Groundwork Milwaukee's Strong Roots Awards event was created to honor the leading activists and innovators within Milwaukee’s urban agriculture movement. 

Groundwork supports individuals and community organizations working to transform vacant lots into community gardens. Groundwork’s MUG program currently leases over 90 vacant lots on behalf of community groups across Milwaukee. The Green Team helps to build community gardens and rainwater harvesting structures at the gardens. The Young Farmer Program teaches youth to grow vegetables at community gardens.

While working hand-in-hand with community garden leaders, we are continuously impressed by the dedication and ingenuity of individuals and communities at solving problems to create a better city. Though Milwaukee is nationally recognized for its leadership in urban agriculture, neighborhood residents who work tirelessly to improve their community by creating and maintaining community gardens often do not receive their deserved attention.

Groundwork’s Strong Roots Awards raises up community gardens and their leaders for their accomplishments in several categories: best approach to stormwater managementbest community involvementmost creative use of space, and best harvest. The awards support their work and recognizes their strong qualities as models for encouraging other community gardens to reach their full potential.


Best Community Involvement

Successful gardens will demonstrate regular and substantial, intergenerational community involvement in gardens. 

  • Successful gardens may host events*
  • Creativity used to increase community involvement is encouraged
  • Gardens should demonstrate cross neighborhood/community connections
  • Intergenerational involvement is encouraged

* Events should take place at the garden.

Best Harvest

This award is intended to recognize gardens that are successful in growing fruit and vegetables. Gardens will be judged on:

  • Quantity of produce harvested
  • Quality of produce harvested
  • Special recognition will be given to growers of heirloom, heritage or crops that are derived from unique seed varieties

*To be eligible: photo submissions should include images of crops on the plant, after harvest and of preparation. Photos of the harvest or consumption are also encouraged.

Best Approach to Stormwater Management

Groundwork encourages gardens to capture water for use on site. This award will recognize gardens that newly construct/create rain water harvesting in 2016.

Examples of rainwater capturing include:

  • Harvesting rain water from an existing building or new garden structure
  • Rain barrels/totes
  • Cisterns
  • Rain gardens

*Special recognition will be given to approaches that are effective and replicable.

Best Creative Use of Space

This award recognizes the value of art in increasing community involvement in gardens. Any garden with art newly installed in 2016 is eligible.

Creativity is of course encouraged.

Art projects may include:

  • Murals
  • Mosaics
  • Painted rain barrel, totes
  • Statues
  • Hedge sculpture

Nomination Criteria

*Winners will receive a grant from Groundwork Milwaukee to support infrastructure improvements at their community gardens (i.e. soil, lumber, rain barrels, etc.)*

2016 Strong Roots Awards

This year's awards will be held on Thursday, December 8, 2016.


2015 Strong Roots Awards


Event Sponsor

Groundwork would like to thank its 2015 sponsor for making this event possible.

Award Sponsors

Groundwork would like to thank its award sponsors for their financial and outreach support.