Hemp Farming in Mitchell Park Domes Suspended

June 25, 2019

Hemp Farming in Mithchell Park Domes Suspended

Hemp farmers may postpone hemp planting for an indefinite time as the greenhouse behind Milwaukee Country's Mitchell Park Domes may be too small for the operation.

“…hemp production is an industrial agricultural operation that requires vast amounts of land to be profitable and the Mitchell Park Greenhouses do not have adequate space to accommodate a successful industrial growing operation, “ a report said.

The Mitchell Park greenhouse facility, which is located behind the Domes, has a total land area of 60,000 square feet. It has facilities that controls the temperature, shade, lighting, and systems  for capturing and saving snow and rainwater.

Started in September 2018, plans for hemp planting started with Milwaukee County Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez's proposal for a study to examine the viability of hemp production, research and certification at the country greenhouse facility.

In 2017, Wisconsin welcomed the idea of industrial hemp farming including the growing and processing of the crop as stipulated in the Industrial Hemp Pilot Research Program.

This plan, however, met a debate of pros and cons on last month among members of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Parks, Energy and Environment Committee.

“This is an industrial crop, and industrial crops require large amounts of land to be commercially viable," James Tarantino, Milwaukee County director of recreation and business services said in a report.

Milwaukee County Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez, the author of the proposal, herself questioned revenues that the proposed hemp farm can make. In her earlier proposal, he requested the study saying that hemp is a good way to generate revenues for the parks department. She earlier projected that its revenues from hemp may reach up to $500,000 a year.

Members of the committee were convinced that the county is not yet ready to take the next big step in hemp farming with hemp expert, Patti Zanin saying that the group needs 'a lot of help.'

The group is willing to hire consultants given the move to forward with the proposal yet no action was taken during Monday's meeting as it mainly involves discussions on the study. The meeting, meanwhile, has brought some recent development particularly on the committee's potential partnership with the University of Wisconsin System for hemp research.

The proposal for hemp farming and production at the Mitchell Park Domes is just one of the two proposals related to hemp production in Milwaukee. Earlier this month, Milwaukee Alderman Khalif Rainey said that the other study could possibly move into Century City, the struggling north-side business park near 35th and Capitol where hemp planting and processing operations will take place. Results of the other study is needed and should be out very soon.

In an interview, Rainey emphasized the economic benefit that hemp production can contribute to the city.

“At the end of the day the conversation isn't simply about hemp. It's about economic development and employment. It's about making sure we land a tenant that can bring family supporting jobs to Century City,” he said.

Advocates of hemp farming in Milwaukee claimed that revenues generated from hemp production may be used to save the Domes, an important landmark of the city which, unfortunately, fall into disrepair with reports of falling concrete debris. Last month, there were proposals to demolish the glass structure.

“I thought they were one of your landmarks for the city.  It would be a shame to see anything happen to them. And here's a perfect opportunity to turn them into cash flow, and rebuild them back to their original elegance,” Zanin said.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee is positive that hemp production in the country would bring in cash flows that will be beneficial in restoring important places in the city. 

"It will save the parks. It will save Milwaukee County. It will save the City of Milwaukee,” the senator said.

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