Soil and water

Half a century of cultivation of soil and spirit, Alice’s Garden Urban Farm celebrates its jubilee | WUWM 89.7 FM

This year marks 50 years of urban cultivation and agriculture for Alice’s Garden Urban Farm in Milwaukee. The jubilee celebration will include a number of community programs as well as a logo design contest which is already underway.

“Our committee just thought it would be great to have a logo contest to invite the community to create what it means to be 50 years old as Alice’s Garden,” says General Manager Venice Williams.

Williams calls the jubilee a celebration of “all the different people, families and organizations who have walked the land that is Alice’s Garden Urban Farm, whose fingers have touched the ground, who have grown food for their families and organizations.” .

However, the period leading up to the creation of the garden is a painful story, she says. The land on which Alice’s Garden sits was Bronzeville, a vibrant and thriving African-American community in Milwaukee.

“During the Great Migration, when black people came from the South, you couldn’t live north of North Avenue. When the city decided to build the freeway that was never built, claimed eminent domain and uprooted all these families, the land sat vacant for a few years,” Williams says.

She says, “I also had this image in my head of the loneliness of the earth after having all this vibrancy.”

Cheri Johnson, spiritual director of Alice’s Garden, found maps of the neighborhood that reflect the vibrancy of the past. “They showed all the plotted houses and the knitting factory and the convenience stores that were in the neighborhood and it just showed the vibrancy of the community and as Venice said, the loss when it was torn apart and that people’s lives have been torn apart,” Johnson said.

The original garden was planted in the vacant space and named for Alice Meade-Taylor, a longtime advocate for urban community programs in Milwaukee.

When Venice Williams arrived at the garden in 2003, she was in desperate need of some attention.

“It was a big mess, okay, let’s face it,” Williams says. “The very first year, I didn’t plant anything. The ground was not ready to receive. There were piles that I thought were piles of dirt and they were piles of garbage.

Venice Williams looks forward to welcoming people to share meals and chat during Alice’s Garden Jubilee Year.

Over the years, the garden and the programming surrounding it have flourished.

Johnson says a long table is a physical and symbolic tool. It can always accommodate more people.

“So we have a pizza oven and we have a fire pit and we have this long table which on Tuesday and Thursday evenings is full of the items that the makers have made, which come to offer their creativity – from soap, special teas to jewelry – but it attracts even more people who then discover the garden,” she explains.

An environmental common thread runs through the programming of the garden. A 20,000 gallon cistern captures rainwater which is then used to water the garden.

Beyond this physical example of conservation, Williams says they share practical steps people can take.

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A huge underground cistern was built in Alice’s Garden in 2018.

“So when you get to the door you’ll see a sign saying no plastic water bottles – so that’s the first step. Part of environmental education is explaining why there are no bottled waters,” she explains.

This season, polystyrene containers will no longer be allowed in the garden.

Another teaching tool is his planting methods, which Williams describes as regenerative without the use of chemicals.

“We don’t beat you over the head with environmental education in the sense of doom and gloom; so that’s really what’s taking a lot of people away from that conversation in our community,” she explains. “But when you have this conversation and it’s about its impact on your daily life, it’s a different conversation.”

Williams says she shares the fact that a teaspoon of soil contains at least 50,000 living organisms, “and how soil is alive and breathes, those are the starting points, the starting points for our conversations about the earth and taking take care of her. “

As Alice’s Garden enters its next chapter, Williams says there is still work to be done. “Our presence in the neighborhood and our engaging neighbors could be stronger,” she says.

Particularly west of the garden, Williams says the neighborhood is quite transitional.

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Yoga is a regular offering in the garden.

“We have to show up to the neighborhood and the community all the time and we haven’t really been able to do that the last two growing seasons, but hopefully it will be different this growing season,” she says. .

Williams hopes this jubilee year and growing season will bring more people to the garden.

“I really love when we can come together around this table in community,” she says. “Alice’s Garden has become one of the best offerings in the city of Milwaukee for people to get to know each other and get to know each other and create a little better.”

READ: Alice’s Garden: a place of renewal in Milwaukee

Williams says that includes gathering at the table. “We couldn’t have the big meals we wanted to have because of the pandemic, potlucks went bye bye, you just couldn’t share food that way.”

The immediate objective is the jubilee logo competition. Entries must be received by Friday, March 18.

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