Feeding Mouths Filling Minds

We all have those moments when we see a cause that needs attention, and think “I should do something about this,” but few of us act on that thought.  That’s what makes Maria and Grant Groves stand out.  After a trip to Kenya, they started the non-profit organization Feeding Mouths Filling Minds in 2012.  When Maria was 20, she visited an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya on a service project that opened her eyes to challenges people face across the world.  The widespread poverty she saw stayed in the back of her mind until she finally went back to visit that same orphanage years later with her husband Grant.  This visit was different because the couple started talking about land use, how land use could improve food and water, and what the orphanage could do to optimize land use.  “That’s how the organization got started,” says Maria.

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FMFM focuses on sustainable food and water sources because if these basic needs are fulfilled, children are “able to turn their attention to filling their minds rather than worrying about filling their bellies,” as explained on the group’s website.  Feeding Mouths Filling Minds has partnered with other organizations to build water wells in Liberia, farm ponds in Kenya, sustainable farming in Sierra Leone and so much more.  With Maria’s unique skills in networking and fundraising, the organization is able to acquire funding to implement these projects.  And with the help of their dedicated team, FMFM ensures that the projects continue to be successful by teaching local people in Africa how to carry out the programs.

Feeding Mouths Filling Minds has also started to focus on their local community in addition to their projects in Africa.  They have partnered with Youth Outreach Service in Chicago to build an urban garden for at-risk youth, that will provide local teenagers with healthy food and teach them how to manage their own garden.  FMFM is also in the process of launching a global students program that would ideally be part of the curriculum in Milwaukee schools.  Under that program, kids would pick an African country to learn about and would complete academic components and required readings focusing on that country.  Then the children would choose one of the FMFM projects and would come up with their own ideas to help with funding.  The students would be connected with the children they are helping in Africa via email or mail.  They would “really own it and be empowered through that entire project,” explains Maria.

So when you think to yourself “I should do something about this,” follow FMFM’s model and take action.  The organization understands that children are our future, both in Africa and at home, and with their basic needs met, they can reach their full potential.  Learn more about the organization on their website at www.feedingmouthsfillingminds.com

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Springdale Farm

Located just Southwest of Plymouth and alongside the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forrest, Springdale Farm sits peacefully in a valley.  In the fall of 1987, Peter and Bernadette Seely moved to Wisconsin to start their farm with a business model that was new to the midwest: Community Supported Agriculture.  When their farm first opened in 1988, they had 45 members that subscribed to the farm in order to receive fresh produce every week of the growing season based on which crops were available.  “It seemed like a good idea to build a better economy based on good food,” says Peter Seely.

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Raised in a suburb of New York City, Peter didn’t know much about farming but when a movement for organic food started in the 70s and early 80s Peter states, “the role of food and health became pretty obvious to me.”  So he apprenticed at an organic vegetable farm in Maine for a summer, which first made him consider farming full time.  A few years later, Peter taught high school math at a school in Iowa where he first met his soon-to be-wife Bernadette.   The school had a garden that was part of a program to teach kids about farming that Bernadette and Peter managed together.  In 1986, the couple spent a season touring farms, and among them were the first CSAs in the country.  After learning how these farms functioned, the couple thought: “Let’s see if that idea could take route here in Wisconsin.”

That idea took off.  For the first 20 years, they had a waiting list for their CSA, which serves Sheboygan, Ozaukee and Milwaukee counties.  Springdale is now one of about 12 farms in Southeast Wisconsin that follow the Community Supported Agriculture model. The farmers are in the process of creating a group called CSA Farms of Southeast Wisconsin, in which they help each other with advice and outreach about CSAs.

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“So how does Springdale Farm benefit the Milwaukee community?”, I asked Peter Seely.  As a CSA member, Peter explains, people “know they are directly supporting a local farm dedicated to keeping the soil and the environment safe to pass it on to future generations.”   Additionally, people know exactly where their food comes from and can have it delivered the day after it was picked from the field.

Now 29 years later, Peter and Bernadette Seely have 750 CSA members, 13 greenhouses, electric tractors powered by solar panels and a continued mission to provide healthy food and a sustainable future for our environment.  And in case you’re wondering, their favorite thing to cook this time of year is pesto.

Learn more about the farm on their website: www.SpringdaleFarmCSA.org

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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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Chillwaukee

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On a calm sunny afternoon, I walk through the open door of MKE Kitchen in Riverwest to meet Danielle Dahl and Collin Wallace, owners of Chillwaukee.  I find them chopping rhubarb and juicing buckets of fresh vibrant lemons in the welcoming commercial kitchen that they rent from Kathy Papineau.  This was definitely not what I was expecting when meeting a couple that makes local popsicles.  But what do I know about making popsicles?  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Dahl and Wallace hand-make all of their pops from scratch using fresh ingredients and once the growing season starts, they plan to work with local farmers and use all local produce.  Some of their flavors include Strawberry Rhubarb, Lavender Lemonade, Chocolate Covered Coconut, Arnold Palmer and my personal favorite Bananas Foster.  Trust me, they taste even better than they sound.

