Milwaukee Talks Green

“The partnership works perfectly because we get to engage the community and broaden our reach by working together.”  That’s Jessy Ortiz, Outpost’s Sustainability Manager talking about how she and Anastasia Kraft created Milwaukee Talks Green. Jessy and Ana started this group this past January because they wanted to inform our community about sustainability.  The group meets roughly once a month to host events with guest speakers, tour local facilities, clean up rivers and more.  “The whole idea of MKE Talks Green is to educate our community so people will know more and can make better decisions in their everyday life,” explains Ana Kraft.

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But lets back up a moment because these two ambitious women didn’t even know each other until November 2016.  Ana, originally from Germany, saw things differently than many Americans because she grew up in a country with small cars, renewable energy, extensive waste management and elaborate recycling.  “Instead of complaining, I wanted to meet people. I’m sure there are many people out there that care about the environment and want to learn something,” she says.  Inspired by TED Talks, she decided to make a Meet Up group where speakers could present to the community and everyone could discuss the topic afterwards.

Enter Jessy Ortiz and Outpost Natural Foods.  At about the same time, Jessy and the company were discussing how to better engage the community in sustainability.  The original idea was to start a group only for owners of the Outpost co-op, but when Ana showed up at the Bay View location asking if Outpost would host the Meet Up group, it made more sense to include the whole community.

2017_06_25_JO_004_1EAna and Jessy plan out the events with themes based on the time of year or relevant holidays.  For instance, in March their theme was water for World Water Day and they invited speakers from Milwaukee River Keeper, Feed Mouths Filling Minds and water expert Dr. Moe Mukiibi.  In April they focused on local farming, hosting speakers from the Young Farmers Program and Victory Garden Initiative.  In the summer months, they organized outside events like a tour of Milwaukee recycling facilities and of the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.  August’s theme will be sustainable grazing and later in the fall they will be focussing on energy efficiency.

The two women emphasize that the group is meant to inform people of what’s already going on in their community and hopefully inspire them to get involved.  “The idea is think global, act local,” says Jessy.  “This is one way for Outpost to extend their mission: to provide owners a healthy, diverse and sustainable community.”

“Education is the most powerful tool we can use to change the world,” Ana passionately states. “Hopefully we will create a community where people see their impact.”

To join these two inspiring women at their next event, visit their Facebook page and learn more about how Milwaukee is becoming a sustainable city.

Kathy Papineau and MKE Kitchen

2017_05_21_KP_013_1EIt’s hard to capture all of the things that Kathy Papineau does for the community in one blog post.  The best way to describe Kathy Papineau is that she puts her community before herself.  She runs three businesses that all work together: MKE Kitchen, Localicious and Soup in a Jar.  On top of all that, she is a huge advocate for the local food movement in Milwaukee and a role model for composting and eating local.

Kathy first became interested in food at a young age.  She grew up in Manitowoc, WI with 5 siblings, an unhealthy father, and a mother that didn’t have much time to cook.  Kathy’s childhood fueled her motivation to eat healthy and learn to cook by watching cooking shows on TV and reading magazines like Home & Garden and Good Housekeeping.  Years later as a stay-at-home mom, Papineau started her catering company Localicious around 2007.  She started small in her home kitchen, but the business kept growing until 2012, when she opened MKE Kitchen, her commercial kitchen in Riverwest. Soup in a Jar is her food truck you may see around town that she uses to sell her homemade soup and meet new customers. Naturally, Kathy thought of others before herself. “If I was going to build a kitchen for my business, I thought I should build a kitchen big enough so that other people could build their businesses too,” she explained.

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But that’s not all the kitchen does, not even close.  Kathy teaches cooking classes to kids, and the classes incorporate the importance of composting and the benefits of a local market.  “Schools need to find room in their curriculum to cover stuff like that,” she says.  At the same time, the kitchen acts as a meeting place for local food groups such as volunteers from the Urban Ecology Center advocating for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.  Papineau has created a welcoming place for ideas to spread and for the local food community to grow.

