Hank was the dad and grandfather of our co-founders, Jan and Chris. The possibility of turning yards into flourishing gardens, and gardens into places of nourishment and hope, was an essential part of Hank’s outlook and upbringing. Raised during the Great Depression to an immigrant family, Henry appreciated that the family farm was what sustained them. It provided jobs and income, gave his family the opportunity to eat healthfully, and was a source of pride. The Pilarski family farm was one of the original urban farms in Milwaukee and referred to as a “truck farm,” where produce after harvesting was put in the back of a truck and sold directly to vendors, markets, and restaurants. Dad learned about the art and science of farming from his parents, who had farmed in Poland, and by exchanging tips and ideas with a lively community of fellow farmers on Milwaukee’s south side.
Many years later, after Hank was grown and raising his three children, gardening became an important way to pass on family history and share a whole body of knowledge about healthy living. The family’s backyards might have been on the small side, but Henry created pocket gardens and managed to grow quite a lot of food for his family. Eggplant, tomatoes, dill, cucumbers fresh from the garden – that was to live like kings and queens! Henry taught his family to enjoy the feel of soil through their fingers, feeling the potential of what could be created, nurtured, and grown.
Henry always got excited talking with friends about what was growing in the garden. Cooking with what he had himself grown made him feel like a terrific provider for his family. And the excitement of growing new varieties, new crops, and experimenting with new techniques always gave him great energy and hope.
Farming has changed over the years, but Henry’s joy and pride in growing is a big part of who we are today as a venture. To connect with the soil, to grow new things was a way to nurture and bring something unique to life. Those lessons are an important part of who we are, at the heart of Green Bridge Growers. And this Father’s Day, we are thankful Henry’s spirit is such a part of our venture and our mission. Planting seeds of hope, indeed.