Growing Power: Everything Matters

Growing Power: Milwaukee WI SEJ Conference Oct 09
Growing Power: Milwaukee WI SEJ Conference Oct 09

I had greater hopes for this blog post a week ago before my trip to Wisconsin. I had imagined a piece that compared and contrasted Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm (with my images and notes from last year’s SEJ conference in Roanoke) with Will Allen of Growing Power’s urban gardening initiative in Milwaukee at this year’s conference.

But the cosmos have comspired against me. First, Will Allen was not in town that day as we’d expected after some 70 folks signed up for that field trip out of the list of ten or so. He was in California and spoke to us on a speaker phone–a photograph of which was not a good fit in a side by side with Salatin.

On top of that, my meticulous notes for that field trip and the entire conference except for some few on the laptop I am sure by now have been tossed–along with my treasured 1966 copy of Sand County Almanac–in the Detroit terminal waste bin of left articles. Long story, spilt milk.

You can see a gallery of images from last Thursday’s visit to Growing Power. Unfortunately, I cannot name names or provide the details my notes would have provided.

In this shot, our enthusiastic and knowledgeable hostess stands atop the supplemental heating source for the greenhouse-hydroponics-vermiculture facilities: a massive berm of future potting soil writhing with red worms, steaming with the heat of decomposition. What I wouldn’t have given for a dump truck of that stuff at the end of our Fortress Garden!

A favorite of the tour: hundreds of trays of sprouts overhead are watered with the nutrient soup that has completed the cycle past the tilapia swimming in the tanks below and the swamp of saturated watercress in the middle.

Growing Power is a self-sustaining bell jar biosphere preserve of good will, good food and good people. This YesMagazine piece is recommended to get the full picture.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Dang!! Notes are one thing, but a treasured book is quite another. You can always buy another, but it will never replace the lost copy in memories. I’m sorry – that must have been a real tail-kicker.

  2. Excellent article on Growing Power, Fred. Thanks for giving us the link. I subscribe to Yes!, but I don’t seem to have the time to read the issues. Sigh …..

  3. The Yes article was so impressive. That Will Allen is some guy. I intended to start community gardens when I retired a few years ago, but so far it has remained only good intentions. My hat is off to all the folks who have done it. Nothing is more worthwhile.
    Any hope for retrieving your things from Detroit’s lost and found? I know the conference was still extremely worthwhile, even with the loss of all the particulars.