After seeing the documentary Fresh, we decided a family trip to Growing Power would be a great idea. Growing Power is a non-profit organization and land trust that was created in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by its founder and CEO, Will Allen. The original Community Food Center is located in what is still considered a food desert, with the average resident needing to travel 3 miles to get to fresh produce. However, this is cut down from 5 miles, which is what it was before Growing Power was created.
From the website:
“Community Food Centers are local places where people can learn sustainable practices to grow, process, market, and distribute food. The prototype for Community Food Centers, as mentioned in our mission, is the Growing Power facility at 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This historic two-acre farm is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee. Since 1999, our Community Food Center has provided a wonderful space for hands-on activities, large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs. In a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.”
How inspiring! We are in the process of planning a greenhouse complete with aquaponics. It will probably go on the 30′ x 50′ cement pad out back. We’re thinking a geodosic dome would be the way to start. It’s efficient to heat and inexpensive to build compared to standard greenhouses. We could use the vertical space efficiently too. Richard is reading a book right now called The Essential Urban Farmer (Carpenter and Rosenthal, 2011). It’s written like a textbook so it’s very easy to follow with lots of illustrations, great ideas, and frugal approaches to start-up and problem-solving. The authors have proven that their ideas work through their own experiences with urban farming. All in all, a great book to read, learn from, and reference going forward.
I’m reading The American Way of Eating (McMillan, 2012). Tracie McMillan goes undercover in the fields of California, a Michigan Wal-Mart, and a New York Applebees to discover why the working poor eat the way they do. I’m about halfway through and so far she hasn’t covered much about food. I wonder if that’s the point, that the working poor are so busy surviving that there’s not much energy left to focus on food. Well, I guess I am being a bit disingenous – of course that’s her point. This makes food deserts even more defeating. If you barely have energy or resources to obtain and prepare food when it’s readily available, how are you going to afford go the extra mile (or five, or ten round-trip) to obtain fresh produce?
This is a real problem, and one that costs billions of dollars in healthcare every year. There’s no monetary motivation for companies to make whole, fresh produce available when there is much more money to be made from processed foods. It’s the seed companies, the fertilizer and pesticide companies, the pharmaceutical companies (who supply the antibiotics in the CAFO chicken, pork, and beef feed), and the food processing companies who make the real money, not the farmer who grows the food. General Mills’ biggest profit center is their cereal division. They’re taking the most inexpensive commodity available (GMO corn subsidized by the government, aka the taxpayer) and charging a premium by making it into many different forms that are essentially the same product. This is what is in the middle aisles of the local supermarket; aisles and aisles of the same three ingredients in different iterations. GMO soy, GMO corn, and GMO canola.
I’m not really sure where we’re going with this greenhouse we’re planning. I don’t think it’s going to end with us being merely self-sustaining. I think I’ve got too much to bitch about for that to be the case. Apparently Richard and I have too much energy for it to end there as well, because we wore out the chicklets at Growing Power.