Co-Founder of Wake Up World
I recently posted an article, How 1 MILLION Pounds Of Organic Food Can Be Produced On 3 Acres, which featured the work of farmer Will Allen, the Urban Farmer. Will has figured out a self-sustaining agricultural system that can grow 1 million pounds of food every year, on just 3 acres of land using the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a re-circulating system.
And you can do it too!
The response we received from our previous story was amazing, and we received countless questions from readers who wanted to know more about this simple but ground-breaking concept. So today, I am happy to provide you more detailed information on Aquaponics and the Growing Power organisation’s community initiatives, answer some of your frequently asked questions, and share with you an interview with Will Allen (pictured), the founder of Growing Power.
Growing Power began with a farmer, a plot of land, and a core group of dedicated young people. Today, their love of the land and their dedication to sharing knowledge of sustainably farming practices is changing lives for the better.
According to founder Will Allen “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”
At Growing Power, their goal is a simple one: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow communities.
So how do they do it?
Growing Power’s Projects
Growing Power’s community projects fall into three essential areas of focus:
Grow – Projects and Growing Methods
Growing Power demonstrates their easy-to-replicate growing methods through on-site workshops and hands-on demonstrations. They have farms in Milwaukee and Merton, Wisconsin, and in Chicago, Illinois. Growing Power has also established satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi.
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 they grow their own compost and vermicomposting – 10 million tons of it a year. That compost goes onto every growing bed they raise crops on. Because they know what goes in to the compost, they aren’t worried that the soil is contaminated with lead or other chemicals that humans just shouldn’t eat.
Bloom – Education and Technical Assistance
Growing Power’s educates folks through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities. They also run multiple youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on agricultural policy initiatives.
Thrive – Food Production and Distribution
Food production occurs in the organization’s demonstration greenhouses, rural farm site in Merton, and urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago. They also distribute produce, grass-based meats, and value-added products through the activities of over 300 small family farmers in the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, and the organization’s year-round food security program the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program. They also sell produce to numerous restaurants and small grocery stores in Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee.
Interview – Will Allen, the Urban Farmer
Cornerstones of Growing Power
Aquaculture is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a re-circulating system. Growing Power uses Tilapia and Yellow Perch to fertilize a variety of crops and herbs using aquaponics, the method of growing crops and fish together in a re-circulating system. In the Growing Power aquaponics model, crops grow vertically on raised beds.
Learn more: http://www.growingpower.org/aquaponics.htm
Bees may be the hardest workers on the farm – and that is saying something! Worker bees travel more than 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to collect pollen to make just one pound of honey. At Growing Power, their apiary is filled with European Honey Bees, or Apis Mellifera. The bees collect nectar from several sources, but in Milwaukee the primary pollen source is white clover and basswood, creating a light yellow, delicious, high-value honey. Each hive produces 150 pounds of honey each year.
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/bees.htm
Living systems are composed of carbon residue, microorganisms, minerals, and red wriggler worms. The resulting material is remarkably fertile, giving plants access to the nutrients needed for both plant growth and for human nutrition. The “closed-loop” ecological approach to this system allows for the clean up of contaminants in the soil, for digestion and transformation of food waste, and for the production of fertilizer that is far more effective than chemical treatments. The high microbial count in their system helps fight off soil disease and breaks down food waste rapidly, keeping plants strong and healthy.
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/compost.htm
At Growing Power’s urban farm in Milwaukee, they raise a variety of livestock to create fertilizer for their farms and as a protein source. They feed their livestock an all-natural, sustainably raised grass and vegetable diet, and they supplement with commercial vegetable feed when needed. They do not use antibiotics or growth hormones on any of their animals.
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/livestock.htm
Vermicompost, or worm compost, is the final product of the breakdown of organic material by worms. At Growing Power, they use worms to create a nutrient-rich, organic fertilizer and soil conditioner that they use on all of their growing beds and as a value-added product that they sell at their store and at farmers’ markets.
