Over the last two years, we have experienced one of the worst economic periods of our lifetimes. We have seen people lose their homes, deplete their savings, and struggle to afford basic necessities.
Who is to blame? It is easy to take shots at people, but I don’t think that will help. I choose instead to think about how we are going to lift ourselves up. I think ahead to a new economy that is good for all the people. And
I feel this process of renewal is going to begin with the most important thing in our lives: food.
It’s something that we all share as human beings – black or white, young or old, rich or poor. We all must eat to sustain ourselves.
Our industrial food system has led us down the wrong road. It has brought us fewer jobs, unhealthier diets, and a centralized system that makes people feel powerless over their food choices. I think we all feel this. There are more food-related illnesses in this country and in the world than ever before.
We can’t rely alone on governments or large corporations to fix our bad food system. We can’t rely on others to improve access to healthy food in communities of need. We all have a responsibility to work together.
As I travel this country, I am filled with hope. I have seen young, middle-aged and elderly people taking control of the food systems in their communities. I see people growing food on balconies, side yards, back yards, and community plots. I see new gardens and farms in urban, suburban and rural communities. I see people raising fish and plants inside buildings, and people who have employed creative techniques to grow food year-round in even the harshest climates, as we do at Growing Power in Milwaukee.
We need everyone at what I like to call the Good Food Revolution table. We need corporations. We need medical folks. Universities. Politicos. Planners. Educators. Dieticians. We need architects to design our new small farms and community food centers, and we need planners to design sustainable communities to transform food deserts into healthy neighborhoods for all the people. We need people with expertise in the areas of public policy. We need technical experts. Contractors. Composters. And most importantly, we need our wonderful farmers.
What encourages and inspires me in the progress of this good food movement is that more young people have embraced farming. More people of color have also been willing to enter agriculture once again. However, to truly change our food system, we must have 50 million new people growing food in their local communities. This will take time and patience is one of the keys, but we must commit to action now.
Let’s set some goals together: In the next year:
- We will build over 100 hoop houses to grow food without chemicals in the city of Milwaukee.
- We will train over 1,000 new farmers in 2011 – and over 5,000 in the next five years.
- We now have 52 employees at Growing Power. We will hire over 50 in the next year.
- We will host over 20,000 people at our training center on Silver Spring Drive in 2011 – helping to spread our knowledge of intensive growing both nationally and internationally.
- We will take the lead in developing a new local food system industry. This effort will, in time, create thousands of jobs of all types.
As the First Lady Michelle Obama says, “Let’s make sure that everyone in our communities and in our nation has access to good food. (Let’s Move!)” It can be done, and it must be done for our survival. This movement is about creating healthy people and a healthy world. It is about social justice.
Will Allen is a farmer, founder and chief executive officer of Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee.