Bronzeville launches urban agriculture program for low-income children

Posted at 12:22 PM, Jul 27, 2016

A program underway in Milwaukee’s Bronzeville neighborhood this summer aims to teach low-income children about urban agriculture and the environment.

It’s run at Neighborhood House, a community center near 29th and State Streets that serves children and families in struggling parts of the city.

The urban agriculture program has been around in its current form for two years. But Niki Espy, the organization’s Health Initiatives Supervisor, said gardening has long been part of the summer programming there.

Espy said roughly 200 kids, grades K through 12, meet weekly for two and a half months during the summer.

She said students enrolled have the chance to tend to gardens and grow various fruits and vegetables.

“We water our gardens every day, or every other day,” said Nelicia Miranda, who’s participating in the program. 

Espy called the area around Neighborhood House a food desert, lacking grocery stores and fresh produce.

“We have kids here who’ve never had a fresh tomato off the vine,” she said.

“So the overall goal is to get the kids to understand what fresh tastes like, why it’s good for you,” Espy said. “If they see they don’t have it in their area, they should grow up demanding it or grow it themselves if they can.”

The kids also helped to build a compost bin.

“We’re learning how to cut trees,” said Lanear Rucker, who’s enrolled in the program. “We also learned how to work a saw.”

Espy also said she hopes some of the children will use what they learn through the urban agriculture program to choose careers down the road.

“They see they can be a composter, a gardener, or a farmer,” she said.

“You don’t have to be out on a farm somewhere to engage in agriculture,” said Jeannie Fenceroy, of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Fenceroy said the foundation put $150,000 towards the urban agriculture program this summer because it encourages children to spend time outdoors.

“We know children do not get enough time outside, especially children in urban settings,” Fenceroy said.