There are many varieties of worms, but for worm bin composting, they use a few specific earthworm species called Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or Red Earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus). Red worms are often found in soils rich with organic materials in Europe and North America. These species prefer living in compost piles and crawl horizontally throughout the pile to consume rotting food waste
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/worms.htm
The Urban Farm Currently Includes:
- six traditional greenhouses growing over 15,000 pots of herbs, salad mix, beet greens, arugula, mustards, seedlings, sunflower and radish sprouts. These greenhouses also host production of six hydroponic systems growing Tilapia, Perch, and a variety of herb and salad greens, and over 50 bins of red wriggler worms;
- two aquaponics hoop houses with two independent fish runs and growing beds for additional salad mix and seedlings;
- seven hoop houses growing a mixture of salad greens and mushrooms;
- a worm depository hoop house;
- an apiary with 14 beehives;
- three poultry hoop houses with laying hens and ducks;
- outdoor pens for livestock including goats and turkeys;
- a large plot of land on which the first stage of the organization’s sophisticated composting operation is located including 30 pallet compost systems;
- an anaerobic digester to produce energy from the farm’s food waste;
- a rain water catchment system; and
- a retail store to sell produce, meat, worm castings, and compost to the community.
Will Allen Talks Us Through ‘Growing Power’
Community Food Centers
Growing Power’s Community Food Centers are local places where people can learn sustainable practices to grow, process, market, and distribute food. The prototype for Community Food Centers is the Growing Power facility at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The centre offers schools, universities, government agencies, farmers, activists, and community member’s opportunities to learn from and participate in the development and operation of Community Food Systems.
This historic two-acre farm is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee. Since 1999, their Community Food Centre has provided a wonderful space for hands-on activities, large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs. In a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/headquarters.htm
Regional Outreach Training Centers
The vision for Regional Outreach Training Centers is to provide Growing Power’s technical training support at the local level as an expansion of their Vision: Inspiring communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, creating a just world, one food-secure community at a time. A Regional Outreach Training Center, or ROTC, will be able to host Growing Power, “From the Ground Up” type workshop for the region and will receive technical support to plan and develop a Community Food Systems project inspired by Growing Power’s Community Food Center and Projects.
Growing Power transforms communities by supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environments in which they live through the development of Community Food Systems. These systems provide high-quality, safe, healthy, affordable food for all residents in the community. Growing Power develops Community Food Centers, as a key component of Community Food Systems, through training, active demonstration, outreach, and technical assistance.
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/training_centers.htm
Volunteer – Ready to Get Your Hands Dirty?
Whether you want to help your community, learn more about growing food, or just want to get your hands in the soil, Growing Power offers opportunities for individuals and groups to get in touch with the land. Many different types of volunteer opportunities exist, from farming to graphic design.
Learn more: www.growingpower.org/volunteer.htm
Growing Power tours of their Community Food Center in Milawaukee begin at 1:00 pm every day of the week. A tour of the facility costs $10.00 per person, and typically takes a little over an hour to complete.
Tours of the Chicago Lights Urban Farm occur every Saturday from March through to November at 10:00am. A donation of $10.00 is suggested.
State of The Re:Union – a Food Revolution In Milwaukee
Growing Power Contact Information:
Milwaukee National Headquarters and Urban Farm:
5500 W. Silver Spring Drive, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53218
Tel. 414.527.1546 l Fax 414.527.1908
Email: [email protected]
Previous articles by Andy Whiteley:
- 16 Foods That’ll Re-Grow from Kitchen Scraps
- More Corruption Revealed as NSW Government Pre-Approves Planning Application
- “Esoteric” Content Censorship…. Coming Soon to a Website Near You!!
- Corporations Masquerading as Government in Australia & World Wide
- If We Are Truly Sovereign Beings, Why Do We Ask For Permission?
- GE Spokesperson Speaks to Wake Up World About Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (with Ethan Indigo Smith)
- The Legacy of Goolabeen, the Last Fully Initiated Female Elder of the Darkinoong
- Original Elder Arrested in Parliament as Constitutional Challenge Gathers
About the author:
Andy Whiteley is a former corporate manager turned writer, editor and co-founder of Wake Up World. Guided by a strong sense of justice, Andy is a vocal advocate for genuine systemic change. He believes we are on a necessary path (albeit bumpy) to a renewed social model – grounded in love, transparency, individuality, sustainability and spirit – and through his role at Wake Up World, he hopes to have a positive influence on that transition.
Andy lives with his partner of 13 years (co-founder, Ryan) and currently splits his time between Wake Up World and the beautiful hills of the NSW Central Coast.