Growing Power Final Assessment

First and foremost, everyone who works and volunteers at Growing Power has an interesting story. The vision that Will Allen has become famous for—providing nutritional, local food for all people—is a powerful one and one that attracts interesting people.

While many of my criticisms still stand, perhaps one of my biggest frustrations that began at week one, and continued throughout is the lack of collective knowledge of actually growing plants (or the power to implement proper care). The tomatoes are poorly staked, the chard is too old, and in general everything is over-watered. The idea of growing so much food in pots drives me nuts and the medium for hydroponic tomatoes shouldn’t be compost. There are insect infestations in and out of the greenhouses because of over-watering, lack of drainage, and  in general just not enough time to properly care for each different kind of plant. And don’t get me started on rotten duck eggs!

But you can take all of this as personal opinion if you’d like because it may just be a different farming philosophy than my philosophy of Permaculture. Growing Power is essentially a conventional system of growing food, without the use of pesticides. And what I think I’ve learned here, as in many organizations—for profit or non profit—is that the image and idea is more important than the implementation. The fact that we sell tomatoes grown from our own greenhouses proves that it is possible to grow anything in our greenhouses in Milwaukee, and that we can successfully sell that produce to residents of the neighborhood proves that there is a demand for this food. Growing Power doesn’t want to be an elite provider of gourmet greens to people whose habits are McDonald’s. Though they do take advantage of the sale of those gourmet greens to high-end restaurants, its access to hand-to-mouth kinds of food to residents who wouldn’t know what to do with Arugula that are the main goal.

We’ve also taken on a lot of projects within the community, from selling produce at corporate headquarter’s farmer’s markets to installing community gardens in schools and municipal spaces. Its a ton of work, more than Growing Power has the capacity to do. But its the idea that every neighborhood can and should have a community garden, and that farmer’s markets can and should be popping up everywhere. Its the relationships that are based on good, local food that really matters.

I didn’t really set goals for what I wanted to get out of this internship, but I’m sure that I could not have set out to learn what I did. I feel the biggest lessons I’ve learned were things that I don’t want to do, and from the mistakes that other people have made. I can learn how to grow, harvest, package and market produce from an urban farm by taking classes at our local community college—which I’ll do this fall at Central Carolina Community College—but I could not learn how relationships are built within those classroom walls.  And that’s truly invaluable to our own organization back home.

Also, I like goats!

Thank you Growing Power for two fantastic months!

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