Milwaukee, long known for its beer, brats and cheese, is becoming a Good Food destination. Growing Power, an organization headed by the sustainable urban farmer and MacArthur Fellow Will Allen, this week announced it is hosting the largest farm conference of its kind Sept. 10-12 at State Fair Park in West Allis.
The first annual National- International Urban & Small Farm Conference, expected to draw thousands of visitors from around the world, will bring together a diverse audience of not only those interested in urban agriculture and sustainable farming practices, but those who can help bring the Good Food to the table. Urban planners, city officials, physicians, educators, nutritionists, corporate executives, university officials and social justice activists will join small and urban farmers at the event.
Will Allen, recently named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the world, has become recognized as among the preeminent thinkers on agriculture and food policy. The founder and CEO of Growing Power, Allen is widely considered the leading authority in the expanding field of urban agriculture. Allen, who will speak at the event, will be joined by several other nationally recognized leaders in their fields, including:
- Grace Lee Boggs, activist, writer and speaker whose more than 60 years of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of this century.
- Dr. Judith Palfrey, director of the Children’s International Pediatric Center.
- Winona LaDuke, executive director of Honor the Earth, an organization committed to raising public support and creating funding for frontline native environmental groups.
Break-out sessions will be organized along 10 thematic tracks: Urban Aquaculture; Brownfi elds Development; Renewable Energy; Experiential Education; Urban and Small Farming Workshops; Youth; Growing Food & Justice Initiative; Companies, Governments, Universities Working with Communities; Food, Fitness and Nutrition; and Urban Planning.
The event will also serve as a platform for Californiabased Bonterra Organic Vineyards to formally launch its new “Campaign for Urban Farming”, a partnership with Growing Power that will help raise awareness and funds for urban farming in as many as 10 communities across the country. As part of the campaign, Bonterra will donate $20,000 to local urban farming organizations with the goal of turning its investment into $100,000 during September, which is Organic Harvest Month. Throughout the four -week fundraising campaign, prizes will be awarded to the local community farms which raise the most dollars and also engage the most individual donors.
Bonterra Brand director John Tichenor said, “At Bonterra, we believe people everywhere should have access to sustainable, healthy, and true food. It’s why since 1987 we have been crafting award-winning wines from organic grapes.”
“We’re proud to partner with Growing Power as our goal is to not only raise funds for these urban farming organizations, but to also help engage people across the country in the urban farming movement so these local groups can grow and produce more food for their communities.”
“A take-away message that we are hoping people leave the conference with is the idea that it takes more than farmers to get Good Food to the table,” said Allen. “It takes a commitment from all types of organizations and businesses. Bonterra is a wonderful example of a corporation that is not only committed to building our Good Food Revolution, but is backing it with financial support. We are proud to partner with Bonterra, and our other corporate partners who share similar philosophies.”
The International Urban & Small Farm Conference is being supported through the financial contributions of local corporations and organizations including: Kohl’s Corporation, We Energies, JP Morgan Chase, The NEA Foundation, Bonterra Wines, and WhiteWave Foods / Horizon Organics®. The Falk Group Public Relations is helping to promote the conference to a national and international audience.
Corporations and organizations interested in becoming a partner in the conference or serving as a sponsor can learn more by visiting www.growingpowerfarmconference.org/sponsors/be-a-sponsor.
“We feel very fortunate to have a number of companies appreciate and understand what this conference is about and lend their support,” said Allen. “Through their support we are able to educate an even greater audience about the Good Food movement than we could on our own.”
The conference will also feature partnerships with restaurants. A special chef event featuring dozens of top chefs from around the region will prepare dishes that incorporate locally grown food. All conference attendees are invited to enjoy these dishes, many of which will be appearing on menus of local restaurants.
Healthy nutrition for children in schools will be a focus of the conference. Allen is an advocate of fighting childhood obesity and a vocal supporter of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” national campaign kick-off, which brought together cabinet members, sports and entertainment figures, business leaders and physicians to fight childhood obesity.
According to Allen, “When I envisioned putting the conference together a year ago, I wanted a conference that embodied the real concept and the reality of building the Good Food revolution. In saying that, I mean a comprehensive approach to making sure we have every player that is involved in the Good Food revolution for now and into the future.
“This conference will be different than the other conferences in that respect. The presenters for our 10 thematic tracks are real people that we need at the Good Food revolution table. We have urban planners, architects, medical doctors, social justice activists, farmers, nutritionists, teachers, professors, city planners, mayors, corporate executives all presenting at the conference.”
Joining the conference will be the 3rd annual Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI) Gathering. The GFJI is aimed at dismantling racism and empowering low-income and communities of color through sustainable and local agriculture. This comprehensive network views dismantling racism as a core principal which brings together social change agents from diverse sectors working to bring about new, healthy and sustainable food systems and supporting and building multicultural leadership in impoverished communities throughout the world.
The Good Food revolution- – the practice of growing food locally or purchasing it from local farmers committed to sustainable agriculture – is gaining momentum throughout the world. Growing Power is helping to educate and train interested people in supporting this movement and in the process has turned Milwaukee into a hub of urban agriculture activity.
Recently, Farm Aid announced that it is bringing its 25th Annual Farm Aid Concert to Milwaukee Oct. 2, in part because of the work of Allen and Growing Power. Allen helped Farm Aid Founders Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews announce the news at Miller Park where the concert will be held. According to Farm Aid Executive Director Carolyn Mugar, Farm Aid 25 will focus on telling the story of Wisconsin farm families to a national audience.
“Wisconsin is a microcosm of family farms in the U.S.,” said Mugar. “We’ve been working with folks in Wisconsin for 25 years, and these are folks both in crisis and working to solve problems… People like Will Allen of Growing Power are among the most innovative farmers in the country.”
Allen said: “Farm Aid coming here caught me by surprise. It’s such a wonderful thing. Unlike so many groups, the money Farm Aid raises doesn’t just go to administration. It goes to the farmers.”
Entertainment icons Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Neil Young and Dave Matthews – all Farm Aid board members — have been named as performers for the event. Kenny Chesney, Jeff Tweedy, Norah Jones, Jason Mraz, Band of Horses, the BoDeans, Amos Lee and Robert Francis will also perform at Farm Aid 25.
This is the first time Farm Aid, which celebrates and supports family farming in the United States, has been held in Wisconsin. The concert will be telecast live on DirecTV. Growing Power will have a prominent presence at Farm Aid 25 and Allen will have an active role in the event.
To register for Growing Power’s International Urban & Small Farm Conference Sept. 10-12 at State Fair Park, visit: www.growingpowerfarmconference.org/register/register.