic pesticides like Neem oil and Pyrethrum, a pesticide made
from Chrysanthemum leaves.
In addition, we buy all of our seed from reputable seed companies who do not treat their seeds with pesticides or other chemicals. Seed companies that we often use are Johnny’s Seed and Seed Savers. These are seed companies that we trust and who are committed to helping their communities.
Ready, set, seed!
This is how we seed our pots of greens and herbs – all 20,000 of them.
First, we fill the pot with compost. Next, we add worms that will continue to break down the compost in the pot and supply the crop with nutrients over the growing period. Then, we sprinkle seeds across the soil. Finally, we cover the seed with coir, a sustainable peat moss substitute made from coconut fibers which helps with water retention.
Unconventional Hoop Dreams
Will Allen is an excellent basketball player. In fact he played professionally for six years. Fortunately for Growing Power, Will likes to farm too. The Chicago Lights Urban Farm at Cabrini-Green is the perfect combination of both of his passions. The entire garden is built on an old basketball court – literally, on top of concrete.
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