By Jeff Sherman Staff Writer Published Jul 07, 2015 at 4:14 PM

To help highlight MMSD Green Luminaries awards, we’re focusing on the winners by asking questions about their practices and new environmental approaches.

MMSD's goal is to create enough green infrastructure in the region to capture 740 million gallons of water every time it rains, to reduce water pollution and improve Lake Michigan and our rivers.

First up was the new Outpost store in Mequon.

Today, it’s All Peoples Church, 2600 N 2nd St.  I spoke with Linda Muth, the church’s minister of partnerships.  Talk a bit, please, about the general mission of All Peoples Church?

Linda Muth:  The general mission is to let the glory of the Lord rise among all peoples.  We are guided by these core values:  Children come first; We make disciples; We create sacred space; We serve soul food; We partner for justice and All Peoples really means all.

OMC: How are gardening and the environment so connected to the mission of the church?  

LM: We believe that sacred space not only includes our worship time in our sanctuary, but the time we spend in nature and the care that we provide for God's creation.  For more than 20 years, we have used vegetable gardening as a means of bringing children together to learn about God, to experience good work, and to care for the earth and themselves by growing good food.

As we have grown in understanding of "food justice" we have increased our dedication not only to growing food in small ways through our child/youth work program, but in our dedication to grow substantial quantities of healthy fruits and vegetables to share with the broader community.  We have also grown to provide holistic education opportunities for the community, as well as opportunities for advocacy and partnership with local government and environmental groups.  

OMC: What specific improvements have you made to your land that make it better for the environment and city?  

LM: Through the planting of more than 60 fruit trees on our church site, community garden, ministry house site and Peoples Orchard, we will soon be harvesting an abundance of fruit, providing shade  for play and picnics, and decreasing our carbon footprint in the neighborhood.

The Peoples Orchard features a cistern, created in partnership with DPW, The City Office of Environmental Sustainability HOME GR/OWN initiative, the Mayor’s Strong Neighborhoods Plan and MMSD, to capture run-of from public sidewalks and a large hill.  The water is used to water the trees.  The greenhouse roof, garden shed roof, church roof, ministry house roof send rainwater into a system of barrels and large totes which provide enough water for our gardens that we do not need to use city water to water our crops.

The porous patio system around the greenhouse absorbs thousands of gallons of rainwater during each storm.

All of our crops are produced using natural fertilizers and without herbicides or pesticides.  We have planted trees and bushes which help to clean the soil over time.

Our gardens are beautiful!  We have created musical chimes. a prayer labyrinth, picnic tables and park benches to create a welcoming space for families.

OMC: Can your greenhouse, gardens and your other ecological efforts help the Harambee neighborhood grow?

LM: Yes, we are mindful that poverty and unemployment are realities which hinder "growth" in the Harambee neighborhood.  As we work to provide families with healthy food and increased knowledge about how to shop for and grow their own healthy foods, we are also thinking about how folks could be employed either in the cultivation of crops, the production of value-added products (such as salsa or preserves) or in local businesses which need skilled landscape/garden workers.

At this time we have grant money which has enabled us to hire an orchard manager and two orchardists, and have some ideas about creating a pathway for orchard workers to full-time employment after their time of learning at All Peoples.  We work closely with other agencies in the Harambee neighborhood so that the efforts of All Peoples are in sync with other projects and programs so that we can work to improve the quality of life in Harambee.   

OMC: How is the people’s orchard growing?  What will it harvest this season?

LM: The trees have a few months to just over one year in the ground, so are not producing vast quantities of fruit at this time.  The orchard will produce a few apples, some hazelnuts and some raspberries this year.  Our fruit trees which are more established will produce a few bushels of apples this year.  We have also harvested several quarts of strawberries, and have lots of raspberries on the bushes in the community garden.  Rhubarb is a veggie, but many think of it as a fruit and we have had a bumper crop this year!

OMC: Define success for All Peoples Church.

LM: Living into our core values as best we can as a community. All Peoples is committed to being a positive actor in the neighborhood, promoting well-being in a healthy environment which is peaceful and beautiful and joyful.  If our kids can be happy, can play, can learn, can grow up in a healthy place and become well-rounded adult citizens with employment in our community, that is success.  

Jeff Sherman Staff Writer

A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.

He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.

Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.  He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.  

He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.

He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.