Will Allen's Good Food Revolution

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Will Allen discusses cashing in his retirement fund to buy a two-acre plot near Milwaukee’s largest public housing project to build the country’s preeminent urban farm—a food and educational center that now produces enough vegetables and fish year-round to feed thousands of people. In The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities he describes founding Growing Power to prove that local food systems can help troubled youths, dismantle racism, create jobs, bring urban and rural communities closer together, and improve public health.


Will Allen

Comments [28]

Mitch W. from Pennsylvania

So, though the program doesn't give any numbers, it sounds like he's expanded quite a bit, far beyond 2 acres. Very informative piece.

Jul. 26 2012 11:31 PM
Mitch W. from Pennsylvania

" a two-acre plot near Milwaukee’s largest public housing project to build the country’s preeminent urban farm—a food and educational center that now produces enough vegetables and fish year-round to feed thousands of people."

Thousands? Wholly or nearly wholly? Let's assume 3000 people. 2 acres work out to be 87120 sq feet. That makes just over 29 sq ft per person, or a plot of just under 5.5 feet by 5.5 feet. I think my bed is bigger than that. Does this really make sense ?

Jul. 26 2012 10:58 PM
Amy from Manhattan

dboy: The thing is, I don't think it *needs* to cost more. If the law defining what's organic could be changed to require less paperwork, if conventional farming didn't get subsidized, if organic food became more widely available, if *every* time a TV character needs to change to a healthier diet s/he didn't look dubiously at a rice cake, maybe we could get somewhere.

And I'll take my chocolate slave-labor-free (like Divine) over artisanal any day.

May. 16 2012 10:48 AM

I'll GIDDILY trade you two bearded chocolate fools for one non-USDA-persecuted, mobile abattoir/processing facility.

May. 16 2012 10:17 AM

Amy from Manhattan ~


I've been working on this problem for years. I fully understand the socio-political- economic conditions concerning good, clean, fair, sustainable food but, it is often too expensive. This food needs to be available to more rather than fewer people. This, from someone who is "down" with the fundamental Pollan-Barry-Schlosser ethos. I have absolutely NO problem paying a premium for locally-produced, healthy foods. However, the last thing we need is another $12 a jar pickle. This type of food elitism masquerading as "local" or "sustainable"...or, god forbid... "artisinal" is ABSURD!

What we need is less of this "foodie" (I'm gaging on the word!), food-tourisim and more attention paid to fundamental food politics and sustainable food infrastructure.

PLEASE!!! NO MORE BEARDED, 2.5 oz., $13, "local" (really??? local??? did I miss the cocoa trees in Central Park??), "artisinal" chocolate bars!!!


May. 16 2012 10:07 AM
Stefan from NJ

Food deserts? in NYC? No kidding. what if these corner stores will start one day to sell POISON only? will these people die? or would they take a subway or walk 20 blocks to by real food? So why they do not do that right know. I am poor, I am in NJ, I eat fish twice a week, and I buy fish in Chinatown, NYC, Grand Street (pretty far from my place, right? but I want to it FISH, not these
fish fingers out of box with 20 plus ingredients)p
I can see on Subway obese people with donuts, chips, frapuccinos, sodas... a lot of calories. If you do not like to cook and you like chips wit soda then do not complain that you poor and obese, I can fix you a nice lunch for $3. By the way, when I am at the supermarket I can see what obese people put in their carts, believe me I could feed them with healthy food for half the price...

May. 15 2012 03:22 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

The great thing about a little city garden is: you don't have woodchucks to contend with. They will eat and ruin your hard-won vegetables in one afternoon!

May. 15 2012 01:15 PM

Becky, I may have misheard the bit about customers moving on the to the white farmer--if so, it may be my perception about Milwaukee influencing how I heard something (and was typing, iirc, at the same time -- yeah, so much for multi-tasking...).

Anyway, I can see how anyone in the area might think there are no black farmers.

But talk about a segment to make us listeners hungry for good vegatables! This summer, veggies yes -- and limit the money I spent on bedding plant flowers.

May. 15 2012 12:59 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

becky--your original statement still doesn't make sense. but do keep on with the knee-jerking; it's entertaining.

May. 15 2012 12:59 PM
The Truth from Becky

Yes Jawbone, I get it. I also know the reason some older Black people think whites are better, have better can do better that minorities, even in produce.

