|"Abolish Food Deserts" event in Kansas City on August 27, 2011 (from left): Sasteh Mosley |
with Green Acres Urban Farm and Research Project, Will Allen with Growing Power, and
Ernest Bradley with Lincoln University--St. Louis Urban Impact Center.
One audience member asked about composting on a school parking lot -- Allen advised him to use a series of pallet bins, allowing the group to quickly produce compost in a controlled, small space.
The event was organized by Green Acres Urban Farm and Research Project in Kansas City with sponsorship by the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension - Kansas City Urban Impact Center.
Allen emphasized that it's "all about the soil," meaning the productivity of gardens and farms relies on high quality soil. He spoke about the ingredients for producing compost -- farm waste, food waste, brewery waste, and coffee grinds mixed in with cardboard, wood chips, and leaves. Growing Power produces one million pounds of compost each year and sells it for eight times the cost of lower-quality compost
Growing Power owes its success to Allen's vision and the group's history of developing public-private partnerships with a wide array of organizations, such as the University of Wisconsin, local school systems, foundations, food distributors like Sysco, food retailers like Walmart, and social service agencies such as Catholic Charities, to name a few.
The organization has developed into a powerhouse non-profit that leverages economic development to sustain its growth. Allen mentioned Growing Power has several income channels, such as produce, compost, and honey sales. The organization maintains or supports twenty farms in Wisconsin and the Chicago area -- stretching from small urban plots to larger projects like the three-acre 5th Avenue Farm and 40-acre Merton Rural Farm Site in Hartland, Wisconsin. The organization has a significant impact in the Milwaukee-Chicago area with 100 employees, attracting 15,000 annual visitors from all over the U.S. and throughout the world, engaging 5000 volunteers, and training 1000 farmers each year.
Growing Power's cornerstone is growing food year-round in the harsh climate near Milwaukee. "If we can grow food year round, you can grow food anywhere," Allen stated during his presentation. The organization maintains its year-round growing cycle through the development of a great number of hoop houses and greenhouses. As someone who grew up in the Milwaukee area and lived through some significant snowfalls during the winters there, I was impressed to to learn that Growing Power works year-round on food production.
|Will Allen (left) with World Harvest|
Ministries' Pastor Terry Glenn
Organizations represented at the KC event included Cultivate Kansas City, KC Community Gardens, Green Acres, new-kid-on-the-block World Harvest Ministries' farmers' market at 3400 Woodland in Kansas City, and Lincoln University. These organizations have developed excellent relationships with local community groups, engaging in many aspects of the local food and growing movement, yet the scale of Growing Power challenges these groups to seek stronger regional partnerships to build a larger number of projects to address the economic and nutrition needs of KC area residents.