A couple weeks ago Kerria sent me a link to the New York Times magazine feature on Will Allen from Growing Power. Reading it only reinforced, fortified, intensified my admiration for the man. You should all read it to be inspired!
I was so fortunate to meet Will and furthermore attend his community food systems workshops at Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A bunch of us Toronto urban agricultural and aspiring urban agricultural folks took a road trip back in February of 2008 to learn about composting on a large scale (inspiring the development of the burgeoning FoodCycles project) as well as building an aquaponics system, beekeeping, sprouting on a large scale scale, red wigglers, vertical growing and starting up a community project from below. Will Allen even gave us an extra specialized workshop for us Toronto-folks so committed to the cause he is and wanting to help his neighbours.
Touring the site and seeing the various aquaponic systems raising tilapia and perch (the most commonly eaten fish in the area) and growing watercress or other greens all at the same time in a closed loop system was mind opening. Seeing the goats and chickens, hoop houses, giant piles of compost and rows of worm bins. Seeing the volunteers and the youth interns from Chicago and learning about all their other projects in the region.
The whole weekend was also a bonding experience with fellow Toronto urban agricultural enthusiasts - getting to drive with Ian, Liz and Ashlee through Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and in Wisconsin was so much fun, even if scary and frustrating at times. We got lost in the “Lansing Triangle”, stopped at so many gas stations in which we’d ogle the wide array of junk food and pickled egg jars, as well as had to figure out how to get back on track countless times. It was ridiculous. We ended up arriving in Wisconsin like two or three hours later than everyone else.
Apart from their commitment to implement and support urban agricultural projects, what makes Will Allen and Growing Power extra, extra special is their non-dogmatic approach to sustainability, that “people do the best they can”. One thing I absolutely abhor about the environmental movement is the snotty and “high-moral” ground attitude that many people and organizations embody and exude. It can be a very elitist and classist movement! But that’s another entry (or quite a few). Their strong belief in social justice and desire to empower and include all people of colour and all income levels is refreshing in a food movement that tends to lack diversity.
Needless to say, I think things just fell into place for me after I attended Growing Power and witnessed how things could be in Toronto.
Go to my Flickr account to see more photos of my trip.