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Friday, Jan. 10, 2014

Urban Farming With Milwaukee’s Central Greens

Garden Fresh All Year Round

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Milwaukee’s newest urban farm, Central Greens, opened in March 2013 and has been providing the Milwaukee metro area with wonderful fresh herbs, greens and fish. Like their fellow local urban farmers, Growing Power and Sweet Water Organics, Central Greens employs an environmentally friendly aquaponics system. Aquaponics has increased in popularity in the past decade, as it’s a self-sustaining operation that isn’t dependent on seasons or weather for ideal growing conditions. Like its better-known predecessor, hydroponics, little to no soil is needed because you are growing plants with their roots submerged in water. You can then grow twice as many plants, more quickly and in a much smaller space. What sets aquaponics apart from hydroponics is fish.

An important part of the system at Central Greens is the population of tilapia fish living and growing along with the plants. Fish waste can be converted into fertilizer for the plants, which act as a filter for the water that goes back to the fish. The whole system can’t help but be organic. There are no weeds or bugs because everything is grown inside. There’s no need to treat the plants with pesticides, which is good because you wouldn’t want to expose the fish to harsh chemicals. In turn, the fish aren’t treated with hormones or antibiotics because that would make their waste bad fertilizer for the plants. An added bonus of the closed system: the fish aren’t affected by environmental factors like mercury or other toxins.

Central Greens’ products are sold on site at their 51st and Bluemound Road location. Shoppers can also find Central Greens fresh herbs and micro greens at the places you’d expect, such as Sendik’s, Outpost, Metcalfe’s and Woodman’s. Central Greens sells their herbs as living plants—they come with their roots still in water. This is especially nice if you know you only need a few leaves or a pinch of something for a recipe. With this ingenious packaging, you can keep herbs fresh much longer, or even replant them in the ground outside when spring returns.

For more information about Central Greens or to arrange a tour, visit milwaukeeaquaponics.com.

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