Milwaukee County will soon be home to the largest urban organic fruit orchard in the United States.
The first of 3,000 fruit trees, 16,250 strawberry plants and 4,000 asparagus plants, were planted over the weekend at the orchard in Oak Creek as part of the county's Sowing, Empowering, and Eliminating Food Deserts Initiative, also known as the SEED Initiative.
Milwaukee County Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic started the program in 2015 and said the orchard could serve as a learning opportunity about the need for access to healthy food options.
"Food deserts are extremely harmful to our overall public health," Dimitrijevic said. "The more we can eliminate them and supply people with the tools to improve their health, I think, overall, we'll have a healthier community."
Dimitrijevic said the benefits of the locally grown food is worth the $100,000 county investment.
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Milwaukee County schools and low-income residents will be the first to have access to the organic produce. The produce will go to those in need, Milwaukee County Supervisor Steve Taylor said.
"Fruit that we pick from these trees will be spread throughout the county for those that are less fortunate," Taylor said. "It will also go to those that don't have the ability to have a garden of their own or have the yards to do it."
Taylor said they expect to wait a few years before the trees bear fruit. The produce will be processed locally at the Growing Power facility, and the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force will help distribute it through its mobile markets.
Dimitrijevic said Will Allen, founder and CEO of Growing Power, is working with immigrants from Myanmar to help tend to the orchard.