Urban Farming Continues to Grow in Milwaukee
Future Roots Farm Puts Down Roots
Over the course of the past year, a new player has emerged on the urban farming scene. Future Roots Farm (19555 W. Lincoln Ave., New Berlin) has joined the ranks of fellow urban farmers like Growing Power, Sweet Water Organics and Central Greens. Like their predecessors, Future Roots employs hydroponic and aquaponic systems, which allows them to grow fresh greens like lettuce, kale and Swiss chard; and raise yellow perch and tilapia all year long. “This is the future of local food systems, especially in states with shorter growing seasons like Wisconsin,” says Cole Wenzel, co-founder and director of business operations.
Hydroponics is a system where plants are grown with their roots in water instead of soil. Aquaponics takes it one step further by growing plants in water, but then raising fish in said water. It’s a very efficient system and can be accomplished in a much smaller space than traditional farm or fish hatchery setups. These systems are favored by urban farmers not only because of the reduced space required, but also because they are so self-sustaining. The waste products created by the fish are naturally turned into fertilizer for the plant system and in turn, the plants filter the water so that it’s clean for the fish.
These systems also allow much more control over the environment in which the plants and fish are grown. In fact, aquaponic systems use somewhere between 90-98% less water than traditional farming. “We build the systems and control almost every input in the plant's growth processes, excepting the natural sunlight,” says Bill Gannon, co-founder and director of farm operations. “But even that can be supplemented by artificial grow lights if need be.”
You may have even eaten some Future Roots products without even knowing it. They distribute to several local restaurants like Morel, Parkside 23 and Grassroots Salad Company. In addition, Future Roots offers a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription to Milwaukee at large, which is available year-round for about $10-$15 a week. Some individual products are also sold à la carte and available during the Saturday CSA pick-up time, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Now that the weather is warming up, Future Roots will take advantage of the regular Wisconsin growing season and offer flowers, vegetable plants and herbs for home gardeners. The garden center will be open Saturday 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. and Wednesday 1 p.m.-7 p.m. During garden center hours, Future Roots will have a selection of their freshly grown veggies for sale as well.