You don’t have to live on a farm or in a rural area to grow food.
The Milwaukee Extension Garden Rental Program allows residents to rent county-owned plots to grow fresh produce for as little as $25.
The program has been in existence for 48 years, although this year might be its most important, given rising unemployment and increased concerns of food insecurity because of the coronavirus.
"Access to land for growing food can be a challenge for many residents in the county," said Dennis Lukaszewski, coordinator of the Extension Urban Agriculture Program.
"For some, it is the only way they can afford to feed their family healthy food. We expect this need to increase as COVID-19 has put so many people out of work," Lukaszewski said.
Lukaszewski said about 80 acres of land across Milwaukee County are managed through the program, and rental plots vary in size from 200 feet to 10,000 square feet.
The plots are located across the county, including in the Havenwoods neighborhood, in Timmerman Garden near N. 93rd Street and W. Appleton Avenue, and in West Allis, among other areas.
The Extension also works with local organizations to coordinate projects such as the Gerald L. Ignace Native Wellness Garden, the Lincoln Village Planter Project and Our Common Home Community Garden.
Vegetables that are ready to plant in April and May include tomatoes, carrots, onions, leaf lettuce and spinach.
"Gardening can be inexpensive and easy. You just need a container, a mound of soil and some patience," Lukaszewski said. To learn more about the program, locations of plots or to rent a plot, email the Extension program here.
"Drive Thru at the Farm"
For those looking for low-priced local produce and who also want to support local businesses, "Drive Thru at the Farm" run through its fifth weekend.
Run out of the site of The Farm Collaborative, 5500 W. Silver Spring Drive, the Drive Thru team has been selling produce boxes to residents who preorder through the online pay site Venmo on Fridays. Those who visit the site Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. can pay with cash or use credit/debit cards.
Rachel Fell, a spokeswoman for the Drive Thru team, said that Thomas Schmidt, owner of the Farm Collective, came up with the idea to sell the produce boxes as a way to support food suppliers and provide residents with affordable and healthy food.
"The suppliers are able to keep moving produce and food from farmers, and consumers get a new access point to affordable, perishable food that otherwise has nowhere else to go because it would normally go to businesses that sell or provide food that aren’t currently operational," Fell said, adding that the main supplier has been Sysco East Wisconsin.
The $20 produce boxes contain 35 or more pieces of produce, including such items as oranges, carrots, celery, onions and six pounds of prepared mashed potatoes. The $30 box contains all of those items plus either ham steaks or pork chops, and bacon. There is also an option that substitutes pork products with roast beef. In addition, the pricier option also includes butter, string cheese and yogurt.
Fell said the Drive Thru offers customers a safe alternative to in-person shopping.
"Lots of folks who are elderly, have underlying conditions or are immunocompromised are nervous about shopping for food right now, and rightfully so," Fell said. "A drive-thru model allows them minimal contact and exposure to collective or more crowded spaces like grocery stores, which is extra important for them at this time."