Hunger Task Force Delivers Farm-to-Shelf Produce

May 29, 2024

FRANKLIN, Wis. — It’s a typical spring afternoon in Wisconsin. The sky waffles between sunshine and clouds. A cool breeze cuts through the trees as the wind mixes with the sound of chirping birds. On the branches, the first sign of renewal. Buds are starting to show. Growth is all around on the Hunger Task Force Farm, especially inside a hoop house where the vibrance is on full display.

“This is actually the second harvest already of the season in the hoop house,” said Matt King. King has a close connection to this land. “Just makes me really proud,” he said. “It’s come a long way.”

It’s a proud sight for King, the farm’s former director. He’s now visiting the farm in Franklin as the incoming chief executive officer of the Hunger Task Force.

“A big part of our mission and the way that we execute the mission is dignity, and so, access to healthy food is a big piece of that,” King said. “As we all know, it’s expensive to eat healthy and fresh produce is a reality for a lot of people who are living in poverty that they just don’t have access to. This farm is now our most significant source of fresh produce for our food pantry network.”

The farm’s two hoop houses are enclosed shelters with removable panels on the sides. They allow for year-round growth of produce, such as lettuce and tomatoes. While critical to the farm, the hoop houses are only part of the operation.

“This is actually a partnership with Milwaukee County Parks,” he said. “Two hundred acres of farmland inside of Milwaukee County. We’re standing inside of a Milwaukee County park, and what a unique Milwaukee County park.”

King said Milwaukee County owns the property, which was once a family farm dating back to the 1800s. However, not all of the land is for farming.

“This is 200 acres of land,” he said. “Hundred acres of that is a nature preserve with the Root River running through it.”

On the rest of the property, King said they’ll grow more than 20 different crops, such as corn and cabbage. “If it grows in Wisconsin, chances are we grow it here,” King said.

Seeds sprout in the greenhouse. Crops will rise in the fields. In the orchards, apples and pears will fill the trees. “We have over 900 fruit trees out there,” King said.

Photo by: Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

On the farm this growing season, King said they’ll “grow about a half million pounds of produce.”

The farm operates with a staff of seven, according to King. Help comes from the community. Each year, more than 5,000 volunteers play a critical role, doing jobs from planting to preparing produce for distribution. A well-known Milwaukee brand, Harley-Davidson, is the farm’s signature sponsor.

“The fresh produce that we grow here we’re actually able to grow for less than it would cost for us to purchase,” King said.

The fruits and vegetables go to a network of food pantries and senior sites, more than 150 locations around southeast Wisconsin.

The produce harvested at the farm, heads out within 24 hours, “so it goes out at it’s peak of freshness, peak of quality and so it’s really healthy, fresh, farmers market type of quality produce that’s going out,” King said.

In addition to receiving the produce, clients also have a say in what’s grown on the farm.

“We try to meet people where they’re at and to provide foods that are culturally appropriate and that allow them to prepare foods that they’re comfortable with,” King said.

Clients give feedback to the Hunger Task Force about what they’re looking for. For example, people asked for okra, so this year the farm is doing a trial run.

The organization started farming the land several years ago.

According to King, the farm “is really unique within the national landscape of food banks. It’s an innovative approach and it’s one of only a few in the country.”

It’s also caught the attention of other organizations in other states.

“We’ve had visitors from Michigan, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Vermont actually all come in to check it out and to learn more,” he said.

A visit to see if the farm in Franklin is something they can replicate in their community.

WISN 12 is celebrating its 70th anniversary with a promise of more service to the community. The station is expanding its commitment to the Hunger Task Force, focusing on what the community needs most.



Hunger Task Force is Milwaukee’s Free & Local food bank and Wisconsin’s anti-hunger leader. The organization’s core values are Dignity, Justice, Equity, Compassion and Stewardship. Hunger Task Force feeds people today by providing healthy and culturally appropriate food to hungry children, families and seniors in the community absolutely free of charge. Hunger Task Force also works to end future hunger by advocating for strong public policies and nutrition programs at the local, state and federal level.