A MacArthur Fellowship for an Urban Farmer: Will Allen
Will Allen, the Urban Farmer
Will Allen, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has decided to make it his mission to bring affordable healthy food to families in city neighborhoods that generally lack quality fresh food.
In 1995, he established a three-acre nonprofit farm known as Growing Power. Today, Will Allen, a 2008 winner of a MacArthur Fellowship,* has 35 full-time employees and 1000 volunteers. Together they use sustainable agricultural practices to grow 159 kinds of vegetables, fruits, and edible flowers. They also raise fish, poultry, honeybees, sheep, and goats. They sell their bounty to farmer's markets which they bundle into low-cost baskets for local families, and which is also served at local restaurants.
Working to Replace Industrialized Food Systems
Mr. Allen remains at the forefront of a burgeoning movement aimed at replacing the gigantic industrialized American food system with smaller sustainable agricultural farming practices. He shares his agrarian philosphies with the more than 10,000 people who visit the farm each year.
Who is Will Allen?
Will Allen was born 60 years ago on a farm in Rockville, Maryland. He earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Miami and played pro ball in Florida and Belgium before starting a career in marketing. In 1995, he assisted neighborhood children with their organic gardening project; it was around that time that he then decided to make this his mission - to bring affordable healthy food to underserved, urban populations. He has been succesful.
The Holistic Approach
He attributes the limited access of urban populations to fresh fruits and vegetables to such related health problems as obesity and diabetes. Rather than embracing the 'back to the land' approach, Mr. Allen uses a holistic farming model which incorporates both cultivating food and designing food distribution networks within an urban setting. He uses a variety of low-cost farming technologies which include the use of raised beds, aquaculture, vermiculture, and heating greenhouses through the use of composting.
As a result, Growing Power produces vast amounts of food year-round at its main farming sites located within the Milwaukee city limits. Recently, the cultivation of produce has started in other rural and urban sites in and around Milwaukee, as well as in Chicago.
In the past 10 years, teenagers and adults have been engaged in producing healthy foods for their own communites. Growing Power provides intensive hands-on training to people interested in establishing similar farming initiatives.
Presently, Will Allen is experimenting with new and creative ways to improve the diet and health of the urban poor. His blog is filled with more information than I can possibly share here and is worth reading:
The website is equally great and inspiring. For more information about Will Allen and Growing Power visit growingpower.org
I've been so inspired after reading about this man, his family, his philosphy and his mission.
* On September 23, 2008, The MacArthur Foundation named 25 new MacArthur Fellows for 2008. The program offers recipients $500,000 'no strings attached' support over the next five years. Recipients are offered the opportunity to accelerate their current activities or take their work in new directions. Will Allen was rewarded for applying low-cost technologies to the cultivation, production, and the delivery of healthy foods to underserved urban populations.
(Did you know? - At one time growing hemp was required by law in the US - see link)
For great pictures and a first-hand account from a hubber - see the link about a visit to the farm.
down on the farm
Other things grown on a farm
- Hemp Growing Was Once Required By Law in the US
Before you start growing your own hemp plants it is worthwhile to read up on the history of hemp growing in the US. At one time it was legal. Not only was it legal, the law required the growing of it. ...
Another Unique Farm Idea
- The Food Bus: A Fresh Food Market on Wheels
Have you ever heard of a 'food desert' and its negative effects on our health?' It's far more common than we realize and one Chicago activist decided to do something about it.