Will Allen's Good Book Leads Us Toward a Good Food Revolution

Fresh Kentucky zucchini ribbons

Fresh Kentucky zucchini ribbons

Labor Day offered the perfect opportunity to enjoy The Good Food Revolution, by Will Allen, founder of Growing Power in Milwaukee. For me it was a page turner, more thrilling than most novels. Allen and the writer Charles Wilson tell both Allen's personal story and the compelling narratives of a dozen or more people crucial to the work of Growing Power. I came to see Growing Power as a research lab for rebuilding a system of urban agriculture that will feed ALL of us well.

If you have read much about the benefits of strong local food systems, you may have heard that most food items travel about 1500 miles from their origins to our plate. One of the many pages I marked with a sticky note adds,

"We spend about $140 billion each year just for the energy required to deliver food on our tables. The long journey from farm to consumer also has nutritional effects on the foods we consume. Fresh green beans, for example, have been shown to lose nearly 80 percent of their Vitamin C within a week of being picked."

I'm partial to the green beans my best man grows eight feet from our back door, particularly the Gold of Bacau.  And I've organized more than one day this year around buying and cooking heirloom beans from Marion Pittman and others at the Lexington Farmers Market. Allen's work and his teachings aim for food system in which everyone around me can easily and affordably eat similarly delicious fresh, Vitamin C-laden beans from nearby.

Allen passionately asserts the virtues of the labor involved in growing and composting food. While acknowledging that growing, cooking, eating, and composting homegrown food will not save the world, Allen tells the stories of quite a few people who found their way to a life of meaning and safety, against big odds, because they found a role for themselves somewhere within Growing Power. Allen's passionate assertions about the ways a healthy food system builds strong character and communities make me want to work more skillfully and in a more focused way on building sound urban agricultural systems and solid, lucrative local and regional food systems.