Survival Gardening and the Example of Growing Power

            I’m a firm believer in wholesome food and anything that gets us on the track to growing it ourselves.  If you’re growing any of your own food in today’s world, you’re practicing survival gardening, whether you call it that or not.  If you encourage or help others grow their own food, that’s all the better.


An article from the July 1, 2009, “New York Times” recently caught my attention.  It’s called “Street Farmer” and profiles Will Allen, head of an organization based in Milwaukee, WI, called Growing Power.


Growing Power has 14 greenhouses on two acres of land in a working-class neighborhood, not far from the city’s largest public-housing project.  There’s a retail store where they sell what they raise.  They also have a satellite organization in Chicago.


Allen conducts workshops where people pay to receive instruction in worm composting, aquaponics construction and other farm skills.  Aquaponics combines aquaculture (raising fish for food) with growing food hydroponically.  (More on that below.)


Allen has worked out systems for getting wood chips from the city as well as food scraps from markets and wholesalers. He takes in millions of pounds of spoiled food that would otherwise be thrown away and turns it into compost.  In four months he can create 100,000 pounds of compost.  He uses a fourth of it and sells the rest.


            Will Allen is a pragmatist.  Though he produces food using organic methods and believes we should all eat healthfully, he’s not opposed to having soda pop or doughnuts now and then.  He believes people need to start on the road to gardening and better eating from where they are.  He’s an advocate for involving youth and the under privileged in gardening.


Growing Power Farm has received hundreds of thousands in grant money from well known foundations to keep them going.  They have 30-50 employees and make use of numerous volunteers.  Allen admits they’re not self sufficient, but says neither is conventional agriculture.


Growing Power doesn’t strictly operate as a farm, but helps many people along the way who participate in its operations and buy its products.  That’s a commendable thing to do and sets a good example in my book.


Concerning aquaponics,I believe it should be practiced more than it now is.  I know a little about it because I wrote an article a number of years ago for "The Growing Edge" magazine, entitled "The Genius of Simplicity," about the late Tom Speraneo and his bioponic system.  (View a text only version of the article here.)  Speraneo  and his family raised tilapia and various produce and plants for sale.


There used to be a Web site with more info on the Speraneo system. I’m sure there’s plenty of other material online if you’re willing to do the research.


I had hoped at one time to start an aquaponics business, but, to make a long story short, it wasn’t meant to be. 


            I’m glad Growing Power is practicing aquaponics as well as worm composting.  I think it’s great they’re training others, too.  May they succeed in showing others the ways of personal self sufficiency in the survival garden.


Author: John Wesley Smith

John Wesley Smith writes and podcasts from his home in Central Missouri. His goal is to help preppers as he continues along his own preparedness journey.

2 thoughts on “Survival Gardening and the Example of Growing Power”

  1. Gardening is a great emergency preparedness skill. It goes hand-in-hand with being able to provide enough water to grow plants as well. Gardening is a two-edged sword as it is a good preparedness measure and it saves on grocery bills as well!

  2. Absolutely. I think it’s great that Growing Power and organizations like them are teaching people how to ggrow their own food. Their clients, students, or whatever, are picking up a valuable survival skill, whether they realize it or not.

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