The only land in the city of Milwaukee zoned as farmland is the 2 acres on the northern outskirts on which Growing Power sits. It’s a poor neighborhood near housing projects. Executive director Will Allen, who grew up on a farm in Maryland, partnered with Growing Power in 1993 to fight what he calls “food racism” and to teach people, young and old, about farming on limited space in urban areas. Here’s a quote from the “Our History” section of Growing Power’s website:
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, perma-culture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth development, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.
Growing Power also has farms in Chicago, including one built right on top of an old basketball court.
There’s a similar organization called Denver Urban Gardens in my neck of the woods. It started in 1985 and hired co-executive directors in 1993. Today DUG has more than 80 sites in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods throughout Denver.
Tiri’s Garden “broke ground” last year at the corner of 15th and California in downtown Denver. It was the brainchild of Christie Isenberg. Here’s a Westword article that has a list of other articles about what’s going on in Denver.
How is this restoration? Well, it’s not technically land restoration, if by that you mean restoration of privately or publicly owned lands that are mostly dedicated to habitat for animals and plants. But it is restoration of the urban environment. It is restoration of health for people in poor neighborhoods who may never have learned to farm and may not have any grocery stores nearby, since the big chains tend to avoid poor neighborhoods. And you might even call it restoration of the built environment, the kind of thing Storm Cunningham mentions in his book The Restoration Economy, which I’m quoting from on this blog.
You might find more information about these kinds of projects if you searched for “Transition Towns” online or for “Transition Your City.”