2014 Emerging Farmers

Meet the Farmers!

Season One (2014)

In the 2014 season, (14) farmers are participated in the Wisconsin Emerging Farmer Program; the participants comprised 4 different racial backgrounds and their age ranged from 23 to 57. Embracing this diversity of cultures and farming experiences, “micro-farmers” gather on a monthly basis for an educational workshop led by an expert and followed up with a meal and collaborative conversation.

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Sarah Christman

“As a lifelong Milwaukee resident, it is an honor to continue to uphold a long held tradition of Urban Farming. Harkening back to the Victory Gardens Downtown and the old propaganda poster that reads “Milwaukee Feeds and Supplies the world”. I feel proud to grow food within the city limits. When I am not on the farm, I am landscaping by day and studying Ayurveda on the weekends. The rest of the time I am cooking and eating!

The greatest challenges to Urban Farming are twofold – – both having roots in scaling up. Farming is uniquely the profession of combining so many other professions: Mechanics, Accounting, Construction, work of the Spirit, etc. The other part of scalability is bridging the urban/rural connection in order to maximize everyone’s efficiencies. Those collaborations will yield sums much greater than their respective parts. The economy of scale is a factor when considering the prep required for ½ acre, 12 acres, and 1200 acres.
UW-Extension helped me to get on the land – simply put. That Municipal lands and resources are available, as well as advocacy for startup food entrepreneurs just remarkable. Land, water, chip, compost, workshops, customer relationships have all been made available, so all we have to do is grow.”
David Johnson

David Johnson, Cream City Farms

Why urban farming?

I decided to get into farming in 2008.  At that time, I was the Executive Director of  Friedens Community Ministries, an organization that operates emergency food pantries in Milwaukee county.  February of that year I toured Growing Power and instantly realized that I needed to involve my organization with the growing of food for and with constituents as opposed to just giving it away.  Two years later we launched Cream City Gardens one block away from our main pantry.

With the demand for locally grown food steadily increasing along with the price of gas, it was clear to me that to that there was and still is a tremendous economic opportunity in the plethora of vacant lots and buildings within our city.   This opportunity goes well beyond making a living for the right entrepreneur to providing jobs for local families and improving the quality of life for all our residents by increasing the amount of healthy and fresh food available in our city.

In 2014, I decided to become that entrepreneur.

What do you do when not at the farm?

When I am not farming I am swing dancing or playing tennis.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges to urban agriculture?

The greatest challenges related to Urban Agriculture is getting access to the land.  Though there is typically quite a bit of vacant land in urban areas, yet getting the necessary approvals to start a growing operation on this land is quite difficult.  To many local officials, elected or paid staff, view farming as the lowest form of land use in our cities.  Such attitudes will need to change if urban farming is going to take its rightful place on the urban landscape.

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?

The UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program was absolutely essential in helping me to launch my farm enterprise.  It is a great program and I hope it continues for a long time.

 

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Angela Moraigne  (aka “That Salsa Lady”)

Why urban farming? 
We chose urban farming because that was how we were introduced to great local food – first in a housing development in Milwaukee called Teutonia Urban Garden (TUG). It is important to embrace Urban Ag because it is a tremendous tool to reflect what is truly important to and for those living in the area. It is also a living example as to where great food comes from and how easily they can adapt healthy eating into their meal plan. More so how effective becoming more aware of the food you eat can also become a profitable business model.

What do you do when not at the farm?
We run our own business named “That Salsa Lady”. It is thru urban ag we shall work to eliminate food deserts, first in Milwaukee then the nation.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges to urban agriculture? 
Changing the mindset of those living in the area can be a huge challenge. When people find it cheaper and more accessible to eat unhealthy food which also tastes good, it’s challenging to convince them make the shift. If the encouragement to change is not done in a way which they are open to, often it fails. Once we fail at the introduction, they are far less likely to try again thus creating a lifestyle which ultimately leads to early death and/or preventable disease.

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?
Having UWEX MUDF as a place to grow, cultivate and harvest our crops just steps away from a market we sale our wares and minutes from our homebase is both exciting and another example of the collateral impact of people from all sectors can do when working towards a common goal. We reference, share and refer people to the project in many ways. As we get the word out, people identify our association with UWEX as not only a great alliance but also goes a bit further in legitimizing the need for local food sources. Our sales director is 12 yrs old and when folks young and old see how excited a kid from “the hood” gets about local food, they cannot help but join in on the fun!

 

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Tom Koch

Why Urban Farming?

To start with, I really enjoy farming but beyond that I believe that in the future food will need to be grown closer to the consumers due to rising fuel costs.

