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Madison Garden: One of Milwaukee's Growing Examples of Urban Farming

As urban farmers gathered Saturday to sign up for garden & hydrant permits in Milwaukee, advocates hope the neighborhood collaboration inspires others to dig in.
The Silver City neighborhood garden started, as do many others, with a troublesome vacant lot and a new resident.

Brett Lipshutz is that person. He and his partner moved into the neighborhood five years ago. Lipshutz says vacant lot across the way was more than an eyesore.

“It was attracting litter and people crossing though it and other things,” Lipshutz says.

Gang members occupied the house next door. Neighbors pulled together, called on Southside Organizing Committee, and were able to extract the gang from the neighborhood.

“And made the landlord more accountable for whom he rents to,” Lipshutz adds.

As for the garden, Lipshutz says it grew out of many, many meetings and calling on another community resource – Layton Boulevard West Neighbors.

Madison Garden is no run-of-the-mill urban vegetable patch. It streathes along a meandering path interspersed by benches and raised flower beds. At the back, neighborhood kids, assisted by members of the group Artists Working in Education, crafted a sculpture of reclaimed wood and plentyof colorful paint. It accents five raised vegetable beds that radiate from the six-foot-high creation.

Lipshutz is learning vegetable gardening side-by-side with his neighbors. The first growing season everything was planted and shared communally.

“This is the first year so we actually just planted the thing in boxes and people are allowed to just come and take. It was really nice, which is really nice,” Lipshutz says.

But as the next growing season approaches, Lipshutz says the goal is to get more neighbors involved in tending the garden.

“The point is to meet in the garden and chat. We have Mexicans and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans and white people and Asian people; so encouraging interaction is one of the things we want to do,” Lipshutz says.

Madison gardeners hope to cultivate continuity and endurance. They are collaborating with an urban land trust – Milwaukee Urban Gardens – to move from a one to a three-year lease. One day, they hope to permanently secure their meandering piece of “peace” as a purchased parcel.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.<br/>