Will Allen - Growing power!


MacArthur genius award winner Will Allen is taking the stage. The power he refers to is not necessarily about what it takes to grow a Fair-quality pumpkin. 

"By 2050 80 percent of the world's people will live in cities." The industrial food system needs help. Food choices - healthy food choices - need to be available.

Six million people dies last year of starvation worldwide. 

Because of this and because of a younger generation that is more aware of what they're eating, a "good food revolution" has occurred that has begun to draw people in positions of power to water what he refers to as "food deserts".  

Food from these deserts is impoverished. A green bean, for example, loses half its nutritional value in the two weeks it typically takes for it to make its way from Salinas Valley in California to your store's shelf. Prior to wide scale industrial farming, more nutritional content was available in food. Local food choices are incredibly important. 

He show some pictures of a farm purchases in the early 1990's, along with images of the kids he worked with, some of whom are now in their thirties. As the images go by, the soil is becoming darker and richer, and the greenhouses more numerous. 

And as the land produced more vegetables and jobs, life skills were also being developed. In nearby neighborhoods, the newly planted floors had the welcome effect of lowering a lot of drug-related crime. 

"Change the look," he says "and people act differently." 

From 2000 - 2009, he gained some attention for these transformative effects, "which is how I got sucked into what I do today," to a chuckle from the audience.

Today the Growing Power Community Food Center is a thriving, active place with peoples from all walks of life, a multi-cultural, multi-generational place - something he says he values a great deal - "because that's what our country looks like". It's a coop of 300 farmers that bring their food to the center. 

Growing Power's composting operation grows new soil on a massive scale, know-how that's important for cities, which have very little healthy soil. A million pounds of food waste is composted in the neighborhood where Growing Power is located and used to grow food "that will take you to glory." 

"It's all about relationaships," he said "you know you've done that when they come to you instead of the police" when they get the inevitable whiff of odor. 75 carbon, 25 percent nitrogen is the recipe for compost. In Louisville, he adds, "Breaking New Grounds" is doing it right

About 30 million employees at Growing Power do the composting work, "and they work for food." Worm castings are marketed for $4 pound retail, $2 pound wholesale to provide anther income stream.    

The rich, rich soil created will produce far more than the average acre of land, and he has the figures to prove. Raising intensively also has the welcome side effect of also enabling the grower to lift themselves from financial poverty.

Growing Power is into aquaculture, power generation, bee keeping, animal husbandry and many other farm-related activities. To its 30 employees, a living wage is paid. And in Milwaukee, all third graders will be provided a healthy afternoon snack. Not a bad deal.