Making Oshkosh a better place through do-good initiatives runs through Stolley’s veins; she was born, raised and educated in the much-loved community she still calls home.
Now, Stolley is taking dramatic steps to grow, change and make Oshkosh a better place via Growing Oshkosh, which raises awareness and educates citizens about the “benefits of fresh, healthy, all-natural and sustainable food (and food production) by growing—and teaching others how to grow—fish, food, flowers, jobs … and hope.”
Growing Oshkosh initiatives began in August 2012, when Stolley pulled together a board of directors—many of whom have links to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Alumni Jessica King ‘98, Bob Poeschl ’06, and Courtney (Greco) Lasky ‘03, as well as retired senior lecturer and photographer Don Stolley and Mandy Potts with integrated marketing and communications, sit on the nine-member board.
The project started, Stolley admits, as a dream. In many ways, Growing Oshkosh is modeled after Growing Power, an urban farm in Milwaukee, which Stolley completed a Commercial Urban Agriculture program through. Her interest was piqued, and she got busy.
“I’ve been an environmentalist all my life—before I even knew what that meant. But my passion for nature and the environment was from an ecological perspective, an almost spiritual
connection between the land and waters I call home,” Stolley said. “When it came down to deciding what it was I wanted to do with my adult life, it was a no-brainer. I simply wanted to grow food and flowers, but especially for the people and habitats that need it the most in my community.”
With that in mind, her dream transitioned to a reality and Growing Oshkosh was planted in the heart of the Oshkosh community.
“I think it’s really important that people have access to uplift themselves or become more self-sufficient,” Poeschl said. “Growing Oshkosh has the ability to grow and partner with neighborhoods and the community to create the ability for people to be more self-sufficient. There is so much to gain by having an urban garden.”
While the primary role of Growing Oshkosh is to produce sustainable and healthy food, an underlying goal is to use the physical location of the urban farm as a way to bring people together to combat issues like isolation, said Karlene Grabner ’98, executive director of the Women’s Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation.
With that goal, the Women’s Fund awarded a $10,000 grant to Growing Oshkosh, based on the feedback of focus groups.
“Such projects like Growing Oshkosh put forth an objective that will bring people—such as mothers, children and families—together using a common
activity or goal,” Grabner said. “As a community member and UW Oshkosh alumna, it’s great to see support in such a unique community project. Not only is the sustainability of this organization promising for our community, but it also provides a unique opportunity for students and children eager to learn.”
Like roots that grow and spread to make strong plants, Growing Oshkosh is extending out into the community, too.
Raised boxes were put in at UW Oshkosh’s Head Start late last summer to give young students an opportunity to grow and eat their own food. In 2013, a grant from UW Oshkosh’s Creating a Stronger Community Contest, which Growing Oshkosh won, will fund a Hope and Healing Garden at the main urban farm headquarters in downtown Oshkosh.
In the future, Growing Oshkosh has plans to both grow and sustain. Building school gardens and giving community members access to healthy foods to promote healthy eating is a primary focus for 2013, Stolley said.
Growing Oshkosh is an urban farm located in the heart of downtown Oshkosh at the Hooper Community Center. Within the hoop houses–an indoor growing environment -everything from herbs and vegetables to fish and flowers will be grown and raised. Check out the photo gallery from the urban farm.
- Read about Kat McCard, a UW Oshkosh student who is an intern for Growing Oshkosh.