Revolutionizing Food with Will Allen


Lauren Repke, Contributing Writer

On Sept. 8, students had the opportunity to hear Will Allen, author of “The Good Food Revolution,” speak on behalf of his work as one of the most prominent pioneers of urban agriculture in the United States. As this summer’s required reading, Allen’s book enabled first-year students to understand the problem of food access inequality from his personal experience.

In the book, Allen addresses contemporary issues of the agricultural sector and simultaneously tells his own story about the challenges he has faced in pursuit of food equality.

Allen provides insight to the discrimination he has endured as a black farmer and the various challenges he overcame in order to achieve success.

“Because of our nation’s history, many people refer to slavery when they think of farming,” Allen said. 

This false conception of the farming industry is addressed in Allen’s writing as he illustrates the negative impacts it has had on the farming system and the unequal distribution of healthy, fresh food. For some, the word “farming” has negative connotations, but Allen admits that his family “lived off the earth” and many of the lessons he teaches today he previously learned as a child.

In the story, Allen explains the origin of his passion when he writes, “My father taught me how much work it took to raise food. My mother showed me how food could bring people together.”

Allen’s enthusiasm to change the modern food system eventually resulted in his creation of Growing Power, “an urban agricultural organization that aims for sustainable food production and growth of communities.” Through this company, Allen has done “concrete work to change the food system and the way people think about food.” Along with sustainable food growth, the second goal of Growing Power is to positively impact underprivileged urban communities through the teaching of agriculture.

“Kids today are locked inside because of various issues in the city, so when we can get kids introduced to nature, especially food production, it adds so much to their lives,” Allen said.   

Despite the ever-present issue of financial instability in the early stages of his project, Allen attributes his success to the “people who believed in the mission and stayed through hard times.”

“It’s a self-drive job, there are no guarantees, but I have this spiritual feeling … I want to help people,” Allen said.

So far this spiritual feeling Allen describes has made tremendous improvements in cities throughout the nation, as more people gain access to healthy food and the knowledge of sustainable living.

Currently, Growing Power has farms in the cities of Chicago and Milwaukee, Madison, and Merton, Wis., where people can volunteer and participate in workshops to learn about food sustainability. Allen’s company provides fresh produce to locals, restaurants, and grocery stores in order to supply communities with accessible, healthy food options. Allen has set a precedent for food justice and accessibility throughout cities in America and he strives “to pass on this knowledge to generations to come.” Growing Power has greatly affected and contributed to the revolution of urban farming, with Allen as the icon for agricultural sustainability and community collaboration.

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