I Can Do It Too… Actually Can I ?


Milwaukee, 1993

Will Allen believed that everyone, regardless of their economic status should have access to the same, healthy food, so he founded Growing Power Inc., a non-profit organization, which helps individuals, who don’t have access to “healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable foods”, gain access to these by providing education and technical assistance as well as through food production and distribution.

Here is a video that tells more about Growing Power:

What struck me the most about Growing Power Inc., is the fact that Allen’s business plan is not only concerned with healthy foods and food safety, but extends into larger concepts like “helping troubled youths, dismantling racism, creating jobs, improving community and public health.” (The Good Food Revolution)

Racism/Public Health:

Allen believes that redlining is not performed only by lenders but by grocery stores also. He accuses grocery stores of staying out of minority communities, which pushes the people living in these communities to purchase food from fast food joints and convenience stores which have highly-processes, high calorie foods (Street Farmer).  Since the diabetes, heart attack and obesity rates are alarming, Allen’s plan helps to offer a healthy option in comparison to the processed foods that the food industry is offering.

Improving Community:

Allen also mentions that the purpose of his training programs is to make sure that people who attend leave with the idea of “I can do that too.” This enables people who live in a proximity to start growing food in their porches, backyards which creates a growers community where people can bounce ideas off of each other and become more than just a face to one another. This enhances the quality of the overall community.

Helping troubled youth/Creating Jobs:

Each season Growing Power hires a dozen at-risk teens as a part of its Youth Group program and teaches them how to grow food and basic job skills. One participant, Ellis, describes his experience as “I used to pick up tomatoes and whip them at buildings, but now I’d never think of it. Now, I can build aquaponic systems.” (Iron Street Urban Farm Teaches Farming Skills to Community)

Allen is now seen as the “go-to expert on urban farming”. He has great ideas and has taken amazing initiatives to make them work, but the big question is : Can this model be applied nationally or is it too small scale? Reading more and more about Growing Power and Will Allen, I really want to see his whole model succeed and be used nationwide, but is that a very optimistic view? What if someone doesn’t have the time to grow his own food? Can these methods change the way food industry operates?

Allen’s idea about people leaving his workshops by realizing that “they can do it too”, but can they really?

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4 thoughts on “I Can Do It Too… Actually Can I ?”

  1. Allen is extremely optimistic in thinking this model will succeed worldwide. These teachings can make a difference on a small scale. It would take a dedicated effort from citizens to adopt this sort of mentality. How would these teachings take place on a large-scale level and be unique enough to capture people’s attention?

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  2. What are his yields relative to land usage? That is a big question.

    Also, Growing POwer has been around for awhile. Have others tired ot replicate it? If not, what are the barriers to replication and scaling up?

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  3. The ethical perspectives. I think two are sustainability as ethics. For example, maybe we need to make an ethical goal or criteria greater food self-sufficiency. Imagine if urban areas grew a significant portion of their food? Does that get closer to a living city as an ethical end?

    I am not as familiar with sustainability as an ethical school, but you can start with David Orr’s article. Actually, this one, the one I mean to give out.

    In it he discusses Aldo Leopold’s defnition of good as that which sustains life. Maybe others have used this as the kernel of sustainability as an ethical approach. Or, to put it another way, a lot of sustainability is really a form of consequentialism, isn’t it? If we internalize all the costs of production, then we can make better choices about what does the least harm and most good. But maybe consequentialism isn’t enough. Maybe we need ethical reasoning that goes further and provides its own self-evident criteria of right and wrong.

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  4. In terms of policy, I think looking at what it would take to scale up these urban farms is pretty straight forward angle. Or, the problem of food deserts more generally.

    If you want a “global” angle, I wonder if food deserts is also a problem in other parts of the world, in the newer developing cities like Brazil’s, India’s, China’s…. Istanbul? Cairo?

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