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Farmer Receives Genius Grant

September 27, 2008

On Tuesday, the MacArthur foundation announced the twenty-five winners of its 2008 MacArthur Fellowship. Among this year’s group of writers and musicians, astrophysicists and physicians, one winner stood out among the rest: Will Allen at 6’7. As the CEO of Growing Power Inc. in Milwaukee, and an urban farmer he’s only the second working farmer and tenth person in the category of agriculture to receive the prize since it was first awarded in 1981. Colloquially known as “the genius grant,” the MacArthur fellowship awards $500,000 no-strings-attached to individuals “who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.” Will Allen has done that.

Video Interview with Will Allen

 “I don’t build yards with fences,” says Allen. “No–you’ve got to involve the community.” Ever since first partnering with Growing Power Inc. sixteen years ago to bring youths to work on his farm, Allen and his team have been growing vegetables and raising animals, testing composting methods, and teaching community members about food and agriculture, all in an effort to make America’s food systems more just.  Allen’s efforts are breaking through the walls that keep so many low-income, inner city populations from having access to healthy, high-quality, and affordable food. It is Growing Power’s mission to ensure that access. “If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food,” says Allen, “if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community.  I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”

To find out more about what Allen and Growing Power are fighting against, and about why is it that food justice is such a far-reaching problem in America today, take a look online at the Yale Sustainable Food Project poster that was just up last week in all of Yale’s dining halls. You can find it here: After you check that out, follow these links to an article on Will Allen in The New York Times, and information and a video interview with Allen on the MacArthur foundation’s website:

-Anya Kaplan-Seem

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