Groundwork Milwaukee’s Green Veterans Program Gains Momentum

Green Veterans is a program of Groundwork Milwaukee that empowers veterans in our community to promote environmental, economic, and social well-being.

When it was founded as an independent program in 2013, Green Veterans focused mainly on sustainability. However, when Green Veterans came to Wisconsin in 2017 and became a part of Groundwork Milwaukee’s framework, it shifted its focus to meet local needs. The Milwaukee program concentrates its efforts towards urban gardening to create opportunities for healing through horticulture.

Since World War I, the practice of communing with nature to heal the body, mind, and spirit has been used to treat the invisible wounds of war. Groundwork Milwaukee’s Brian Sales, Green Veterans Founder, has seen firsthand how touching soil can be therapeutic for those dealing with trauma disorders, which is why this program creates opportunities for therapy and trauma resolution through urban agriculture. Green Veterans provides exposure and experience with alternative coping mechanisms for Veterans dealing with trauma.

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In their two seasons with Groundwork Milwaukee, Green Veterans program participants have worked primarily on the Organic Therapy Project, where veteran participants grow, maintain, and harvest produce on Groundwork Milwaukee’s urban farming and agricultural sites.  Program participants also study beekeeping and pollinating, train in healthy eating, food preservation, and canning; enjoy outdoor recreation including camping and fishing; and engage local community partners including the Center for Veterans Issues, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Military and Veterans Resource Center, Concordia University, the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center, and Healing Patriots among others.

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 Outside of the Organic Therapy Project, Groundwork Milwaukee’s Green Veterans have participated in a number of Groundwork’s programs including community garden builds, tree and bush gleaning, and urban waters education. Groundwork’s goals for the Green Veterans include participant outreach and growth, and program expansion which will include year-round program options. Groundwork Milwaukee has the expert staff and resources to reach these goals, but needs community support and contributions to succeed. Support local Veterans by donating to this worthwhile program. Visit the main page of our website or http://www.groundworkmke.org/donate to make a contribution. If you or someone you know is a Veteran interested in healing through horticulture, contact us at info@groundworkmke.org.

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Groundwork Milwaukee Supports the Continued Progress at Victory Over Violence Park

Victory Over Violence Park is well known throughout Milwaukee. For years, the site was a vacant lot, and had become one of the most dangerous and violent areas of the central city where multiple shootings, muggings, and assaults were reports. Almost 20 years ago, Charles Hausmann, Linder Law LLC, and Jeanetta Robinson, Career Youth Development, came together to transform the space into a gathering place for community members. Although much of the work was completed in the 1990’s, the space continues to require care, attention, and maintenance.

Groundwork Milwaukee, in collaboration with WestCare, BID 32, Safe Zone Initiative, Safe & Sound, the City of Milwaukee’s Environmental Collaboration Office, and the City of Milwaukee’s Office of Violence Prevention, among others, is working to revitalize and restore Victory Over Violence Park. Groundwork Milwaukee’s team is supporting the facilitation of upgrades to the park with consideration for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Groundwork Milwaukee will work with Landscape Architectural students from Milwaukee School of Engineering to design a space that will function with the original intent conceptualized by Charles Hausmann and Jeannetta Robinson.  Some of the design aspects include removing and transplanting unwanted trees that are costly to maintain, removing invasive plant species that have overgrown the park to allow an open sight-line for safety, and rearranging perennials and flowers in a meaningful way.

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The redesign of Victory Over Violence Park is a multi-phase project. However, throughout the summer of 2018, Groundwork Milwaukee has contributed to the first phase of the project including park clean up and plant removal. The next phase will be to bring the concept to a professional landscape architect and create a design that will incorporate initial plans with community members’ ideas. Upon completion of the park, which is projected for the summer of 2020, contributors want to see the park used for positive, purposeful interactions.

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Groundwork Milwaukee’s Community Outreach Liaison, Tony Gibson, is working closely with collaborators on this project, and hopes to see the park become a “rallying point for violence and social justice issues.” We asked Tony what residents can do to contribute to the process. “First and foremost, advocate the park’s mission of violence prevention and youth safety. If you are looking for more ways to get involved, consider donating your time to clean-up or your dollars to help us complete this important project,” said Tony.

