Recap of recent Haas414 urban ag stories

An insanely great amount of urban gardening work has occurred in the city of Milwaukee in just the past month. I now want to condense and summarize what I’ve been active with and writing about.

• May Day 2010 saw the building of an enormous community garden. The aptly named Bay View Hide House Community Garden sports of 110 raised beds, and was built in less than one day’s time by a huge outpouring of volunteers. It was also made possible by generous grants from Home Depot, the Hide House, the City of Milwaukee, the Bay View Neighborhood Association, and numerous other business, organizations, and individual donors.

• Three weeks later, the Victory Garden Initiative’s second annual Great Milwaukee Victory Garden Blitz saw the building of at least 200 raised bed gardens all around the city and its suburbs. Sites ranging from Michigan Avenue in the downtown, the working class housing of the central city, and the spacious lots in Whitefish Bay and Oak Creek all became home to gardens where people were suddenly enabled to grow their own food. This is an important step in addressing the “food desert” phenomenon that plagues many American cities. As Folkbum pointed out, there’s a correlation between homes living in poverty, and their children’s educational performance. We built raised bed gardens at two dozen of those central city homes this year through the Blitz. I hope that these new gardens will become a source of better, more nutritious food than the swill that is most easily available in the poor neighborhoods.

• Last year, I’d begun writing about urban ag initiatives in Milwaukee and Kansas City, Missouri. For some reason, the posts never made it past draft status. My home city has its own official urban garden on the grounds of one of its buildings downtown. KC MO has gone further by adopting a Climate Protection Plan that directly incorporates urban farming, and contains some very progressive ideas about zoning and taxation to help encourage urban farming. We are rapidly gaining a reputation as the Midwest’s center for urban gardening. We can further it and our collective reputation through continued municipal support. I again call on the City of Milwaukee, as well as Milwaukee County, to adopt similar ordinances.

(To be fair, Milwaukee County operates several large community gardens, including the newest one in the south side Garden District neighborhood. They deserve continued support and expansion.)

I helped build a raised bed garden at the ALBA School on 32nd and Mitchell Street. I helped a delightful young boy named Guillermo use the power drill to build the bed. He was proud of what he’d done!

And after all the garden blitzing and community garden building was over, I turned my attention to our home gardens. I built two impromptu raised beds around our yard; created perhaps ten potato gardens out of tires, buckets, and compost; redesigned our front yard herb garden; and planted a variety of seeds and seedlings. We now have growing:

Pole peas, bush beans, Japanese eggplant, brussels sprouts, broccoli, red Russian kale, lettuces, cantaloupe, summer squash, many kinds of tomatoes, collard greens, white onions (how’d I forget those?), red and brown potatoes, radishes, and… cucumbers. (Some wild mushrooms have started growing on the side of one bed, but I’m not going to try them.)

Did I forget anything? Well, I can always come back and add it if I did.

Oh, and, very exciting, the South Shore Farmers Market starts this Saturday!

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Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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