“On the day you harvest a fresh vegetable that you planted weeks before, you understand that patience matters—and that anything worthwhile cannot be done all at once,” writes Will Allen in The Good Food Revolution.
Like growing vegetables from seed to harvest, overhauling the country’s food system takes time. But that’s the life’s work of Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, Inc., a Milwaukee-based organization dedicated to developing community food systems that provide high-quality, affordable food. The Good Food Revolution tells how Allen became a leader of what he calls a “hopeful revolution that is changing America’s food system.” Part autobiography, part history lesson, part urban farming guide, it charts Allen’s journey from professional basketball player to KFC regional manager to urban farmer.
Allen shares philosophical lessons—learned from his years of farming—about grit and the virtue of making do. He includes stories of the people who’ve influenced him and those he’s influenced, like youth mentored through urban farming projects.
Fighting the social injustice of a food system that deprives people of healthy, affordable food is one of Allen’s objectives. Our country’s agrarian past is intertwined with slavery, and Allen, an African-American whose parents migrated north to escape the sharecropping system, tells how he was initially a “reluctant inheritor” of this agricultural history.
Fortunately Allen overcame that reluctance, and became a leader of the urban farming movement. For almost every criticism he has of our current food system’s value of “quantity over quality, uniformity over diversity, and profit over stewardship,” Allen offers a solution through Growing Power. Little wonder his innovative work was recognized with a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2008.
It’s Allen’s candor and passion that makes his story so inspiring. Like the best leaders, he asks no more of us than he gives to the movement himself: “the best efforts of our hearts, bodies, and minds.”
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