Some retired basketball stars promote athletic shoes and sports drinks. Others, like former pro player Will Allen, become advocates for urban farming. As the founder and CEO of Growing Power, Inc., Allen believes that all communities, regardless of social status or tax bracket, deserve access to nutritious and affordable food. As the son of a sharecropper and ex-corporate sales leader, he has ample experience in both the agricultural and business sectors. In 2008, he was awarded a “genius grant” by the John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation for his efforts in furthering city farming. He is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People”, and part of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” campaign for childhood fitness.
Beginning with a plot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Growing Power has now expanded to a handful of cities across the country, including urban centers in Mississippi, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia. By establishing Community Food Centers, the organization hopes to engage citizens in food production. Growing Power demonstrates growing methods through on-site workshops and satellite training programs. They also run outreach programs and educational seminars to bring together farmers and members of the community. Many of their youth programs and talks are operated by a base of dedicated volunteers who reside in the places where they teach. In addition to instruction, Growing Power distributes fresh meats and produce through cooperatives and food security programs.
Growing Power is a treasure trove of information, and is a resource for everything from vermicomposting to aquaponics. Their Milwaukee operation is host to national conferences throughout the year and is a hub for those seeking to inform and empower themselves through agriculture. The Wisconsin headquarters is powered by an array of solar cells, and currently pursuing generating power from the anaerobic digestion of microorganisms. They are even beginning experiments with vertical farming in order to produce the maximum amount of food in areas with limited space.
Get inspired with Growing Power! Create a backyard garden, or volunteer your time and expertise at a local cooperative. San Luis Obispo residents may want to explore the Central Coast Grown’s site for information on local CSA’s, talks, and farming classes in our part of the state. Go on and get your hands in the soil and feed your body, spirit, and community!