Urban Farming: Man Grows a Million Pounds of Food on a Few Acres in the Dead of Winter With No Heating
Will Allen, son of a sharecropper, former professional basketball player, ex-corporate sales leader and now farmer, has become recognized as among the preeminent thinkers of our time on agriculture and food policy.
The founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc., a farm and community food center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will is widely considered the leading authority in the expanding field of urban agriculture.
At Growing Power and in community food projects across the nation and around the world, Will promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods at all times.
Using methods he has developed over a lifetime, Will trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces.
In 2008, Will was named a John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation Fellow and was awarded a prestigious foundation “genius grant” for his work – only the second farmer ever to be so honored. He is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and in February 2010, he was invited to the White House to join First Lady Michelle Obama in launching “Let’s Move!” her signature leadership program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. In May 2010, Time magazine named Will to the Time 100 World’s Most Influential People.
In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work. Will Allen was a farmer with land. Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.
Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a ”living museum” or “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers, and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include the following: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, permaculture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth education, community engagement, participatory leadership development, and project planning.
About Growing Power-
Growing Power transforms communities by supporting people from diverse backgrounds and the environments in which they live through the development of Community Food Systems. These systems provide high-quality, safe, healthy, affordable food for all residents in the community. Growing Power develops Community Food Centers, as a key component of Community Food Systems, through training, active demonstration, outreach, and technical assistance.
Will Allen, our Chief Executive Officer believes, “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”
Our goal is a simple one: to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community.
Growing Power began with a farmer, a plot of land, and a core group of dedicated young people. Today, our love of the land and our dedication to sharing knowledge is changing lives.
Growing Power’s projects fall into three essential areas:
Grow – Projects and Growing Methods – Growing Power demonstrates our easy to replicate growing methods through on-site workshops and hands-on demonstrations. We have farms in Milwaukee and Merton, Wisconsin, and in Chicago, Illinois. Growing Power has also established satellite-training sites in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Mississippi.
Bloom – Education and Technical Assistance – Growing Power’s educates folks through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities. We also run multiple youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on policy initiatives regarding agriculture.
Thrive – Food Production and Distribution – Food production occurs in the organization’s demonstration greenhouses, rural farm site in Merton, and urban farms in Milwaukee and Chicago. We also distribute produce, grass-based meats, and value-added products through the activities of over 300 small family farmers in the Rainbow Farmers Cooperative, and the organization’s year-round food security program the Farm-to-City Market Basket Program. We also sell to numerous restaurants and small grocery stores in Chicago, Madison, and Milwaukee.
All of the above provide important opportunities for individuals and communities to network with each other as they work in partnership to promote food security and environmentally sound food production practices.
Additionally, Growing Power convenes numerous national workshops on-site at our Milwaukee facility each year; we have sponsored several national conferences focusing on food security; we provide technical assistance – on-site – at numerous sites around the country from Boston to Montana.
Over 3,500 individuals receive tours of the Community Food Center each year; and the Will Allen, Growing Power’s Chief Executive Officer, has been the keynote speaker at several national conferences and the recipient of numerous local, state, and national awards and recognitions.
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