A humanitarian can be described as a person who seeks to promote human welfare. When thinking of people who fit this definition maybe Mother Teresa or Gandhi come to mind because of their legends. Some people might argue that a profession so simple as a farmer would not meet the humanitarian definition. Will Allen, however, is someone who can change the perspectives of everyone, and has positively affected the well being of many through urban agriculture.
Will Allen grew up on a small vegetable farm with his family in Maryland, and had a promising basketball career due to his 6’ 7” body frame. Fifteen years ago he made a drastic career change however, and became a farmer in a low-income area of Milwaukee, creating a place called Growing Power. The farm is located in an area that has little access to high quality and varieties of food, because of the poverty and unstable neighborhoods. The mission of Growing Power is a national organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. The farm strives to build sustainable food systems that create a just world, one community at a time.
Ana Joanes, the producer of a recent agriculture film called Fresh says, “Will Allen is now one of the most influential leaders of the food security & urban farming movement. This man and his organization go beyond growing food. They provide a platform for people to share knowledge and form relationships in order to develop alternatives to the industrial food system.” A perfect area to form these relationships in is an urban area, like Milwaukee, which has diversity all the way down to poverty. Will Allen has been extremely influential indeed, and has been named to several awards:
- The 2009 Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business
- The 2010 Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World
- The 2011 GOOD 1oo
At Growing Power there is a Market Basket Program where families can pick of baskets full of food and produce from the farm. By turning 3,000 square feet into 4,500 square feet through vertical growing, more of the necessary food can be distributed through the community. Also, more people can be educated and get a job, or volunteer to learn Will Allen’s farming secrets. They do this by attending the farm, which is the largest year round food producer in the Midwest. This is one of the many strengths of Growing Power, the profound ability to be educated.
By producing one million pounds of food and ten thousand fish on only three acres, Will Allen has changed the lives of others. He has made delicious, organic food more accessible to many people, especially people who need it most. While doing this he is teaching his philosophy through an education program. He is teaching the nation by being a positive example, and promoting his ideas to government by recently visiting the White House to promote a large-scale version of one of his gardens for Michelle Obama. Will Allen has set an example of how farming can unite communities and the nation, and together we have the growing power to create a better, healthier world.