Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Future of Farming: Will Allen, the Urban Farming Hero

(photo source: Growing Power)

Will Allen is a regular guy who is changing the way urban and rural societies will interact in the future. At the moment, urban societies rely heavily on rural societies for their agriculture. But with the world urbanizing at a rapid rate, and farmers' children leaving their homes in droves, one must wonder what the changing face of agriculture will be like.

Will Allen is the guy shining the torch and showing the way.

Allen is an urban farmer. He takes rooftops and urban patios and turns them into beautiful vegetable gardens and fish farms. His work recently won him a MacArthur Genius grant.

In a recent article profiling the brilliant Allen, it speaks about how a sharecropper's son turned basketball player, learned composting from Belgian farmers.

“I started hanging out with Belgian farmers,” Allen said. “I saw how they did natural farming,” much as his father had. Something clicked in his mind. He asked his team’s management, which provided housing for players, if he could have a place with a garden. Soon he had 25 chickens and was growing the familiar foods of his youth — peas, beans, peanuts — outside Antwerp. “I just had to do it,” he said. “It made me happy to touch the soil.” On holidays, he cooked feasts for his teammates. He gave away a lot of eggs.

After retiring from basketball in 1977, when he was 28, Allen settled with his wife and three children in Oak Creek, just south of Milwaukee, where Cyndy’s family owned some farmland. “No one was using that land, but I had the bug to grow food,” Allen said. As his father did, Allen insisted that his children contribute to the household income. “We went right to the field at the end of the school day and during summer breaks,” recalled his daughter, Erika Allen, who now runs Growing Power’s satellite office in Chicago. “And let’s be clear: This was farm labor, not chores.” [...]


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