Growing Power is an exceptionally productive urban farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that has figured out how to fully integrate all of the farming systems into a single holistic system to produce food, teach teenagers, create community, and provide jobs. The entire farm has placed great emphasis on taking advantage of the natural relationships between systems to streamline farming, so that more food can be produced, in less acreage, for less money. The above video is captured from the internet, and created by AmericaGov.
There are multiple parts to the system. First, there is the vermiculture (composting with worms). The compost is created from organic wastes from the gardening, but also from the community surrounding the farm, creating a healthy relationship with neighbors. This compost is exceptionally rich soil for the plant life, but it also creates natural heat, which is used to warm the greenhouses during the cold Wisconsin winters. This allows them to grow food year round, which in Wisconsin is a big deal! The farm raises tilapia, which is a fish that can live in exceptionally high density, thereby keeping the footprint of the buildings small. The tilapia is sold by Growing Power, but more importantly, the fish waste is the perfect food for the plants in the greenhouse. There are just a few simple water pumps that move the water from the fish tanks through the simple rock filters, and through the vegetables and flowers that are growing in the greenhouses. The water that comes out of the greenhouse, after passing through all of the plant life, is filtered to a point that it can be returned to the fish tanks without increasing the toxicity of the water. They are taking advantage of typical symbiotic relationships found in nature. The water pumps are run by solar panels, capturing the free energy of the sun. They raise bees, to collect and sell honey, but the concentration of bees also ensures the vegetables and flowers (for sale) get pollinated. There are too many integrated systems for me to describe all of them here. Please see their website, listed below, for more information.
Growing Power’s mission is to create food in a sustainable way, and to create jobs for young urban teenagers, whereby teaching healthy ways to live sustainably. They have managed to become very successful in their efforts. They have started a number of similar urban farms in other cities as well. The University of Wisconsin is now contributing their expertise and influence to support Growing Power’s objectives. Will Allen’s story is pretty amazing, and he was recently recognized by the White House for his efforts in sustainable agriculture.
I love this organization because it has an integrated way of thinking, that allows nature to produce the abundance of food that it naturally wants to produce. Integrative design is all about designing the relationships between systems – not designing the systems themselves. When the relationships are carefully considered, the whole integrated system becomes much more than the sum of the parts. It becomes exceedingly efficient, cheaper to operate, and super productive. It is possible to capture the things we need in life, without the incredible environmental losses we are currently experiencing. All we need to do is design relationships that sustain natural processes, and capture our piece of the abundance that comes from it.
Visit them here: http://www.growingpower.org/index.htm
See some pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/growingpower/
One additional video: “One Million Pounds of Food on 3 Acres”