By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jun 10, 2014 at 2:29 PM

This week, Growing Power, 5500 W. Silver Spring Dr., is headed to Missouri's Stark Bro's Nurseries to pick up more than 4,000 donated fruit trees that will be planted on empty lots in the City of Milwaukee.

Some of the trees donated by the Missouri-based nursery -- the nation's largest direct-to-consumer grower of fruit and nut trees -- will be sold and others will be donated to Milwaukee non-profits and partners of Growing Power. Still other will be planted as part of a partnership with the City of Milwaukee Office of Environmental Sustainability's Home Gr/Own initiative.

The trees will help transform vacant lots into urban fruit farms.

"Over our history of nearly 200 years, Stark Bro’s has planted, harvested, sold and shipped over 1 million fruit trees per year— but we don’t always sell every tree in our stock," said Stark’s CEO, Cameron Brown, who hopes to make the donation an annual event.

"Once we understood what Will Allen and Growing Power do, and how close they are to our main growing operation, we began looking for a way to connect the dots and let those unsold trees directly benefit their Community Food Systems."

On Thursday, Growing Power founder and CEO Will Allen, Stark Bro's co-owner Tim Abair and the City of Milwaukee Sustainability Director Matthew Howard will be on hand at the Silver Spring Drive facility for the formal donation of the trees and to help unload the bare-rooted trees and put them in pots filled with Growing Power's own compost. 

"This generous donation of over 3,000 fruit trees will help change the dynamic of our southeast Wisconsin community in a positive way," said Allen. "It will allow us to continue to build a safe, sustainable, good food system here, and also serve as a model for the rest of the nation. 

"The donation will help us plant trees on some of the 2,500 vacant lots in Milwaukee, helping us to provide good food, help the environment and even create jobs to maintain them. And we'll do it in a natural way without the use of herbicides or pesticides. Imagine people eating fresh fruit and berries grown right in their own community! A big thank you to Stark Bro's and the efforts of Cameron Brown and his staff."