Peninsular Place


October 1, 2012

Adventures in Local Food #22


In it to win it

By now you’ve probably heard about growing food in the city and maybe even about raising urban chickens and bees, but what about tilapia, crawfish, meat chickens and goats? How about worm composting (vermiculture), edible mushrooms and unheated hoophouses that can remain over 100 degrees even in the dead of a Wisconsin winter? All of these things (and more) are happening in and around the city of Milwaukee and also in Chicago, thanks to the work of Growing Power.

In the beginning of September, I had the privilege of going to Milwaukee to attend Growing Power’s second annual national and international small and urban farms conference. This three day event brought together urban growers, activists, educators, entrepreneurs, health professionals and other local food enthusiasts from Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, California, British Columbia and many other places in between. In particular, it was great to see that a lot of people were there from Detroit to strengthen partnerships with Growing Power, with a large contingent from Earthworks Urban Farm and the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s D-Town Farm.

For those of you unaware of Growing Power, they have been around since 1993 and are arguably the most famous urban agriculture organization in America. They have trained and/or shared their knowledge with many of the top people and organizations in the local food movement through their Regional Operations Training Center (ROTC), partnered with first lady Michelle Obama on her ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign, and their Executive Director, Will Allen, just won a $500,000 MacArthur Genius Grant! But you would never know about all that high profile success if you talked to Will, his daughter Erika (who runs Growing Power Chicago) or any other one of his 150 paid staff members.

There is no ego there with anyone, nor are there any barriers to accessing their incredible agricultural wisdom. Even with all his success, Will is still the farmer at Growing Power, keeping the seeds in his truck, making all the planting decisions for their many many sites and even personally seeding a lot of the plants himself! In addition, those who obtained a scholarship to the conference had to describe how they would share the information they learned with their community when they returned home. As you can probably gather, everyone at Growing Power is incredibly open and willing to share their knowledge – and all for free.

It is an understatement to say that it was incredibly refreshing and inspiring. I even got to trade pepper seeds with a few of the Growing Power growers! The entire organization is clearly in it to win it for all of us, and their genuine commitment to a better food system as well as more equitable and sustainable cities restored my hope in the capacity for social change that is locally-grown and produced food! This is especially significant since often the rampant green-washing of industrial food and the way in which many entrepreneurs and non-profits look to at urban agriculture, sustainability and local food as trendy buzzwords upon which they can make money or build a name for themselves can often be demoralizing for us growers.

At the end of the day, Growing Power is amazing because they show us what the local food movement should (and does) look like: an incredibly diverse group of people unified by the celebration of their differences who want to make local, organically-grown food accessible not just to the wealthy or to the environmentally-conscious but to all of us. So, thank you, Growing Power, for all you do to inspire the rest of us to be in it to win it and to remember that we can’t stop and won’t stop until we are all living the dream of local food!

Want to get even more inspired? Visit or take a trip to Milwaukee and attend one of their training workshops offered once a month January through June.


About the Author

Stefanie Stauffer
Stefanie Stauffer
Stefanie is a local food crusader and another awesome member of the iSPY team.

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