What do you do when not at the farm?

Martial Arts

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges to urban agriculture?  

The challenges are many, but here are a few:  I.) it’s an undeveloped market segment of farming   II.)energy cost  III.) weather in our geographic zone

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?

It has provided me with additional resources and networking opportunities and affordable land.

 

S Puls

Sarah Puls

Why Urban Farming?

Farming where we consume our food is critical because food is tastier and more nutritious when we can harvest it and use it fresh. This is opposed to the conventional model of harvesting, shipping to warehouses and then eventually getting the product in stores or on plates at a restaurant. I would like to see more individuals growing their own food as close as possible to where they live- the positive impact on neighborhoods where this happens is profound. It brings neighbors together and teaches us all to work together. I personally have experienced this in my neighborhood this summer- I now know several neighbors I had never spoken to before until meeting at our tiny neighborhood garden!

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?
Without the UWEX program I might never have had the opportunity to try a lot of things I’m trying with my land and I would never have been challenged in so many ways. However I think the true benefit of the program are those times when I get to meet other farmers from the most diverse backgrounds. I think Milwaukeeans are segregated along so many lines that we are often taken out of our comfort zones if we are asked to cross those line. This program really breaks through that segregation and brings like-minded people together. The feeling I get at the gatherings of farmers is absolutely overwhelming! The amount of cooperation and positive energy that comes out of putting all these farmers together cannot be underestimated.
Thanks UWEX!!

When not farming, where can we find you?
When not at the farm, I am a server at Red Dot and a Whole Foods produce production team member (I make the delicious and beautiful juice, salsa, guacamole and fruit trays). I also love working in my native flower garden, playing the piano, knitting, reading, hiking, cooking, eating and thinking about food as well as exploring technologies like HTML and crypto-currencies.

In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge to urban farming?
The greatest challenge to urban farming right now is all of the contamination in city soil and water sources. There is so much vacant unused land that is contaminated from industry to the point of not being usable for much of anything (without paying thousands of dollars for soil remediation). We are really reaping what we’ve sown.

 

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Andreye Fields 

Why Urban Farming?

I choose to farm in the because first of all I grew up in rural environment even though it was in the city in Virginia. I feel that farming in the city makes me more of a part of nature and the environment and the proximity doesn’t hurt when it comes to the things I am growing and caring for.

When not farming, where can we find you?

When I’m not at Kohl Farm I am at Growing Power where I am part of the compost crew there and I also spend a lot of weekends at Lakefront Brewery where I am a part time staff member as part of the brewery tour staff.

In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge to urban farming?

I believe a few of the biggest challenges to urban farming is the lack of a streamlined program or system to allow people access to land, the land itself, and maybe a comprehensive course of the basics when it comes to raising plants, basic land maintenance, and access to basic necessities like water and simple small scale farm equipment. The city also has a ton of vacant lots unutilized but it is no small feat to gain access to or own one of these spaces and that is a shame.

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?

UWEX Discovery Farm has allowed me to use a significant amount of space to experiment on and learn from.

 

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Jay Kitzke

Why urban farming?

I started mini urban farming at my home.  I then heard about the UW- Extension Garden Program when it was on the other side of Swan Boulevard.  I enrolled for their mini farm.   I sold to neighbors and others.  It provides food for not only myself, but for others who don’t get a chance to have homegrown vegetables.

What do you do when not at the farm?

I relax at home and enjoy sitting outside with my neighbors.  I also enjoy making soups and meals with the vegetables that I have grown.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges to urban agriculture?

The critters that you have to deal with (such as boles, moles, deer, etc.).

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?

It has given me the opportunity to grow as a farmer and take on more than I started out with.  It has also given me the opportunity to talk to other farmers and see how they differ in their practices and see who it would help me.

 

Natalia Gruenwald 2014Natalia Gruenwald,  Wolf Peach Restaurant

Why urban farming?

The city needs to see more farms and agriculture within the cement jungles. Besides beautifying city landscapes, urban agriculture can also aid environmental restoration by giving new life to abandoned areas and vacant lots. The location also makes it more efficient for travel and getting product in.

When not at the farm, where can we find you?

I enjoy reading and gardening at home.

In your opinion, what are the greatest challenges to urban agriculture?

Irrigation continues to be a huge challenge, as well as the poor soil conditions found in the city.

How has the UWEX Urban Discovery Farm program been helpful to your farming endeavors?

We’ve gone through some growing pains with water access and soil health, but we’ve enjoyed the challenge and are confident the program will succeed.

 

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