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Groundwork Milwaukee's Strong Roots Awards event celebrates Milwaukee's amazing urban agriCULTURE by convening individuals who care deeply about this work - to recognize innovative and effective urban gardens.

Groundwork supports individuals and community organizations working to transform vacant lots into community gardens. Groundwork currently leases over 110 vacant lots on behalf of community groups across Milwaukee. Our Green Team helps to build community gardens and rainwater harvesting structures at the 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 for their accomplishments in several categories: best new garden, storm water management, creative place making, community involvement, and garden of honor. By recognizing the strengths of these gardens we can help to highlight models of success for community gardens across the city.


Award Categories

Best New garden

Recognizes efforts to create and maintain a new garden, highlighting:

  • Garden's purpose
  • Community building
  • Garden Infrastrcture


Groundwork encourages gardens to capture water for use on site. This increases the sustainability of the garden and supports the health of our Great Lake! What we're looking for: images of rainwater harvest systems, use of the water to water healthy gardens. If possible - photos of construction are encouraged.

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

Examples of stormwater management include:

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


No two gardens are alike. We seek to highlight diversity and creative uses of space including and beyond the gardens. This award recognizes the value of art in increasing community involvement in gardens. 

Art projects may include:

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


Gardens are a great place to gather to build community. What we're looking for - photos of happy community gatherings or unique community engagement in your garden. Success includes: 

  • 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.


This award goes to the most outstanding, impactful, and community driven garden of the year.

2017 Strong Roots Award Winners

Best New Garden:

Za'Layia's Legacy

Storm Water Management & Garden of HONOR:

All People's Church

Images from  All People's Church

Creative Place Making:

Neighborhood House

Community Involvement:

Urban Eden

Images from  Arts Without Borders
2 Yes!.jpg

2015 Strong Roots Award Winners

2015 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.