Left: Office of Environmental Sustainability Director, Matt Howard; Shaiya Morris, HOME GR/OWN Project Coordinator; Tim McCollow, HOME GR/OWN Program Manager; Tim Abair, Co-Owner of Stark Bros; Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power
MILWAUKEE (WITI) — More than 4,200 fruit trees were delivered to Milwaukee from Stark Bros. in Missouri. City leaders already have a pretty good idea where most of them are going to go.
The thousands of plum trees, several varieties of apples trees, peach trees and cherry trees as well as blueberry, strawberry and raspberry plants were donated to Growing Power, Inc. in Milwaukee. The plan is to create “fruit farms” all over the city using some of the more than 2,500 vacant city owned lots.
“We really want to get residents involved from the design phase of what will the Urban Fruit Farm look like, to help plant the trees, to help maintain the trees, and then eventually we’d love for it to be a community amenity where people can come and pick the fruits and eat them and eventually sell them too for some supplemental income,” said Matt Howard, the Sustainability Director for the City of Milwaukee.
One of those lots is near 1st and Locust. There are a few trees there already, but Howard says they plan to use some of these newly donated ones there as well.
“In the 20s, 30s, and 40s there were fruit trees in people’s front yards and side yards, so we are kind of re-creating that, turning back the clock a little bit to help create this healthier Milwaukee,” said Will Allen, a farmer and the CEO and founder of Growing Power Milwaukee.
Those behind this idea also hope to include some trees in already established private gardens throughout the city like community gardens.
Both Howard and Allen said they can already see several benefits coming out of this project.
“In the next 2 or 3 years, you’ll be able to drive through the city and see these lots with mixed fruit and berries on them,” said Allen, “We’re really killing a lot of birds with one stone – beautification, being able to improve the health of the city.”
“It gets people back on the street in a positive way. It generates all sorts of activity and buzz. All the things that we want to see in our neighborhoods in the city of Milwaukee,” said Howard.
The best time to plant them, Allen said, is in the fall. But before they can start planting them at the sites, the bare root trees have to be planted in fresh compost and put in pots. That work started on Thursday, but Growing Power is looking for volunteers over the next few days to help get all the trees in pots.
It will take about two years for most of those trees to start bearing fruit.