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Former NBA Player Says He Grew 1,000,000 lbs of Food in Winter, in Wisconsin.  RSS feed

 
Collin Vickers
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Location: Rutledge, MO
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http://www.growingpower.org/
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I wrote this lengthly blurb about Mr. Allen about a year ago. It was a slow work day. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is going to sound weird. One of my favorite people on this earth is someone who I just met this week. And I didn't meet him in person, I met him on YouTube. His name is Will Allen and he is the founder and spokesperson for Growing Power, an aquaponics green house operation in Milwaukee Wisconsin. It's a huge operation that also has a farm and has expanded to Chicago. They raise,fish, vegetables, worms, chickens, mushrooms and just about anything else you would want to see in a greenhouse. They go to extremes to use every available niche. There are hanging baskets everywhere, fish tanks under plantings and compost bins covered with plant pots. Even the pathways are sometimes covered in vegetables.

The place has many employees and many more volunteers. It's a nonprofit organization which is not something I would not usually come out in favor of. But the educational nature of this facility outweighs any negative from its drain on public funds. Thousands of people who may have never considered growing their own food are exposed to the idea. Will tries to get every customer to take a tour so that they can learn how everything works. Although this operation is worth millions, he explains to them that it can be easily scaled down to fit into their own home situation and budget.

They also do more in-depth tours and classes for those wishing to set up a commercial sized operation. While many large operations advertised to the world that they are doing something so unique that only they are qualified, Will constantly pushes the idea that everything visitors see is within their own reach. If they can't afford long-term in-depth classes, they can volunteer and learn everything for free. He also works to encourage duplication of his success throughout the United States and in impoverished places around the world.

Aquaponics and vermiculture are the two most obvious deviations from the norm in greenhouse production. They also raise chickens and goats. Compost piles are managed to produce free heat and compost is piled against the side of greenhouses to insulate the lower walls and foundation from the frozen ground in winter.

Dietary education is an important facet of the work done at growing power. People of lesser means are quite often malnourished due to income and poor food choices. A fast food culture relying heavily on pork, beef and chicken has fostered a culture which chooses unhealthy food over fruit vegetables and fish. Will exposes young people from the inner-city to healthy foods that they are unlikely to encounter in their day-to-day lives. This will have a long-term positive effect which could go on for generations. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Not everything they do is permaculturey. They use plenty of propane and electricity and because of various grant monies and unpaid labor it could be argued that it is not sustainable. But when compared to other cold climate greenhouse operations, his is by far the lesser evil when looking at inputs. This operation is in an area of high unemployment where many people have found that their skill sets are no longer wanted by industry. So, I think it has to be looked at as a training facility or school within an urban farm. Schools gobble up public money all the time. In the long run Will's work will save vast quantities of resources and could possibly employ thousands of displaced workers. His work on international projects will literally save some from starvation. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
BIOGRAPHY
Will is 62 years old. His parents were South Carolinan sharecroppers who saved their money and bought a farm near Rockville Maryland. He grew up on the farm and learned from his parents. I imagine frugality and the value of hard work and sacrifice would be part of the upbringing of any child whose parents worked their way from landless poverty to owning a successful market garden.

He was the first African-American to play basketball for the University of Miami. Although he never made the NBA, he did play professionally for a few years but had the good sense to move on to other things when he was 28 years old.

He bought the Growing Power facility in 1993. It was a former plant nursery which was in foreclosure. He also bought 100 acres which belonged to his wife's parents and another farm. His daughter is currently running a newer facility in Chicago.
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Will has received numerous accolades for his work in urban farming. He received a Ford Foundation "Leadership Grant", a MacArthur foundation "Genius Grant" and the Kellogg foundation has given him a grant to create jobs in urban agriculture. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Allen family have been involved in agriculture for generations. First as slaves, then as sharecroppers, then as owners of a vegetable operation and now Will is at the forefront of food security, urban farming and aquaponics development both in the United States and internationally. His daughter is furthering this good work in Chicago.

There are very few people whose opinions I value after knowing them only a short time. Will is one of those people.

Check him out on YouTube and Wikipedia. You can search him by name or any search including "Growing Power" will lead his way.

I hope to take my tour bus to Milwaukee one day, filled with others who wish to learn from Will.

--- Will Allen---one of the good guys ---

Thank you: Dale Hodgins --- leaning slightly to the left today.
 
danny zeigler
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I had the opportunity to tour Growing Power and meet Will Allen. What an amazing man witrh an amazing vision who is doing amazing things. If you are near Milwalkee, Wi it is well worth going by and taking a tour. You will be inspired.
 
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