There’s something beautiful in the dirt and smell of a rusty old building full of green, growing things.

A week or so ago, my day-job boss took our small team on a field trip to Growing Power, just North of Downtown Milwaukee. Will Allen leads his growing team of urban farmers as they constantly work on new, sustainable community food systems.

Growing Power has been on my list to visit for a while and I’m thankful my boss has a deep interest in aquaponics, local farming and organic food.

As the only zoned farmland in the city limits, Growing Power, is a true-blue urban farm. Along with their 2 acres, they have 14 additional sites throughout the city, 2 rural farms and several urban farms in Chicago.

At the original site, where we toured, on the meager 2 acres, they stretch as much out of every nook and cranny as they possibly can. We went from greenhouse to greenhouse seeing everything from aquaponic systems with  watercress growing at the top and tilapia at the bottom, to crates full of composted, worm-filled dirt and mushrooms cultivating on logs.

As we headed out towards the back, the maze continued to unfold with livestock – mostly goats, chickens, turkeys and ducks – and bees! Their closeness to a nature preserve allows for the bees to find ample amounts of flowers without bugging (sorry for the pun) the human neighbors. I was also surprised to find that their bees have a 100% survival rate through the winter. They only harvest 50% of the honey during the warm weather, which leaves enough for the bees to feed on during the winter. Apparently, that’s not the norm.

Growing Power sources their produce to a plethora of restaurants, corporate cafeterias and markets in town. They also compost for many of the establishments.

It was a chilly adventure (for the outdoor portion) and I’d recommend grubby shoes or Wellies to tour, but it was a nice escape from the doldrums of a typical winter day to be surrounded by so much green.

They have big plans for a new building and a vertical farm next to their current building.

And of course, volunteer and workshop opportunities abound. Growing Power strives to inspire communities to build sustainable food systems that are equitable and ecologically sound, and so they invite anyone and everyone to come and learn and take the knowledge back to their own communities to build and grow.

The adventure made me impatient for Spring (and to grow things!)!

- Colleen