Growing Power: My Urban Farming Adventure (Part 1 of 2)

Johanna Bye's picture

While my classmates left the Midwest for sunny locales this spring break, I headed to Milwaukee, where I spent a few days learning the ins and outs of urban farming at Growing Power, a national nonprofit and land trust that supports diverse populations and communities by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe, and affordable food.

Will Allen, the farm’s founder, is speaking at this year’s Congress in Madison, WI, which is dedicated to “Growing Local”—investigating the how and why behind the local option. As an urban planning graduate student, I had heard the term “urban agriculture,” yet knew very little about the food system and its role—or lack thereof—in urban communities. I left for Milwaukee with hopes of learning the day-to-day happenings of an urban farm and experiencing its larger role within the community.

One should know that life on the farm is not for the faint of heart. I was prepared to get dirty, but not wet, filthy, smelly, and frazzled. Farm work is physically draining, and at times monotonous (I subtly avoided “making trays” after several hours of the task day one). I admire Growing Power’s staff and volunteers, who tirelessly worked through rain, snow, and hail during my three days there, all doing their best to keep the farm functioning and prosperous.

My favorite part about Growing Power? The animals. I bet many of the farm’s neighbors would be surprised to know that just yards from their homes live hundreds of chickens and dozens of goats, ducks, and turkeys. Feeding time was a thrill for an animal-lover like me; there’s nothing like the pitter-patter of hundreds of little chicken feet racing towards you at breakfast, lunch, and dinnertime (these hens aren’t fed your basic chicken feed; a large portion of their diet includes fresh produce). And feeling a warm chicken egg in your hands? It really made me think: how fresh is the food I eat? Do I have any idea where it comes from? And how can I rate its quality? I would posit that like me, most people in America know very little about the quality and origin of the food they consume. We need more farms like Growing Power, whose meat and produce can be found at local restaurants and markets throughout Milwaukee.

The question of where our food comes from becomes even more pertinent as gas prices soar across the US. Is our current food production system sustainable? It’s doubtful. Can we cut costs by producing locally? Certainly. After three days on Will Allen’s farm, its become apparent that Growing Power, and urban farms just like it, are not merely a fad. We should all pay a little more attention to the food we eat, and like Will, consider a move towards “Growing Local.”

Stayed tuned for Part 2 of my urban farming adventure, where I’ll discuss Growing Power’s role in Milwaukee’s urban communities and beyond.


This is a great introduction

This is a great introduction to how organizations such as Growing Power are taking aim at revitalizing urban spaces and putting them to sustainable use.


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