The more I reflect on what I heard from Will Allen, the more I am impressed with Growing Power.
Even the name of the organization speaks volumes. What Allen has done in Milwaukee and shared with us in Raleigh was the idea of growing power.
Its all about the food. His idea that food is an organizing tool is powerful. We can bring people together around food and growing food. the starting point for Allen was the 2 acre farm. The barren discarded land in the pictures he showed us of the site in 1993 provided the place. The igniting idea was bringing youth together to plant and grow food. And in the process, grow community.
Allen repeatedly discussed the importance of building community. With youth planting flowers and establishing gardens in blighted area, establishing a co-op to provide fresh produce in an area ignored by supermarkets, ensuring neighborhood support for his farming operation so that he did not have to fence out people, Allen built community.
The youth that attended his talk in Raleigh give witness to the power of his message. He talked about working with youth at Growing Power, their after school programs and building reading and writing instruction into the community gardening work. Youth from the Wayne Food Initiative in Goldsboro and from the Interfaith Food Shuttle community gardens in Wake County were at the Raleigh talk, recognized and applauded.
Allen is also willing to share his good news. He built credibility with his work with Growing Power and his circle of support has grown. Its grown for ideas like community gardens which he’s developing in more cities and the soil building concepts he’s sharing in places like Kenya.
Allen has continued to build on the concepts of the organization, moving from a farm to a greenhouse operation to a community development tool to a soil building enterprise and now a teacher of growing power.
If you can see the movie Fresh, you’ll get a good look at his work. While the movie features Michael Pollan and Joel Salatin, the segment with Will Allen is the heart of the movie.
There is much to learn from Will Allen.