Just a year ago, an article in Medium touted Will Allen as “the Godfather of Urban Farming, Who’s Breeding the Next Generation of People to Feed the World.” Allen, who started urban farming in Milwaukee in 1993, then moved on to Chicago, ended up with his Growing Power organization involved in urban farming projects around the world. Along the way, Allen won a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2008 and was named one of Time Magazine’s 2010 Time 100.
This article was first published on The Uptake, December 30, 2017 with support from the New Economy Coalition. This post is part of a News Day series on Re-Visioning Farming.
Allen’s vision, and his non-profit corporations, focused on reimagining and rebuilding a food system in cities. Among its ambitious projects:
- aquaponic systems growing fish, watercress, and wheatgrass;
- rebuilding soil through composting and vermiculture, including collection of supermarket wastes and use of red worm composting to turn them into soil;
- increasing productivity with intensive cultivation of food plants on small plots of land;
- sparking a passion for farming in urban youth and teaching them job skills to land jobs in the sustainable farming and food system;
- growing mass quantities of high quality food and delivering it to people living in inner cities;
- modeling urban farming as a real and sustainable option for people around the world.
Then, in November 2017, Growing Power crashed. After years of running deficits and with more than half a million dollars in legal judgments against the organization, Allen resigned and the organization closed its doors. Continue reading