SweetWaterOrganicsSweetWaterFoundation.TransitionStories History

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Lot’s of wonderful developments at Sweet Water, i.e. SWO, the Farm, and SWF, the
academy, primarily at this juncture, involving the Sweet Water Foundation(SWF).
The SWF has been my main focus since 2010, based upon starting vision of democratizing and globalizing aquaponics. I am the President of the SWF, and have held no position at SWO since sometime in 2010 or early 2011.

Sweet Water Organics: The Nation’s Aquaponics “Big Bang”

I saw and see SWO as a “big bang” for aquaponics and Milwaukee, an astonishing, iconic landmark, like St. Josephat’s Basilica, that would awaken deep reverence and stimulate great passions. I saw SWO as testimony to the Grand Alliance of Milwaukee, rooted in engineering, artisanship, art, and science, commercial visions and spiritual stirrings. I knew SWO was a risk venture regarding single bottom line criteria, a risk worth taking with a business plan that included multiple bottom lines and multiple income streams. The social and ecological justice piece of SWO’s founding vision would attract “pro-bono genius” to advance this earth friendly food technology. The multiple income streams would allow for back-up revenue streams if the R&D costs of the commercial experiment exceeded expectations.

Sweet Water’s SWF In Ascendancy at This Juncture

So the “legacy costs” of SWO have become too much for Josh and I to any longer bear. A stabilizing loan through WEDA and other lending agencies does not seem to be in the cards. The outside iteration, Sweet Water Organics 2.0 requires more money and time before providing revenues. The Sweet Water “Great Farm” has proven to be much more an R&D facility and science lab, a school and eco-tourist destination, a museum and backdrop to weekend events of 500 to 1,500 at the “Great Hall of the Tulip Building.”

On the other hand, the multiple income streams and triple bottom line algorithm finds the Sweet Water Foundation with revenues enough to make great advances, including:

  • $175,000 MacArthur Badge Based Life Long Digital Learning grant
  • $200,000 Community Building Systems “Stabalizing Sweet Water” grant
  • $40,000 Newman’s Own “Seed to Table Project”

Smaller revenues supporting:

  • MPS Aquaponics Teacher Training Cohort of 30
  • Sweet Water Help for Vincent High’s Urban Agriculture Program”
  • Sweet Water India Collaboration
  • ACTS Housing/UEC Sweet Water Home Miniature Experiments
  • Presentation at National Science Foundation “Vertical Farming Workshop”

A lot of this is brilliantly presented at:


We are sculpting different scenarios to reconfigure “Sweet Water.” I would
very much like to meet with you to share our visions and challenges. Please
let me know some times and places when you can meet.

I think you know that I and the Sweet Water teams are deeply appreciative
of your visionary support and steadfast commitment to this great Bay View
adventure called Sweet Water!

Every city deserves a Sweet Water!


P.S. Here’s a monthly progress report for SWF.

here is an update from SWF Milwaukee for the months of August-September 2012.

Grants / Funding

Newman’s Own Foundation

Last week we received a $20,000 check from Newman’s Own Foundation, which is the first half of a 2-year, $40,000 grant for our “Seed to Table Project”. The grant will fund SWF’s services and materials for Bradley Tech HS and South Division HS in Milwaukee and for Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago. There are also funds available for us to do additional outreach to schools in Milwaukee and Chicago.

The Seed to Table Project consists of schools designing and building food production systems, including aquaponics, garden beds, and compost systems. The Project concludes with a harvest celebration, where food grown at the school is prepared by students and eaten by special guests.

Newman’s Own Foundation gave SWF a grant last year for $5,000. We hope they will continue to support us year after year.

Wells Fargo – Washington Park Neighborhood Initiative

SWF was written into a grant for ACTS Housing, in order to develop and implement food production tools, including aquaponics, garden beds, and compost systems, for first-time home buyers in the Washington Park neighborhood in Milwaukee. The grant is from Wells Fargo’s national branch in San Francisco. We will be meeting with ACTS soon to find out the budgeted amount and scope of work for SWF on this project.

Sweet Water AQUAPONS – Digital Media and Learning project


We received our first installment of grant funds for $43,750 for the Sweet Water AQUAPONS project (AKA “the MacArthur grant”) at the beginning of August. We will receive 3 more quarterly installments over the course of 1 year.


We have hit the ground running on the AQUAPONS project. We have 6 interns from Alverno College’s Interactive Media Design program working on this project. Here is the blog they have created: http://sweetwateraquapons.tumblr.com/

Emmanuel, Jill, and I have weekly calls with our other core technology consultants, Georgia Bullen and Matt Richardson. We have begun to interview possible partners to develop the technology platform for our online, badge-based learning program.

Workshop at Duke University

Emmanuel and I traveled to Duke University a couple weeks ago to attend the first Digital Media and Learning grantee workshop. There will be another workshop in January in California, before the next DML conference in Chicago in March. We made many critical connections, including folks from MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, the Smithsonian Institute, Microsoft, US Veterans Affairs, Girl Scouts, Motorola. Everyone is doing badges!! http://www.openbadges.org/

Sweet Water - India Project

Chaya put together a beautiful report on the Growing Networks – Empowerment through Aquaponics project this past summer in Kerela, India. That report is attached to this email. You can also see the website that they created here: http://growingnetworks.weebly.com/

We will continue to work with Chaya and Shajan John to move the India project forward. We are hoping to repeat the program from last summer, this coming summer in 2013.

NEA Foundation-funded lesson plan booklet

Jill Frey did a great job putting together lesson plans on aquaponics, created by teachers from our USDA-funded Midwest Aquaponics Expertise Development Initiative (MAEDI) and from MPS’ Urban Schools Aquaponics (USA) Initiative. We will have hard copies of the lesson plan booklet for you to see at our next meeting. For now, a grant report that we submitted to NEA Foundation is attached here.

There are more things happening – here I’m just sticking to the basics :) I’m happy to follow up by phone or email if you have any questions.

Jesse Blom
City Director
Sweet Water Foundation - Milwaukee
cell: 262–501–0855

Last edited by Godsil.   Page last modified on November 03, 2012, at 10:17 AM

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