Growing Power Internship week #3

So after 3 weeks at Growing Power my perspective is changing a little. There are still plenty of things that I would do differently in terms of growing and animals. These are the sort of things that I learned on week 1. But now I think we’re getting to understand a little bit more about the structure of a non-profit organization and how it relates to the larger community.

On a simple level, we’ve experienced more off-site work like the neighborhood, MPS (Milwaukee Public Schools) and Growing Power relationship at Maple Tree Elementary School where Growing Power rents several acres from MPS with a 25-year lease for about $1. This is a fantastic space, in a tough neighborhood, but I feel that it isn’t being maintained well. Growing Power takes on a lot of projects, but as a non-profit has limited resources (time, money and people) to properly maintain the space. There may be a bit of ownership by 1 staff member, which is what every project needs, but she is also busy doing 10 other things, including daily on-site stuff. It may not be a 40-hour/week project, but it needs more time and resources than she is capable of or allotted. And then parts of the project are neglected, and then it takes more time and people and resources to overhaul it rather than proper daily or weekly maintenance.

Another interesting relationship is with Kohl’s corporate headquarters. We partner with them in several ways. First, their cafeteria collects and saves vegetable and bread food waste. Growing Power collects this weekly in 5 gallon buckets. We compost this at an off-site facility to divert the waste from the landfill and to contribute to our finished product of hot, steamy compost. We’ll use that compost again in a project like the installation of community gardens at the Kohl’s corporate headquarters. From that garden, employees of Kohl’s can tend a plot or subscribe to a CSA for fresh veggies! Another part of the relationship is that Kohl’s has a program where they pay employees for 4 hours of volunteer time per month, and some of those volunteers come to Growing Power to donate that time.

A deeper kind of experience and learning is from the perspective of non-profit structure, “personnel,” culture and work policies. We work 6 days a week. Everyone at Growing Power does. We don’t usually get the same day off each week. And this year the board of directors voted to decrease the number of paid holidays days  to 4: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Martin Luther King day. As an organization dedicated to food issues, I was a little disappointed with the strong American work ethic. I hope that Urban Harvest, even as a non-profit, will aspire to standards of quality work and quality play. My day of bending over pulling weeds in the 90 degree heat for 6 hours is not something that I plan to do with Urban Harvest. Americans are not often in touch with their bodies, and I don’t mean this in a touchy-feely kind of way, but that we don’t listen to the rhythms of energy and rest. We just over-caffeinate ourselves and crash at the end of the day. Perhaps the need for rest in the heat of a southern summer will come as our work as farmers shifts from producing a harvest in the summer months to harvesting in the winter months and then traveling or resting and planning in the summer.

In wanting to end on a positive note, the most important relationships that are forming, and still building are with the individuals here at Growing Power. We are quite a diverse crew which I think is incredibly important when stating a mission to serve all people in the community. And I believe that everyone who works at Growing Power has a little bit of altruism and a desire to impact change in this world. I think that everyone here must have an interesting story, and there are tons of others who just pass through with similarly interesting stories and missions. Some of these folks we get to spend every day with. Some we meet for a weekend or a week, but ultimately its these relationships that will continue to build the spirit of growing food and community. I know that Urban Harvest has already begun this work and I look forward to returning to Greensboro to continue that work.

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One response to this post.

  1. […] volunteer opportunities with a local non profit called Growing Power and helped to develop a continued partnership and recognition. Pictures from an event linked […]

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