Skip to main content

Will Allen Workshop

What a workshop!

Man in Overalls standing in the shadow of Will Allen
Will Allen, pre-eminent urban agriculture leader, MacArthur Genius presented, Sunday, Mar. 6th, on the work of his Milwaukee-based non-profit, Growing Power.  Additionally, he led a workshop on how to develop a compost-producing/food-raising initiative to address the ills of urban decay-- including a hands-on composting and worm composting segment that involved over 75 participants.

Here are a few notes:
-Every year Growing Power diverts 22 million pounds of food (waste) residue from landfills and uses it to grow compost for their Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago sites.
-Vegetables today are 50% less nutritious than those of the 1950's due to agricultural soil degradation and depletion.  Thus, the need to grow healthy soil (i.e. compost).
-Growing Power started as a youth empowerment organization: when they found that the kids in their Youth Corps struggled in school, they implemented a reading/writing program wherein participants began reading and writing about the subject area they were engaged in, for example: seed-starting, soil micro-biology, worm life-cycles, plant/pest relations, etc.
-Their budget is $4.1 million a year; half is earned-income.  In the beginning "No one would give us any money, so we had to make it through providing goods and services."  They continue the tradition by earning revenue through sales of micro-greens, sprouts, vegetables, fish, goats, chickens, honey, worm castings, compost, consultation services, workshops, tours, publications, educational programing, and more.  Twenty revenue streams in total.  Social entrepreneurship for sure. 
-Each year they earn $5 per square foot from field production; $50 per square foot from their green houses.
-"We need 50 million additional growers to fundamentally change this [food] system."

After the close of the official workshop, per our request, Will met with the 20 of us young folks so we could a)meet each other, b)exchange contact info, and c)share stories about current projects we're involved with and/or dreams that we hold for Tallahassee's future food system.  There was energy in the air about a cooperative compost operation.  Folks were also strategizing to bring together area teacher-gardeners with students from FAMU, TCC, and FSU for an idea and story sharing session to explore the successes and challenges of local school gardening efforts.  There's already a FB Group.

Popular posts from this blog

Why Can I Eat Bread in France, but not the USA?

Updated 10/31/2017 as the National Organic Standards Board meets in Jacksonville, FL. This may well be the most important thing you read this year for your health. (Originally written in 2015 while I was traveling-- and eating bread-- with my wife in France.)

I've got a food riddle for you from Paris, France: Why can I eat bread over here when it makes me sick at home?

I'll share my best guess in a minute, but first, a little personal background.

Since my senior year of high school, I've not been able to eat much bread at all. For five years, I was severely hypoglycemic, and everything I ate had to have more protein than carbohydrates. That meant, in effect, that I spent my years of college beer-less and eating lots of salad with meat on top. I ate tons of vegetables, very little fruit, basically no carbohydrates to speak of, meat, nuts, eggs, and cheese. If I accidentally ate, say, meat loaf that was, unbeknownst to me, made with bread in it, I'd spend the next 2-3 da…

Man in Overalls - The Valley of Food & Ag Startups: Warren Wilson College

If you're interested in tech, pay attention to Silicon Valley. If you're interested in food and agriculture, Swannnoa Valley, more specifically Warren Wilson College, is the place to keep on your radar.
I'm an alum and proud of it, class of 2008. I studied community organizing, wrote a 140 page thesis about social movements as my capstone.
It's a work college, one of seven in the country. Think universal work-study, so in addition to whatever one's academic track, students are also working in the cafeteria, the library, admissions, as carpenters, lock smiths, lab techs, and-- per the agricultural legacy of Warren Wilson-- as row crop, animal, and vegetable farmers, gardeners, and edible landscapers.  Personally, I worked on the electric crew and then on the landscape crew where I led the edible landscape sub-crew in managing a 1-acre edible (Permaculture) landscape around the "Ecodorm."

Per the "triad" of Warren Wilson's educational system,…

Man in Overalls - Growing Great Soil

Good soil will basically grow your groceries for you, but how do you build great soil? 
The answer is that there are two options: a quick & easy way and a DIY, hard(er) way. 

So we're on the same page, I'm continuing my #GrowYourGroceries The Easy Way series by digging into the how-tos of growing great soil. These stories and techniques will likely make the most sense after reading Geeking on Good Soil, my last update. (I outlined where I was headed in The Big Picture.)

As I was saying, the easy way to build a great soil is to fill raised beds with a terrific compost-based soil mix like my Magic Mix to jump start your food garden productivity from year one. From there, seasonally, you simply top-dress each season before planting with another few inches of compost-based soil mix. This is how I manage my own food garden and those of my customers. Why? Because at the root of things, I'm a lazy food gardener, and long ago I decided to embrace it. 😎

But if you're not in th…