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Gala 2013: Will Allen on youth, food, and sustainability


Last week, MacArthur “Geniur” grantee and preeminent urban farmer Will Allen was in Boston to receive The Food Project’s first Leadership Award. Allen, who is the founder and president of Growing Power in Milwaukee and Chicago, also toured The Food Project’s youth development and urban farming programs in the Dudley neighborhood of Boston.

Inevitably, questions and conversation turned to the beauty of soil and compost and the need to build a future where every community has access to fresh, healthy food grown on local farms.

Allen’s connection with The Food Project dates back to the early 1990s, when both Growing Power and The Food Project were establishing programs around the need for youth and community empowerment through agriculture. 

“The Food Project is the best youth serving model in the country,” Allen said. “They provide a concrete place where different cultures can come together and work together to dismantle racism.”

A deep, deliberate thinker, Allen’s dedication to urban and local food systems is apparent in his every undertaking. His vision takes us into a world of vertical farms and year-round greenhouses where square footage – not acres – is a key measure.

When asked how he communicates “sustainable agriculture” to others and keeps the movement going, Allen said, “sustainability to me is built around passion.” 

How do you define “sustainability”?

Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power and the first recipient of The Food Project's Leadership Award, speaks at the 2nd Annual Gala, Celebrate the Harvest, on September 10, 2013.

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