Kathy moves fast and doesn’t sit still for very long which means she has a million ideas for the future.  She wants to teach a course about starting your own business to teach people about all the business technicalities they don’t consider at first.  Whether she planned it or not, Kathy has become a guide for the new entrepreneurs that rent from her and she’s willing to share her experience.  One of those new entrepreneurs, Collin Wallace of Chillwaukee, talked about how helpful Kathy had been to his new business.  “She’s very accommodating and gives us the space we need, and puts us in touch with people and news stations,” he said.

With every new idea, Kathy stays true to her core goal: “I want people to eat healthier. I want them to understand the relationship between their food, their health and the environment. That’s what I want.”

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Dr. Moe Mukiibi

How clean is the water we are drinking?  Is bottled water really any better for us than tap water?  How can I be sure that the water I am drinking and using in my home is safe?  If it’s not safe, what can I do to fix it?

These are some of the questions that Dr. Moe Mukiibi is asking for us.  As a globally recognized Water Exert and Tech Innovator, Mukiibi has been all over the world trying to solve our water problems and wants to empower the average person by helping them understand what is in their own water.  “We gotta do better, we gotta educate the people,” he proclaims.

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Dr. Mukiibi grew up in Uganda walking miles with his mother every day carrying water back to their village.  They did not have many sources of water, so the only option was to walk to the closest source, and bring it back to their home.  When I asked Mukiibi what motivated him to go into the water field, he replied, “I [went] into the water area to find a solution…I was so determined that I was going to help my mother out to find water…I remember that vision very well when I was 5 years old.”

Since then, he received a PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and has worked around the world with various water technology companies. He now resides in Milwaukee working as the Executive Chief Technology Officer with Stonehouse Water Technologies at the Global Water Council.  But for Dr. Mukiibi, that is not enough.  He has 9 patents out for water technologies that he invented, including a machine that can convert air into water.  Don’t believe me? Ask him yourself.

As part of his “Wise Up on Your Water” initiative, Mukiibi also wants to start a water co-op in Milwaukee for the average person like you and me because most of us don’t really know what is in the water that comes from our tap, bottled water or wells.  Mukiibi points out that he has seen a lot of people looking for solutions but they don’t know how to decide which is right. For instance, people use waters filters at home, but often choose a filter based on advertising, personal bias or simply guessing.  “I want to change that. I want to empower and educate the people. I want to give them the tools.”

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If people joined this co-op, he would teach them how to read the water report they receive in the mail every year, teach them how to test their own water and help them find a filtration system that matches their water supply quality and lifestyle.  Dr. Mukiibi’s idea is to first educate this group of people.  Then once educated, these people can take this information and educate others, make money off their ideas or simply be safe in their own homes if that is what they desire.

Dr. Moe Mukiibi is a strong believer that knowledge is power.  He explains to me that we need to be informed and “together that is how we are going to make a difference in the world.”

To get in touch with Dr. Mukiibi, visit his LinkedIn or email him at dr.moe.m@fwmtech.com

Flying Squirrel Pilates

Jaime Hayden is an outgoing and engaging pilates instructor that runs a small studio in the Third Ward called Flying Squirrel Pilates. Jaime is a busy woman, teaching a wide variety of classes along with running the business on her own.  She first became certified in pilates 12 years ago while working a surprising mix of other jobs.  Originally from Houston Texas, Jaime moved to Milwaukee to be closer to family.  She started her business seven years ago out of her home with a little support from her dad and it has been growing ever since.  She now has bragging rights for winning the best Milwaukee pilates studio in 2013, 2014 and 2016 according to Milwaukee A List.

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When describing her path of how she got here, Jaime described her love of athletics and history as a softball player and gymnast.  Later in life, she had two knee surgeries and consequently found pilates.  She quickly fell in love with the new sport and pursued the idea as a career.   Pilates was “designed to make your body feel good doing everything else you do,” she explains.  “It is meant to strengthen your core and keep your vertebrae decompressed.”

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Jaime sees pilates not just as a sport, but as a healing practice.  She began telling me about her very first client, Terri, who has taken her classes in every location she’s taught for 7 years now.  The two met at the occupational therapy clinic where Jamie was working at the time. Terri has severe rheumatoid arthritis and used to have a very limited range of motion, but has been taking Jaime’s classes twice a week ever since she started the business. Now Terri “can do planks better than anyone. What it’s done for her rheumatoid arthritis is amazing,” says Jaime with a proud smile on her face.

