Spark: Green Power's powerful simplicity

Growing Power (left) and Spark Connector Sarina Chawla (right).

About a week ago, high school senior Sarina Chawla immersed herself in the world of innovative agriculture when she visited Growing Power, an urban farm and community food center located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Chawla had attended PopTech 2010 as part of the PopTech Spark initiative, designed to inspire and encourage science, technology, engineering and math- (STEM) related endeavors—and Growing Power provided a look at how STEM is used in all aspects of the organization, from the science of composting to engineering stormwater systems. Founded by PopTech 2009 presenter and Spark Innovator, Will Allen, Growing Power utilizes urban spaces that farms typically don’t use to grow food and community. Allen explains his motivation, “I realized people didn’t have access to healthy food and I thought I could bring farms into the city.”

Student partcipants weed plants in a greenhouse at Browning Elementary School in Milwaukee.

Growing Power has, in fact, brought farms into the city, reconnecting urban dwellers through a wide range of community-based projects that are strongly youth-oriented. Its daytime Youth Corps is an entrepreneurial youth development and apprenticeship program where participants work the farm and learn methods to grow produce year round. In the after-school program, Teen Growing Power, students work with microbial raised garden beds and a small aquaponics system installed at a local school. The tasks of sweeping, weeding, fertilizing and watering plants are simple, but important. And that’s the point.

Growing Power’s easy-to-replicate growing methods certainly inspired Chawla, who more than once said, “We could do that at our school.”

Find out more on PopTech’s blog about PopTech’s Spark Connectors as well as previous Spark events with Tierney Thys and Hayat Sindi.

Photos: Emily Qualey
More photos at Growing Power can be seen here.

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