By Dylan Deprey
Each day, Dallas Cook waters everything from flowering bell peppers to the climbing stems of tomato plants.
He and four other employees of the nonprofit organization Growing Power built 11 handmade hoop houses outside Maglio Companies headquarters.
“I keep up maintenance on the grounds and I always water no matter what,” Cook said.
Two months ago, this acre of land next to Maglio Companies’ headquarters in Glendale, Wis. was just an empty space.
Today, with the help of the urban agriculture group Growing Power, it occupies the 11, 96-foot long hoop houses.
“This is the agriculture of the future,” Will Allen, farmer and founder of Growing Power, said.
The relationship between the companies allows Growing Power to grow and harvest produce, then send it straight to Maglio Companies for processing and distribution.
This is the first Will Allen has seen in the country of a major wholesaler providing the space and funds for an urban agriculture group like Growing Power.
Sam Maglio, president of Maglio Companies, wants the partnership between Maglio Companies and Growing Power to provide jobs along with fresh produce to the community for lower prices.
“Freight costs about ten cents a pound,” Maglio said. “We’re fifty feet away from the door.”
Factors like humidity and temperature effect produce during the post harvest process. The partnership between these companies will shorten the time frame of the crop and produce a better product.
“When you put a knife into a bell pepper, you’re going to hear the crunch and it will taste crisp,” Sam Maglio said.
Will Allen is a well-known veteran to the urban agriculture community and has won numerous awards for his efforts. He started Growing Power in 1993.
He, with the power of his employees and volunteers, has managed to build 100 hoop houses scattered throughout Milwaukee.
Allen’s methodology is to grow high quality produce and minimize the cost to the community.
The hoop houses at Maglio Companies cost around $7,000 compared to some that range up into the millions of dollars.
“We want our food to go to everybody,” Allen said. “It shouldn’t be based on the economics of the community.”
Allen minimizes the cost by maximizing the little space he has with a very intense production process.
This includes hand watering, using high fertility, composted soil, and using shade instead of fans during the summer among many other methods.
“This is fun agriculture for me,” Will Allen said. “Everyday is a new day.”
Will Allen and Growing Power also work to teach the community about healthy eating and urban agriculture through workshops in schools and throughout community.
According the United States Department of Agriculture, the average age of a farmer is around 57-years-old.
Will Allen strives to inspire the youth about urban agriculture and hopefully spark some initiative in the younger generation to follow in his footsteps. Allen views indoor farming as the future of farming.
“Nobody wants to be out farming in the cold and snow,” Allen said.
The new plan in joining Growing Power and Maglio Companies resources together is still in the infancy stages, but they are already looking ahead into the future.
They have their eyes set on a 15-acre plot of land right across I-43 from Maglio Companies headquarters.
“We’re the pioneers of this,” Will Allen said. “We’re putting passion into the community.”