Urban Farmer Gives 2014 Honors Day Address

Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, is “revitalizing communities by providing urban youth an alternative to gang involvement and getting them involved giving back to their communities.” — Dale Sanders

An urban farmer nationally recognized for transforming the cultivation, production and delivery of healthy foods to under-served urban populations will present the keynote address for Alma College’s 18th annual Honors Day.

Will Allen, chief executive officer of the non-profit organization Growing Power, speaks at 8 p.m. Wednesday, April 2 in the Remick Heritage Center, Presbyterian Hall. Admission is free and open to the public; no ticket is required.

Honors Day activities continue Thursday, April 3. More than 100 Alma College students will share their original research, creativity and talent in morning and afternoon sessions at various locations around campus. The 2014 winners of the Ronald O. Kapp Honors prizes will be announced at 4:30 p.m. in the Remick Heritage Center lobby.

Will AllenWill Allen

Allen is recognized as a national leader in urban agriculture and food policy, says Dale Sanders, director of health care administration and a member of Alma College’s co-curricular committee.

“When I think of Will Allen, I’m amazed at his ability to link agriculture and food back to urban areas,” says Sanders. “He is revitalizing communities by providing urban youth an alternative to gang involvement and getting them involved in gardening and giving back to their communities.”

After a brief career in professional basketball and a number of years in corporate marketing at Procter & Gamble, Allen returned to his roots as a farmer. He used his retirement package to purchase a plot of inner-city land with greenhouses, where he established and functions as the CEO of Growing Power, which promotes the belief that “all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods at all times.”

The urban farm in Milwaukee now produces enough vegetables and fish year-round to feed thousands of people. Employing young people from the neighboring housing project and community, Growing Power seeks 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.

In 2008, Allen was named a John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow, only the second farmer ever to be so honored. He also is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and in February 2010, he was invited to the White House to join First Lady Michelle Obama in launching “Let’s Move!” — her signature leadership program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America.

In May 2010, Time magazine included Allen in its list of the World’s 100 Most Influential People. In 2011, Michael Pollan and Forbes Magazine named Allen one of the World’s Most Powerful Foodies in its World Power Issue.

In 2012, Allen received the NEA Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education for his work with children, teachers and schools. Also in 2012, he published his book, The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities.


Story published on March 21, 2014
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