Like everyone else, I want to see Milwaukee grow. Economically, socially, and literally! By now, many of you have come across one of Milwaukee’s urban green spaces such as Alice’s Garden or We Got This’ Community Garden. On the surface, the value of the gardens are easily identifiable; a fresh food source to aid food deserts, improved health outcomes, and shared knowledge to address food insecurity. But that is just the tip of the iceberg lettuce.
Urban Agriculture or Urban Ag, as it is frequently called, has the ability to propel our city forward. Whether untapped career opportunities, education, regional food supply, energy creation, reduced carbon emissions, or uses for public vacant land, we continue to identify the worth of integrating the development of multi-functional urban agriculture into Milwaukee’s metropolitan landscape. Additionally, Urban Ag could certainly be an economic lifeline to the city through family-supporting jobs, an expanded tax base, reduced social service expenditures, or new revenue streams. Therefore, I have been actively engaged in educating myself and various sectors within the state on the advantages of Urban Ag to our communities.
As stated earlier, there are a number of organizations that have been committed to training and education on urban gardening in Milwaukee. Thanks to people like Will Allen of “Growing Power” or Andre Lee Ellis from “We Got This,” we have been able to get youth exposed, involved and working in these gardens. Learning how to maintain a community garden or orchard has shown to be an amazing tool to teach kids about the environment, sustainability, and build social capital to provide a vehicle for learning experiences and youth leadership opportunities. But as most of us know, gardening is something that many of our parents and grandparents know all too well.
Through Groundwork’s Milwaukee Urban Garden Network, we’ve been able to connect adults to nearly 100 gardens all over the city and provide them the supportive resources they need. These gardens provide additional benefits of social interaction and improvements to emotional, mental and physical health. And yet we can gain so much more.
We can re-tool and re-think employment in Milwaukee, by introducing and training Milwaukee’s students, from pre-school to K-12, in Urban Ag, creating opportunities for college scholarships and full-time jobs in forestry. We can help adults understand their environmental footprint, while developing a healthy social well-being. We can create a sense of community ownership, identity, and engagement. We have the ability to develop leaders, provide inter-generational discussions and bridge divides. Simply put, Urban Ag provides an additional advantage to cultivate a community where residents grow and produce.