The Milwaukee Village School, founded by Cap Lee and Mary Gale Budzisz, had a great impact on Will Allen's future as did he on our future. When we connected with Will, he was a farmer with a greenhouse beginning the process of expanding his Urban Farming concept. While partnering with the then called "Farm Link", in his words, "It really began to take off". When we left Will, the beginnings of Growing Power were in place. And now, 15 years later, Growing Power is a dominant force in Milwaukee as well as around the world. Here is the story as told in our first book, "Quashing the Rhetoric of Reform":
More and more flowers were needed for the students of Milwaukee Village School students to help beautify the neighborhood. The students were adamant about purchasing them in the neighborhood or at least from a black owned business. Van driver David Crouthers suggested they take a ride to check a greenhouse he knew about.
When the van pulled up to the greenhouse, fifteen middle school students bounded out and were met by a woman who, not seeing the teacher, would not allow them into the business. The teacher, Mary Gale Budzisz asked to see the manager and what happened next was a partnership made in heaven. Out of the back came a very, very tall African American man who extended a very, very large hand. Mary Gale started looking at his very, very large feet and continued up to the top of his head. She stood at about his beltline. We grasped hands and Mary Gale looked into his eyes.
" My students would like to shop for flowers, but I do not have any money with me at this time."
He said, "Bring them in and let them have what they need."
Mary Gale went on to explain that she did have money in a school account and would pay the bill as soon as she could turn in the receipt. Will Allen, the owner, said that would not be a problem and turned us loose. The students were ecstatic about the wide array of flowers to choose from and loaded many flats into the van. We were off to beautify Ms. Starnes home.
Will partnered with Milwaukee Village School for years after with our students involvement in the community and the Growing Power greenhouse as part of our regular curriculum.
Quashing the Rhetoric of Reform Eldon Lee / Mary Gale Budzisz Rowman and Littlefield publishers.
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