For more information or to support the redesign of Victory Over Violence Park, contact Tony Gibson, Community Outreach Coordinator, at Tony@GroundworkMKE.org.  To take a full walk-through of the site using Mapillary, check out the link here.

Roots for the Home Team Brings New Dining Options to Miller Park with the Help of Groundwork Milwaukee Youth

Roots for the Home Team is a Minnesota-based program inspired by youth gardening, a practice which teaches kids to appreciate and enjoy food by immersing them in its creation. Young gardeners turn their produce into delicious salads, and then work selling those salads to a bigger audience at local sports arenas. Throughout the process, they gain culinary skills, sales and marketing experience, and confidence.

This year, with the support of the Brewers Community Foundation, the Milwaukee Brewers became the first expansion team to welcome the Roots for the Home Team program. Throughout July, August, and September, Milwaukee youth will “step up to the plate” to bring fresh salads, made with locally grown produce, to Miller Park. Among these youth are members of Groundwork Milwaukee’s Young Farmers and Green Team programs.  
Groundwork Milwaukee is one of two organizations that Roots for the Home Team will be working with at Miller Park. Over the course of the summer, six Groundwork Milwaukee participants collaborated with Chef Coaches to create from-scratch recipes made, in part, with ingredients grown at Groundwork Milwaukee’s gardening sites. Here is a sneak peak of what to expect from the culinary minds of our young chefs!

The M.Y. Fresco Salad was created by participants, Melvin and Yazon, with the help of Chef Coach Caitlin Cullen, Tandem Restaurant. It has a bit of a southwestern flare and is made with ingredients including corn, black beans, and queso fresco.

The Go Go Groundwork Green Team Salad was created by participants, Justin, Hayley, and Shay, with the help of Chef Coach Ishmael Simmons, Chick N Dude Gourmet Food Truck. This equally yummy salad has more of a Mediterranean vibe and is made with ingredients such as quinoa, herbs, and Parmesan cheese.

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If you happen to find yourself at Miller Park during a Sunday home game, be sure to check out the “Salads” food cart located behind section 119 on the Field Level! Our participants will be selling their fresh, delicious salads starting this Sunday, August 5. They will also be available at home games on September 9 and September 16. We hope to see you at the ball park!

For more information about Roots for the Home Team visit their website or take a look at this article published to the MLBlog. Bon appétit!

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Groundwork Milwaukee Partners with the Wisconsin School Garden Network

The Wisconsin School Garden Network (WSGN) is a program which supports the growing school garden movement in our state. They offer support for new and existing gardens at schools, education centers, community centers, and after-school sites, with a strong focus on institutions that provide greater than 50% free or subsidized lunch.

The WSGN connects school garden leaders from across the state, and provides them with resources, funding opportunities, workshops, and technical support. They aim to improve children’s health and wellbeing by supporting and promoting garden-based education in urban and rural communities throughout the state using regional expertise and community connections. Recognizing that Wisconsin is geologically, culturally, and environmentally diverse, the WSGN divided the state into five regions, including Central, Northern, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest. 

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In 2018, Groundwork Milwaukee formalized a partnership with the WSGN and supports their efforts by acting as a local contact for the Southeast region. With over 17 years of experience with community organizing and networking, Tony Gibson is our Regional Coordinator. In this role, Tony will participate in a number of training opportunities and act as a point of contact to create and expand the WSGN locally.

We asked Tony about the new partnership, and here is what he had to say.

It was important for Groundwork Milwaukee to foster a relationship with the Wisconsin School Garden Network because we are both in the business of educating young people about gardening. Not only that, but we live in a community where most, if not all, of our public schools are offering free or reduced lunch to a high percentage of students, so developing this partnership was the right fit. It also allows Groundwork Milwaukee an opportunity to grow our network and become better known outside of Milwaukee County, regionally and statewide.

To learn more about the Wisconsin School Garden Network, visit their website at www.wischoolgardens.org or contact Tony Gibson directly via e-mail at Tony@groundworkMKE.org

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