Milwaukee Fire Department 'flex farms' address community need

Milwaukee firefighters have found another way to help the community, using their green thumbs to grow fresh food year round.

It's part of a pilot program called "Gardens for First Responders," but fire crews aren't the only ones getting their hands in the soil.

"I knew that our community needed growth; I knew we had food deserts," said Andre Lee Ellis with Community Agricultural Growing Experiences.

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When it comes to growth, the crew is coming together to plant the seeds.

"We believe that everyone is a farmer. That is why we spend all our time developing technology that makes growing fresh food accessible," said Michael Hostad with Fork Farms.

The technology, called "flex farms," will soon be found at fire stations across Milwaukee.

"To put these in fire stations, which, as you know, are equally distributed throughout the city, for the most part, allows for this to be placed directly into the neighborhoods that need it most," said MFD Chief Aaron Lipski.

"We are going to be looking at the ability to create employable skills among youth in Milwaukee. By getting them to work and manage these machines," said Hostad.

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While building skills, the hope is youth can also build trust – making a happier, healthier city.

"We are going to work to foster and grow better relationships between residents and our first responders. Because the first responders will be working with youth," Hostad added.

"Here’s to growing food, growing lives, growing community," said Ellis.

The "flex farms" are only about the size of a refrigerator, but can produce 25 pounds of greens per month.