Friday, July 08, 2011

Farmer Hero Friday: Will Allen of Milwaukee, Wisconsin

MattThis Farmer Hero Friday highlights Will Allen, who we interviewed last year. Before farming, Will played professional basketball in Europe. Later, he retired to found Growing Power, which provides education and hands on experience to those who wish to learn about urban farming and also makes farm fresh vegetables and meats available to all Milwaukee residents, regardless of race, income, or address.

Will Allen

At age 28, Will decided to retire from basketball in favor of farming. He returned to the US, and began growing on a small Wisconsin farm owned by his wife’s family. While searching for an urban location to sell his produce in 1993, he came upon a two-acre property in northwest Milwaukee that was owned by the city. “I wanted the land, and I told the city I would use it to teach kids about farming,” he said. He was granted permission to purchase the plot, and he set to work farming in the city.

"Long ago I came to the conclusion that you couldn’t grow food in the soil in the cities, it was too contaminated," so Will came up with an idea that he built his urban farm around: always grow food in new soil. Inspired by what he saw in Europe, Will began experimenting with vermicomposting, using worms to break down vegetable waste in order to create fertile organic soil. He spent five years experimenting with his compost before he was happy with the growing system he created. He is confident in his knowledge and his methods, "If you gave me a handful of worms, and dropped me off anywhere in the world, I could build you a plot as big as you wanted."
Click here to read more about Will.

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