The Oshkosh Food Co-op wants to honor all of the hard work and dedication Dani Stolley and crew have put in for our community with Growing Oshkosh. It’s so amazing to see how wonderfully our community is starting to come together and to grow our own food, In the process they teach our coming generations the importance of learning all the components that go along with growing food to learn how to live sustainable. Dani, being the busy and hardworking women she is, was able to answer a few questions for me regarding Growing Oshkosh in the following email interview:
What prompted you to start Growing Oshkosh?
Dani: I was researching local community sustainabi
lity for my graduate thesis, when I came to the realization that all I wanted to do was grow food and flowers for the people and habitats who need it most in my community. Then Becket’s Restaurant, where my husband is General Manager, sponsored my training at Growing Power in Milwaukee. Growing Oshkosh was incorporated on June 12, 2012 and we built our first hoophouses that fall.
Was something on your heart for the community and the needy etc?
Dani: Giving back to my community was always second nature to me, and when “environmentalism” turned to “sustainability” in the mid 2000s, social justice and food security became an integral part of being able to say you’re sustainable. And yes, I am a bleeding heart liberal, with a soft spot for at-risk citizens!
How has Growing Oshkosh ‘grown’ since it was founded?
Dani: The biggest growth is in the diversity of our programs. We started out just being a non-profit, urban farm, set up to show people how to grow in the city, but after our very successful first community garden bed installation (at Head Start) we decided to commit to putting food and flower gardens at all Oshkosh schools, beginning with the most at-risk schools first. We have yet to really launch our Hope Garden Program (putting food and flower gardens at locations that need hope, like nursing homes, blighted neighborhoods and at social service agencies campuses, etc.) We hope to kick that off next year.
Currently, we’re readying to move into our new location at 530 Bay Shore Drive, where we’ll have an on-site farm store.
I know you have been working with the Oshkosh Area schools in growing gardens, how many have you helped build gardens with so far?
Dani: 6 raised beds each at E. Cook, Webster Stanley and Washington Elementary, and we’re working on a project with Merrill Elementary and Middle school to install 10 raised beds there this summer, one for each grade level, and one for a summer school program. We also partnered with Shattuck Middle School in Neenah, and their at-risk 7th and 8th grade program, called, Velocity, to build 11 beds there as well.
What are your future plans for Growing Oshkosh?
Dani: Growing more food, getting our new office and store open and selling all sorts of local food related items at the store. We also plan on building a kid’s garden at the farm, in order to have Storytime in the Garden reading sessions. Another major accomplishment will be when we finally get our lake perch into our aquaponics system.
Are there plans to work with the Oshkosh Food Co-op once we are open and what is your vision regarding that?
Dani: I’m sure we will partner with the Co-Op, particularly on the education and outreach side of things. We have a great relationship with all the leadership and we all are strong, local food and sustainability advocates, but now that we’ll have our own store, I imagine we’ll probably have a limited number of items being sold there–perhaps only niche items, like our shoots, worm castings, edible flowers, mushrooms and garlic, just to name a few. We’ll probably end up, hopefully, donating our more traditional veggies, like cucumbers, tomatoes and peppers. But however our product offerings shake out, we’re excited to see the progress of the co-op!! Thank you!!!–Dani
Take a peek at their awesome photos:
With peace, love and gratitude,