Market Gardening and Life at 7000 ft. in the Rockies of Colorado

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Growing Power

Wanted to share some some photos of our recent cross country road trip starting with a visit to Growing Power in Milwaukee. Growing Power was founded by former pro basketball player Will Allen as a community food source and learning center. After basketball and a career in corporate sales, Allen became interested in agriculture and purchased a defunct garden center on Milwaukee's north side. The 3 acre plot included a historic green house and was the last property zoned for agricultural use in the city. His urban farm stand soon became a community learning center as neighborhood youth from nearby housing projects were inspired by his enthusiasm and green thumb. He hasn't looked back and is now considered the world's preeminent authority on urban farming. A corp of dedicated volunteers are helping the expand the mission to other urban areas.

The use of space is awesome. Talk about vertical integration. On two acre they produce a truly amazing amount of produce including a thousands of pounds of a variety of fruits, vegetables, and greens, mushrooms, thousands of tilapia, lake perch, and other fish, eggs, and honey.

In greenhouse #1 they start around 3000 flats of various sprouts every day. They are harvested 4-6 days later and sold to local stores and restaurants.
The #1 thing that they produce is soil. They use several composting methods. In green house #2 worm bins turn food scraps into vermicompost.
The bins are watered daily and the run off is collected to be used as "worm tea" fertilizer.

The center piece of the operation is their aquaculture systems. Large wooden frames both above and below ground are lined with pond liner. The fish require around one gallon of water per fish. Most of the ponds ard between five and ten thousand gallons. They employ a three tiered system to save space,filter the water, and use the fish waste as fertilizer. Tomatoes or peppers are placed on the top tier. Water is pumped from the fish tank up to the top and the plants absorb water from the bottom up.

The water then flows down to the middle tier which is planted in water cress. The water cress is raised as an additional crop and helps filter the water which then flows back down to the fish tank aerating it.

Here shiitake mushroom logs hang over lake perch to keep them moist. Note the "anti-suicide" netting.

Adult fish are moved larger tanks for finishing.

Every square foot is utilized.

Storm water is collected, stored, and pumped back in to keep the system full.
A passive solar array is used to maintain water temp.
Another composting method is used to heat the greenhouses in the winter. The soil is dug out about 24" deep and a mix of wood chips and spent brewers mash is laid down and covered with more wood chips. This "hot mix" keeps the houses at a toasty temp. for up to six months. This is old hot mix waiting to be sifted.

Hot mix between crop rows allows year round growing in cold frame hoop houses.

Gotta build me one of these compost sifters.
Out back goats make milk and manure for compost.

A small apiary provides pollinators and honey. There you have it. Solar powered self sustaining urban farm.

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