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Rawson Ave. community garden to close at the end of 2023 growing season

The community garden has been functioning for the last 25 years and is run by UW Extension and serves 30 families.
Rawson Ave. Community Garden
Posted at 8:36 PM, Aug 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 12:00:58-04

OAK CREEK, Wis. — The Rawson Ave. community garden is a 12-acre plot of land nestled just south of Mitchell Airport. It's somewhat of a secret garden. You can't see it from Rawson Ave., but it sits on the same piece of land as the Runway Dog Exercise Area.

The land the garden sits on is owned by the airport. The community garden has been functioning for the last 25 years and is run by UW Extension and serves 30 families, including Ar Thao who was out tending to her plot on Thursday.

Ar Thao
Ar Thao

"I have my farm here almost five years," Thao told TMJ4 News. "For my kids, it's an activity too."

On her plot, she's growing green and purple kale, chard, and lettuce. Driving around the gardens, you can see others are growing tomatoes, grapes, apples, peppers, squash, and flowers.

swiss chard
Swiss chard growing in Thao's garden

"Gardening in spaces like these is a context for community connection," said UW Extension Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens Specialist Martin Ventura.

Earlier this month we reported that the Runway Dog Exercise Area will be closing down at the end of the year due to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) decision. The same fate awaits the community garden.

In a review of the Mitchell International Airport Master Plan, the FAA determined all airport-owned land must only be used for aviation-related activities.


Ventura said the gardens will close in November 2023, and that the airport has been helpful in navigating the closure of the land for public use. But, he knows the change will come with challenges for gardeners who use the space.

"If somebody told me that I could no longer cultivate that space, the feelings that would come up would be indescribably hard," Ventura said.

UW extension is actively seeking a new space that can be used within Milwaukee County.

Thao hopes something is set up by the 2024 growing season because the garden has become a fun summer activity for her family.

"If we don't have the farm to do it, we'll just stay home and be boring," she said with a laugh.

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