EVERETT, Wash. — Will Allen, a former pro basketball player who has become a leader in the urban farming movement, will deliver the keynote address at the Nov. 21 Focus on Farming Conference.
Allen grew up on a small vegetable farm in Rockville, Md., played basketball for the University of Miami and was drafted in 1971 by the Baltimore Bullets of the NBA.
After playing pro basketball and a career in marketing, Allen purchased Growing Power, a derelict plant nursery on the north side of Milwaukee, Wis. He also purchased a 100-acre farm in nearby Oak Creek.
He has developed Growing Power into a leading urban farming project, with a 40-acre farm in Merton west of Milwaukee, and an offshoot project in Chicago.
Linda Neunzig, agricultural coordinator for Snohomish County, said the county partnered with several organizations to bring in Allen, whose work has brought him grants from the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the Kellogg Foundation.
“We are fortunate to have him for the full day, and he’ll be teaching an entire track,” she said. His breakout sessions will cover vermicomposting, aquaponics, intense production methods and creating jobs.
Allen has developed farms on such places as parking lots and warehouses by using hydroponics, aquaponics and raised beds. Besides providing healthful food to the inner city, Growing Power is a training program for at-risk youths.
“There’s so much interest. We have so much urban ag already,” Neunzig said. “There’s Seattle Tilth, some in Tacoma (and) rooftop gardens on the new food hub under construction in Everett.
“Urban farms provide not just access to food, but also food security. Many places around here are laced with rivers — one big disaster could take out all the bridges.”
Other conference sessions will address the business of farming, season extension, livestock and nursery.
Registration and information: www.focusonfarming.org