Urban farming with a passion.
In this food manifesto/inspirational memoir, co-authored by Wilson (co-author: Chew On This: Everything You Don't Want to Know About Fast Food, 2006), MacArthur fellow Allen chronicles his struggle to transform abandoned greenhouses in one of Milwaukee’s poorest neighborhoods into a thriving, innovative urban farm that provides fresh food for thousands of people. The author meanders from his childhood in suburban Maryland, where his once-sharecropper parents taught him to cherish the land, to his life as a star basketball player and corporate executive, to his current role as CEO of Growing Power, a not-for-profit dedicated to providing sustainable food to communities that need it. The healthy-food movement, writes the author, has remained primarily an upper-class experience, while the only option for many city dwellers is fast food or convenience stores. Already a passionate farmer, Allen decided to risk it all in 1993 to grow affordable, locally grown food for and with inner-city residents using creative techniques with greenhouses, fish tanks and lots of worms. At times the writing is uneven, and several chapters are filled with unexpected digressions into history lessons or other people’s life stories. Yet these asides, including the heart-wrenching struggles of one of Allen’s employees, bring a refreshing energy to the narrative. Many chapters end with a summary of key points or helpful gardening tips, making it a good read for young adults as well. What Allen does with a small plot of land and a lot of determination is nothing short of inspiring.
A moving story of one man’s success in producing healthy food for those who need it the most.