May. 15 2012 12:58 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

carrie--a LOT of people compost in their apartments and bring it to union square. been doing it for years. the east village program that collects the compost produces phenomenal, nutrient-rich gardening compost.

bobby g--i think the point about expensive produce characterizes what little is available directly in underserved neighborhoods, far away from a farmer's market--they're not in all neighborhoods here. many won't jump on a train for an hour to haul back groceries.

May. 15 2012 12:55 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Really one of the best segments,super informative and inspiring.

Thank you.

May. 15 2012 12:54 PM
The Truth from Becky

@ThatChick from Manhattan, I am aware of the political, socioeconomical side of this discussion sweetie. What I was referring to was his comment about the Black people of the community who wouldn't buy from him but, preferred to buy from the whites with a more inferior product. You replay this back and listen to that portion.

May. 15 2012 12:54 PM

Becky, when I lived in Milwaukee it was known as one of the most racially segregated cities in the US. I can well believe some customers might feel uncomfortable buying from a black farmer -- they might not even believe there are black farmers in the area!

I'm not aware of what's happened in 15 years since I moved. I would think that as elsewhere there's more tolerance. I hope so.

May. 15 2012 12:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I agree about organic food prices. Sometimes it seems like the less they do to food, the more it costs. Don't refine it? It costs more. Don't use synthetic pesticides & fertilizers on it? It costs even more. Don't even cook it? It costs more than that! One of the things we need to do is combat the image of organic foods as "elite."

May. 15 2012 12:53 PM

Will, you're an inspiration- keep up the great work!

May. 15 2012 12:53 PM
Stella from the old neighborhood

Totally inspiring. Will Allen brings out the best in you, Lenny. More please.

May. 15 2012 12:52 PM

thatgirl from manhattan~

she can't help it.

May. 15 2012 12:50 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Great guest & topic! Nice to hear some good news. Does Mr. Allen have any suggestions for accelerating the revival of community gardens in NYC? There's been a slight comeback since Giuliani nearly wiped them out, but not enough. And what does he think the role of community-supported agriculture that brings produce in from outside of town vs. community gardens is?

May. 15 2012 12:50 PM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

This gentleman is a pleasure to listen to -- on so many levels.

Contrast this uplifting segment with Brian's last one -- in which the NYTimes tech blogger Jenna-something was infatuated with what Biance (sp?) and Rhianna were putting on their Facebook pages, or the like. Uggh!

May. 15 2012 12:49 PM
Carrie from West Village

Great in awhile! I am able to only grow indoor herbs as I do not have an outdoor space available. I do bring my waste that can be composted to the Union Sq. farmers market though...not sure how many people are aware of this. I too appreciate listening to someone who is out there REALLY making a difference. Please keep it up Mr. Allen!

May. 15 2012 12:48 PM
thatgirl from manhattan

what dboy said. would rather listen to you speak with 20 will allens than one joe bastianich.

becky--read a bit about food inequality, based on economics and access to quality foodstuffs, and then listen to the segment again. sheesh.

May. 15 2012 12:48 PM

I hope I can get out to Milwaukee and visit your operation -- are visitors able to view your gardens, greenhouses?

I'm getting inspired to revive my planters' soil and get some tomatoes planted, try some lettuces and other greens in raised planters. Here is northeastern NJ suboonia, there used to be at least 5 local farm stands where I could get great veggies; now it's down to one -- and the prices have zoomed. Fortunately, a local Food town owner has an arrangement with a western NJ farmer for the usual summer crops, which are excellent. Just not that much variety as found in NYC's green market.

May. 15 2012 12:47 PM
The Truth from Becky

Ohhh Kay wait what? How did this turn racial? Geez, racism in buying produce. I think it was your imagination!

May. 15 2012 12:43 PM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Great segment. Really good to hear from someone who is ACTUALLY doing and making a difference. Unlike some of the interviews lately featuring policy wonks who pontificate from the ivory tower with little "real" world knowledge (imho).

May. 15 2012 12:40 PM

Contrast Will Allen with the restaurant Klown®, Bastianich from yesterday.

Lenny, you're redeeming yourself.


May. 15 2012 12:28 PM
Bobby G from East Village

How will all the new 7-Elevens in New York City impact obesity. How about a " Big Gulp" for breakfast?

Good food is expensive? How about $2.00 for a big bunch of greens from a local farmer at the Green Market? They take Food Stamps, too!

May. 15 2012 12:27 PM
Melissa from Harlem

What about the fact that people of color in the US (and around the world) are far more likely to live in contaminated communities? In my experience, this is one of the main reasons that African Americans living in single family homes in urban areas stopped growing gardens.

May. 15 2012 12:20 PM

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