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.