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Growing Power, Inc.

May 18, 2009  • 

In 1993, Growing Power was an organization with teens who needed a place to work, while Will Allen was a farmer with land. Will designed a program that offered teens an opportunity to work at his store and renovate the greenhouses to grow food for their community. What started as a simple partnership to change the landscape of the north side of Milwaukee has blossomed into a national and global commitment to sustainable food systems.

As founder and CEO of Growing Power and recipient of a 2008 MacArthur Fellowship, Will Allen recognizes that the unhealthy diets of low-income, urban populations, along with related health problems such as obesity and diabetes, are in large part due to limited access to safe and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables. As noted by the MacArthur Foundation, “Rather than embracing the ‘back to the land’ approach promoted by many within the sustainable agriculture movement, Allen’s holistic farming model incorporates both cultivating foodstuffs and designing food distribution networks in an urban setting.”

“If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system,” says Will.

Since its inception, Growing Power has served as a “living museum” and “idea factory” for the young, the elderly, farmers, producers and other professionals ranging from USDA personnel to urban planners. Training areas include: acid-digestion, anaerobic digestion for food waste, bio-phyto remediation and soil health, aquaculture closed-loop systems, vermiculture, small and large scale composting, urban agriculture, perma-culture, food distribution, marketing, value-added product development, youth development, community engagement, participatory leadership development and project planning.

When it comes to youth, Growing Power’s Youth Corps offers an entrepreneurial youth development apprenticeship program, providing youth from low-income backgrounds both academic and professional experience. Participants are offered the opportunity to learn the basics of organic agriculture, develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills, work with a diverse group of people and gain valuable life skills that will apply to future social and work experiences; they then apply this knowledge in their communities through the Food Literacy Project. Several universities have specified their interest in this program, stating that scholarships are available for those youth that qualify for entrance to these sponsoring universities.

For more information about Growing Power’s wide range of highly effective programs, visit their website.