Sacred Grounds Steward Winner

Blessing the new greenhouse and courtyard.

Blessing the new greenhouse and courtyard.

2013 Cool Congregation Challenge
Sacred Grounds Steward Winner
All Peoples Lutheran Church
Urban Greenhouse Project
Milwaukee, WI

“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will
prosper.” – God (as recorded in Jeremiah 29)

The Urban Greenhouse Project at All Peoples Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, serves as a symbol of revitalization. In a neighborhood where vandalism and theft are common, there is great respect for the greenhouse and garden projects. The community invested its hours and ideas into the project, works together to protect the project and reaps the benefits from the harvest of food, education and employment.

The congregation creatively used space on the side of the church for a beautifully designed greenhouse and outdoor space which will provide year-round cultivation of herbs, food products, flowers and starter plants for the outdoor gardens.Water is harvested from the greenhouse roof and from rain barrels placed under downspouts on the church. A 4-foot deep substrate and a patio surrounding the greenhouse used recycled porous pavers, and a retaining wall was installed and an adjacent rain garden to catch surface water from the city sidewalks.

Overall, the utilization of green infrastructure ensures that this project is sustainable, in turn modeling to the students, the congregation and the community the importance of restoring natural hydrology for urban agriculture. Native prairie plants and fruit trees were planted behind the greenhouse. The cultivation of food in and around the greenhouse replaces a hard-packed dirt and lawn adjacent to the church building.

A local architectural firm and other local businesses donated their services. All of the labor was provided by congregation members, community members and All Peoples Church partners.

A specific example of the dedication of the community to the project occurred when 20 cubic yards of large stone was delivered to create the patio substrate. The pile of stone collapsed, falling across the city sidewalk and into the street. So as not to incur citations from the city, children from the neighborhood and the church worked for 6 solid days, moving the stone using shovels and 5-gallon buckets.

This project fits nicely with All People’s gardening project, where children learn how to garden using a vacant lot leased from the city. Five years ago, All Peoples Church determined that the work experience for the children could also yield real produce for hungry families. They began to focus on growing quality produce in large quantities in an organic and sustainable manner. They identified the need to extend the growing season so that the children could benefit all year-round from the experience and thus the idea for the greenhouse was born.

In building a greenhouse using green infrastructure, the church realized a dream of bringing the community together, modeling green construction and practice, and growing sustainable food.

Visit All Peoples Church’s Facebook page to view photos!

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