If you talk to Jaime for more than 30 seconds, you can tell that she is passionate about her business and her clients. “My clients are amazing, they’ve become super good friends,” she mentions and adds that she would much rather be doing this than anything else.  So talk to her yourself or better yet, take a pilates class.

You can view her website at http://fspilates.wixsite.com/flyingsquirrel.

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Voyageur Book Shop

One morning on my day off, I was wandering down Kinnickinnic Avenue just after grabbing a cup of coffee from Stone Creek.   I figured I would check to see if there was anything new on the main street when I stumbled across Voyageur Book Shop, a hidden little book store at the end of the block with an impressive collection.  I thought that surely I must have walked by this place a thousand times, but after walking in and talking to co-owner Blaine Wesselowski, I learned that he and Jeremy Mericle just opened the shop in spring of 2016.

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Blaine and Jeremy met while working at Renaissance Book Shop a few years back.  Once the shop closed, they bought a large collection of the books and art (now hanging on Voyageur’s walls) in order to open their own place.  Blaine, originally from Kansas and Jeremy, originally from Wisconsin are a perfect match for going into business together.  They both have a love for rare books and a knack for finding unique copies.

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So how does one acquire books to fill a small book store?  Well, you have to do your homework.  Blaine explains that it’s about knowing the right type of places like certain estate sales or specific library sales.  “Often you get referrals from people that have a library they want to sell out of” and those can be gold mines.  But there’s more to it than simply finding the books, you also have to know your customer base and carry the books that people will buy.  Popular authors like Edgar Allen Poe always sell out.  “The earlier in life people experience the author, the more broadly known they are,” says Blaine.

You might be wondering what book shop owners Blaine and Jeremy are currently reading so lucky enough, I thought to ask.  Jeremy is deep into  The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God by George Bernard Shaw while Blaine just finished a biography of Lewis Carroll and has now moved onto Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick.   And yes, conversations with these two are as unique as their book choices.  So take a stroll over Voyageur and venture through the boundless collection of stories.

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Three Sisters Farm

Three Sisters Community Farm is a young organic farm run by Kelly Kiefer and Jeff Schreiber. They recently started their farm in 2011 using Kelly’s family land where she grew up and additional land nearby.2016_10_15_csaf_066_2e

The name Three Sisters is unique because it has two meanings: Kelly is one of three sisters and there is a group of three crops that support each other when grown together which native groups called the three sisters. These three crops are corn, beans and squash. The corn grows tall providing a trellis for the beans to climb while the beans create nitrogen rich soil, needed to make plants healthy. And finally the squash grows on a vine which provides ground cover for the soil around the other plants. “We liked the picture of this synergistic combination of plants contributing to the greater benefit of the whole system as a metaphor for how we build relationships with our community of supporters,” mentioned Kelly.

I recently visited their farm in the fall while they had volunteers helping plant garlic and prepping the tomato plants for spring. While having the privilege to speak with Kelly and Jeff, I was able to gain some insight on how much work they do both on and off the farm. Working on the land is not easy and farmers often spend 10 or more hours working on their land every day. But owning a farm also means owning a business. Winter is their opportunity to catch up on calculations for the season, taxes and all of the less glamorous pieces of running a business.

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Kelly and Jeff stay connected to their supporters in multiple ways including volunteer opportunities and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). One of their goals is to build community relationships and create a welcoming sanctuary at their farm so if you are interested in volunteering, I hear they pay in vegetables. For those of you who don’t know, becoming part of their CSA means that you subscribe to the farm for the growing season and Kelly and Jeff deliver fresh produce to a location near you every week. The produce you receive every week depends on what is in season so you get a chance to discover all kinds of new vegetables that you never knew existed. Three Sisters Farm is unique because they actually allow you to pick some of the vegetables that go into your box each week on their website.

So you if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, a CSA to join or just two genuinely welcoming farmers to talk to, look up Jeff and Kelly.

www.threesisterscommunityfarm.com