Way back in 1946, a work farm was established in Franklin, Wisconsin to feed inmates at the Milwaukee County House of Correction. The idea: an agricultural program would rehabilitate the men and instill moral character through hard work. Inmates supplied labor for all farm operations, including breeding and raising livestock, dairy farming, and maintaining the vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. The Farm operated successfully under this model for almost 35 years until a major fire brought an end to farm operations in 1980.
Though Farm operations were on temporary hiatus, the facilities still held unique potential. In 1984, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Great Lakes Studies converted the old creamery facility on the farm grounds into a small scale fish hatchery. In 1989, the hatchery was converted into a full-scale indoor hatchery, including four outdoor ponds for rearing fish. By the early 1990s, the hatchery was stocking Milwaukee County Park lagoons and creating a recreational fishing experience for local youth.
With the fish hatchery in full gear, and renewed interest in the farming springing to life, work on the farm was re-established in 1993 using 30 acres of community gardens. Inmate labor was once again used to cultivate produce and feed the inmate population.
Fast forward to 2004: in partnership with Milwaukee County, Hunger Task Force took over Farm operations to grow and harvest produce exclusively for Milwaukee’s hungry. We revved up production, and soon over 350,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables were annually distributed to Hunger Task Force’s pantry network.
Today, Hunger Task Force has full operational control of the Farm under a long-term lease with Milwaukee County. The Farm is home to 173 acres of farm land, 12 acres of orchards, 20 acres of tree nursery, and a unique Oak Savanna. Since 2012 when we signed our lease with the county we have managed to have volunteer based operation. Each year thousands of community volunteers come out to get their hands dirty and support the community.
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