Farming teaches you a lot about perseverance, especially in these hard times

By Will Allen

An aerial view of Growing Power Milwaukee

You plant for a harvest that you hope will come, but that is not guaranteed. As I reflect back on our work together this year to build a new food system, I see our progress and am filled with hope that the fruits of our labor are within reach.

At Growing Power, we composted more than forty million pounds of food waste in 2011—more than ever before— and transformed it into healthy soil. We maintained thirteen farm stands in the city, providing fresh food to urban communities with few healthy options. We hired more staff at living wage salaries. We trained 1,500 beginning farmers through our weekend workshops. We acquired more than a hundred acres of new land to grow more food. We graduated forty-three people from our Commercial Urban Agriculture program. Thirty-six of those graduates were people of color, women, or both.

In Milwaukee, we have strengthened our organization’s infrastructure, allowing us to grow and distribute fresh food for all in our community. We are approaching the day when I will be able to say that everyone in Milwaukee has access to the same affordable, fresh food.

However, we are still in the infancy of what I call “the good food revolution.” Even so, as I have traveled around the country, I cannot help but feel encouraged. I see communities across this country that are opening farmer’s markets in former food deserts. I meet people who are growing food in their backyards for the first time. I meet children who are teaching each other and adults about growing food and eating healthy. It’s inspiring to say the least!

At Growing Power, we are working together to create models for a local, sustainable food system that can be replicated across the United States—and the world. We need to continue to work together to make this happen. I believe it’s possible, especially when I see:

  • More young people who want to be farmers, and who want to lend their talents to the mission of building a better food system
  • More schools that are willing to participate in Farm-to-School programs, and to expose kids to local, fresh produce
  • More corporations that want to open farmers’ markets for their employees, or recycle their kitchen scraps for compost, or donate money to help build our grassroots movement
  • More people of color who want to enter agriculture, and who no longer associate the practice with the painful legacy of slavery and sharecropping
  • More people in the medical field who see fresh, local food as an integral part of the healing process and of good health

In 2012, we want to take this good food revolution to another level.

We will support those who are working for needed improvements on the 2012 farm bill. We will make sure that the bill offers support to small farmers, who are the backbone of a more sustainable food system. We will continue to test and refine our fish and vegetable growing systems, to make them economically viable for those wishing to start microenterprises in urban communities.We will offer more jobs to young people of color who have been shut out of the traditional workforce.

We will lead the way in showing other American communities how to create a food system that is good for all of its people.

Please give what you can.

Will Allen