Yes, yes, yes…I know. I’m terribly, horribly, so far behind in blog postings, it’s practically criminal. Lots has been going on. I went to the Mother Earth News Fair last weekend, where I learned so much, met so many people, and was so incredibly inspired, I’m still in a bit of a fog. In addition, I’m seeing an uptick of interest across most all media in food issues. Young farmers are working together to create greater opportunities and change the laws that limit small farms. It’s all pretty exciting.
At the Fair, I had the priveledge of listening to Will Allen of Growing Power speak. I’ve talked about him before, after he was awarded a genius grant from the McArthur Foundation. (He is, after all, a genius.) From Growing Power’s 3 acre urban farm in Milwaukee, almost 10,000 people are fed fresh, organic food, including eggs, fish, and produce. Across all 3 farms in Milwaukee and Chicago, he employs 250 full-time people, paying them living wages, and is changing the destiny of countless inner-city youth by showing them the joys of growing food. This model is now being replicated across 17 cities.
His presentation had almost 1000 pictures of all of the projects currently running within Growing Power. It was amazing to see. However, the most incredible thing was what he said last: (I’m paraphrasing here) “They say that this is impossible. I’ve found that in order to prove to people that something can be done, you just have to do it.”
He didn’t think about why it wouldn’t work. He just did it.
I’m going to say something I thought I’d never say…one of my heroes is a basketball player. (Hey, unless a sport involves a draft horse, I’m not paying any attention to it.) Will Allen has changed my mind about the potential a sports figure can have.
Inner cities have the worst access to good food. You can find lots of fast food and convenience stores there, but no fresh, organic food. Mr. Allen founded Growing Power,
which has created a revolution in urban agriculture. He’s shown that healthy, sustainable food can be successfully grown in very small urban spaces. He’s pioneered vertical and fully integrated growing systems, training people how to use them to transform their lives. The Milwaukee Headquarters is at the epicenter. In their own words:
“This historic two-acre farm is the last remaining farm and greenhouse operation in the City of Milwaukee. Since 1999, our Community Food Center has provided a wonderful space for hands-on activities, large-scale demonstration projects, and for growing a myriad of plants, vegetables, and herbs. In a space no larger than a small supermarket live some 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, and a livestock inventory of chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits, and bees.”
Growing Power now has multiple farms, training programs, farmers markets, youth outreach, and food policy initiatives. All of these aim to change the way food is grown and delivered to urban markets, providing better health for those who don’t have access and can’t usually afford fresh, organic foods.
Last year, Will Allen was awarded a McArthur fellowship to continue his vital work. This February, he visited Seattle and talked about the need for a multi-cultural, inter-generational approach to creating a new food growing paradigm. “All people should have access to food – and we’ve proven we can do it.”