We have our pantheon of deities in the Food Movement–the people and organizations who have had the most impact on our culinary landscape. We have discernible cuisines in this country, certainly more so than a century ago, thanks to James Beard, Julia Child, and Alice Waters. Carlo Petrini and Slow Food have helped us understand that food and pleasure must be connected to awareness and responsibility. Eric Schlosser showed us the dangers of our “fast food nation” and Michael Pollan illuminated “the omnivore’s dilemma.”

All these and very many more have helped us to start remaking the food system writ large, and while there remains much to do, perhaps none in this Hall of Heroes has had more direct, hands-on, person-to-person impact on the food decisions of individual people than Will Allen. His new book, The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities, tells the story of how a sharecropper’s son–once a professional basketball player and the first African American to play the game for the University of Miami Hurricanes–found his way back to the land in Wisconsin. Once there, he shaped–and in a very real way–saved the lives of a generation of Milwaukee’s youth. Read more

Everyone hates fundraising. I am one of those rare souls who actually likes it, but I know how time-consuming, disheartening, and frustrating it can be. Having been the main fundraiser for the Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) for 14 years, I am intimately familiar with the realities of non-profit fundraising. So, the recent news that Growing Power was accepting a million dollar donation from Wal-Mart was not so surprising. A million clams is, as they say in D.C., “real money.”

All organizations have to make decisions about from whom they are willing to take money and under what terms. Some groups will take money from any corporation that gives it to them, believing that they can do better things with the money than the company can. Other organizations are more selective, only taking money from those aligned with their mission. Yet Growing Power’s acceptance of this contribution and CEO Will Allen’s statement on his blog present some crucial dilemmas for the movement. Read more

Last week, right in time for fall harvest, I found myself in the company of Will Allen, an urban farming pioneer, Annie Novak,  co-founder of the country’s first commercial rooftop farm, Fritz Haeg, an edible landscaper, and 1,500 others at the first international urban and small farm conference. The weekend was hosted by Will Allen and his organization Growing Power, an educational farm organization that he founded in a food-desert neighborhood of Milwaukee 18 years ago.

Retracing my steps to Milwaukee: a few months ago, in time for spring planting, I had seen the same three urban-agriculturalists speak in New York City. I had left that evening with the strongest desire to change the world that I had ever felt: All I had to do was plant something green. Read more

I go to a really cool school. We have two beehives and a 7,000 square foot greenhouse, which used to be an old greenhouse, but is now recycled and updated for our use. I love walking in when the seedlings are growing because it smells alive—I can’t really describe the smell as anything other than a mix of dirt, beans and tomatoes. Read more

Urban agriculturist Will Allen recognized a need for the delivery of healthy foods to underserved, urban populations in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where he lives. In 1993, he started working with neighborhood children on a gardening project. It was there that he planted the seeds for the farming methods and educational programs that would become the non-profit, Growing Power, that he now runs, and for which he is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship this year. Read more