Will Allen: spreading the Good Food Revolution

Urban farmer Will Allen is considered by many to be a thought leader on agriculture and food policy and we were lucky enough to see his speech at last year’s Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington.

Through his organization, Growing Power, he is helping to transform parts of inner city neighbourhoods in the US from food deserts to urban farms. What he’s doing has a number of benefits for the communities involved, from creating a stronger sense of community to helping feed neighbourhood residents with healthy, nutritious, organic food. A side benefit might be that he may be helping to reduce crime in those neighbourhoods.

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Will Allen: “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community. I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”
Photo by Crystal Saffel

What’s remarkable about what he is doing is that it is not that hard to do. So why aren’t we doing it? I guess it’s one thing to read about it, if you’re tapped into that resource, but it’s another thing to be able to do it. What he’s doing probably hasn’t occurred to most people.

Will Allen’s organization does a large amount of composting and it’s key to what they do. With that compost they can start a farm anywhere, literally. I guess we’re conditioned to think of a farm as a bucolic country location and not a parking lot in a derelict neighbourhood. Allen turns that stereotype on its head.

Will Allen’s ideas at work in our urban garden

We’re doing some gardening in our urban location and we plan to further expand that this year. Aquaculture is something that hadn’t really occurred to us but it’s something we have been looking into since we’ve become aware of it. We’re not sure if we are going to do it here or maybe just wait until we are actually out in a rural location. We have many competing priorities at this point, not the least of which is finishing our renovations so we can sell!

This spring we are planning to do some strawbale gardening using the same idea of compost on concrete, in this case an unused parking spot. We’re also going to be putting strawbales down on a rather unmanageable section of garden with a very thick layer of sod. It’s been a bit of a pain for us.

We had turned some of it over and planted it, but it was just wasn’t going anywhere quickly. The bale method is something new to us and looks like it should work nicely for what we want to do. Because we’re really expanding our garden space this year, I think we’ll also invest in an automatic watering system as well.

Because our garden patch isn’t that large, we had thought of renting some garden space. I spotted the strawbale method and realized it was very similar to what Will Allen is doing. Problem solved! No need to rent any additional garden space when our unused parking space is perfectly suited!

Spring is just around the corner for us and we can’t wait to get started!

By Alain Saffel

If I were to picture my ideal life, I’d be sitting in some far off land, sipping a coffee in a café, my backpack at my side, camera around my neck, motorcycle at the curb, pondering my next stop or maybe madly typing away on my laptop about my latest adventure. Of course my home base will be a rural location, somewhere in Canada.

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