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Chillwaukee is all leg power.  Once Dahl and Wallace prepare all their popsicles, they load them into their bicycle/freezer and ride their business to the next event.  “That’s what we’re committed to, we can’t flake out. We gotta prove to people that biking is a viable means to getting where you need to go, even if you run a business,” declares Danielle.  They mentioned that one of the hardest parts of running their business is when you reach a large hill and have to get the fully-loaded bicycle up that hill.  Sometimes it takes two people to push it over.  But the benefits far outweigh the struggles.

Danielle and Collin officially launched their business in May of this year.  The idea dawned on them when they were walking through a festival last fall looking at the vendors and thought, “we can do that.”  The two of them were tired of working inside so they quit their jobs in hopes of spending the summer outside, “hanging out with people and connecting,” says Collin.  Previously a Milwaukee chef, Collin brings a professional food perspective to the business and fixes the bikes, while Danielle’s history in photography and graphic design allows her to do outreach and run the website and social media.  Together they create the recipes. Can you say power couple?

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Although it’s been a steep learning curve, these two have a solid business plan and are already taking on Milwaukee.  They are passionate about the local food movement and dedicated to their sustainable practices. “Keep it really really simple. Keep it local as much as possible. Be good role models for composting. Bike as much as possible. If you want to be in the food scenes, you don’t need to buy a $40,000 food truck and have a generator running all day long…You can keep it small and simple,” explains Collin.  If you want to see where they will be this summer or want to get in touch with them about catering, take a look at their website: www.chillwaukee.com

Jacob Bach & Good Land Guides

Meet Jacob Bach.  He’s one of the most outgoing, encouraging, eccentric and caring people I know.  One of his main goals in life is to always make the people around him laugh.  Just a few months ago in February 2017, Jacob incorporated Good Land Guides, “a Wisconsin-based tourism company that focuses on getting people out into the good land,” explains Jacob.   Not only does he take people on backpacking and rafting adventures in nature, but he also leads trips into cities or interesting places around Wisconsin in order to show people what Wisconsin really has to offer.  On top of that, he tries to schedule one volunteer day per month like the Devil’s Lake clean-up event last month that brought about 300 people to the state park to clean up trash and maintain the trails.

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So how did Bach get here?  Yes, he does spend most of his time outdoors, but no, that’s not necessarily his professional background.  He actually started as a dancer, actor and then a comedian.  Bach grew up in Milwaukee learning dance and acting, then started doing comedy through the ComedySportz High School League, which he now teaches. In 2010 he started The Improvised Musical, a theater company he ran with co-producer Mary Baird that was a traveling improvised musical which he calls “the gypsy company.”  The group would travel around the country headlining improv festivals in New York, performing at universities and other venues.  During the company’s five-year run, the company won best theater company in Milwaukee by the Shepard Express.

2017_04_01_DevilsLake_213_1EOnce the company ended in 2015, Jacob began to focus on his solo career.  He started a podcast called “Yeah, Bro!” which Jacob describes as “the show where straight guys talk about gay things.” Little did he know, he would gain thousands of listeners in the first year and get asked to do photo shoots for Milwaukee Magazine and Quest.  “I was getting a reputation for being me… I was notorious for being myself, like having a personality,” says Bach.  He has also been working at ComedySportz for 10 years, making a living from coaching comedy, performing, independent contracting and leading team building work shops for corporate companies.

His life was running smooth until his father had a massive heart attack in 2014 and Jacob was the first responder on the scene.  Luckily his father was fine, but the event changed both Jacob’s and his family’s perspective.  It “opened my family’s eyes to doing things” and not worrying about money, he mentions.  Skip ahead to 2016: Jacob made it his goal to see every state park in Wisconsin in one year.  “I finished up that tour and completely fell in love… I didn’t know how badly I wanted to share things with people.”

After completing his 2016 goal, Jacob took the NOLS Southwest Outdoor Educator course to become a trained outdoor guide.  Once he got back from that trip, he realized that he wanted to work in the outdoors and show people this “crazy awesome” state. That’s when the idea for Good Land Guides first popped into his head.

So as I sat on the couch with Jacob at the rock climbing gym listening to his story about his life, the creation of Good Land Guides made perfect sense to me.  But I had one final question: What do both comedy and guiding do for the community and why do you do them?

2017_04_01_DevilsLake_194_1EHis answer was so profound, that I am going to let him take it from here:

“I think that they are both honestly the same. It’s just an escape for people for a while. Both of them should be bringing you happiness in some way.  I do comedy because I need attention, but I also do comedy because I like to give people attention. Specifically, I do improv because it’s so interactive with people and it’s so collaborative.  I love commanding attention from people but it’s because I like to make sure that people are always laughing about something or at least having a decent conversation about something.  Guiding people is my way of sharing what I love with people. It’s a communal thing. You’re getting people out into places that you have chosen for them.  And you’re showing them why you love it and hopefully they are loving it in return.”

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