GLENDALE — Groundwork Milwaukee is changing the way that urban farming is done in Milwaukee.
The nonprofit focuses on three main areas: its urban farm on the border of Milwaukee and Glendale, building gardens, and youth and volunteer outreach programs.
"Last year we grew 12,000 pounds of produce in a year, which feels excellent, and all of this is given for free. Just donated to food pantries in the area," Samson Srok, a food systems specialist with Groundwork Milwaukee, said.
The farm, located on 4287 N. Port Washington Rd. in Glendale, is in collaboration with the Riverwest Food Pantry. Most of the produce is donated there and the rest goes to other food pantries in the area.
The food is grown all year in hoop houses, which are kind of like greenhouses. The produce that is grown there includes: beets, leeks, onions, carrots, tomatoes, collards, kale, cucumbers, broccoli, peas, cabbage, cauliflower, and eggplant.
One of the main goals of Groundwork Milwaukee is helping people become sustainable on their own. The nonprofit will help individuals start their own gardens.
"Build a lot of raised beds. Rainwater harvest structures. Something we're doing this year is provide tools and resources for new gardeners. Free seedlings. Free supplies," said Srok.
If people are able to sustain their household, they won't need to rely on food pantries.
"The farm is here for food charity, but like cultivating community gardeners is true food sovereignty. I's creating communities that know how to grow their own food or cultivating recipes," Srok said.
In addition to helping people grow their own garden, they also crowd source food donations from people who already have enough food and grow food as a hobby. Within their network of gardens, if someone has extra food, they ask the food be given to Groundwork Milwaukee. It will then be donated to various food pantries.
"Collect produce from backyard gardens, and like collect it and then distribute it to pantries. We'll also glean from fruit trees. If you know any fruit tree owners - because a fruit tree will give you so much more than you can possibly take," Srok said.
It's all about reducing the amount of food waste that is generated, and making sure it gets to the people who truly need it.
YOUTH AND VOLUNTEER OUTREACH PROGRAMS
None of this would be possible without the help and support of volunteers - not just the ones who have their own garden and give the nonprofit extra produce.
Much of the volunteer work is done at the urban farm in Glendale. They need help weeding, harvesting and cleaning produce, pest management, soil management, and overall care of the farm. For those interested, volunteer days are: Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and Wednesdays from 5-7:30 p.m.
Those times are for general volunteering. They also have four other volunteer/work opportunities to get involved: young farmers, ground corps, green team, and green futures. Some cater towards middle school education on green infrastructure, sustainable living, and farming. Others focus on green construction and maintenance of current gardens and farms.