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More than ten participants from the Guest House of Milwaukee recently attended a Sweet Water Foundation workshop series hosted by two Sweet Water Foundation interns at the Guest House on 13th and Juneau in Milwaukee. The Guest House provides shelter, housing, education, and services to Milwaukee’s homeless who seek to transform their lives with dignity and purpose.
During the workshop, SWF interns shared some information about the elements of aquaponics as well as how and why aquaponics is practiced. The workshop participants learned basic aquaponics maintenance as well as how to design and build a system. The workshop culminated with participants building a 10-gallon aquaponics system, complete with goldfish and seeds. Workshop participants and interns also became involved in a discussion about the social justice issues surrounding food security involving racism and classism, food deserts, health disparities, and some of the ways the urban agriculture movement is seeking to address these issues.
Guest House has recently launched the Cream City Gardens project, an urban agriculture initiative that will provide fresh, home-grown food to the Guest House and its neighbors, and will provide job training for formerly homeless individuals in urban gardening and the green industry.
Many of the skills that participants had used at Cream City Gardens lent themselves well to the Sweet Water Foundation’s aquaponics workshop. Because aquaponics is an integrated STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) discipline, it allows all practitioners to bring their own skills and strengths to the worktable. One workshop participant was skilled with hand tools and took the lead in assembling the grow bed. Another participant had worked in a fish tank factory. The workshop was composed of participants interested and experienced in fields as varied as fishing, chemistry, and fiberglass.
The Guest House of Milwaukee provides educational opportunities to their clients on topics ranging from job interviewing to financial literacy to art classes. This series was the first aquaponics workshop to occur at the Guest House. Many of the workshop participants expressed interest in building other aquaponics systems for personal use once they attained permanent housing.