The Fact That Changed Everything: Will Allen and Growing Power Vertical Farm The Fact That Changed Everything: Will Allen and Growing Power Vertical Farm
The GOOD Life

The Fact That Changed Everything: Will Allen and Growing Power Vertical Farm

by Bora Chang, Jessica De Jesus

November 3, 2012

In its nineteenth year, Growing Power continues to thrive in its mission. Its three-acre Community Food Center in downtown Milwaukee houses an integrated food growing system that includes 150 different types of crops as well as an aquaponics system, which pumps dirty water from the Center’s fish tanks to beds of watercress, which in turn filter the water for the fish. The center also contains an apiary with beehives, as well as other livestock, such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and goats.  

All told, the foods produced by Growing Power feed about 10,000 people in Milwaukee. The organization is also in the middle of putting 100 acres of greenhouses in and around southeast Wisconsin, Madison, and Chicago, to add to the existing 23-farm, 200-acre food production sites. Allen’s business-savvy also is paying off: “We’re different than other nonprofits—over 50 percent of our profits come from selling our goods and services, we have over 40 different income streams, and we are not just dependent on grants. Not many nonprofits can say that,” Allen says.

Growing Power may have done a lot to change the dynamics of local food in Milwaukee and neighboring areas, but for Allen it’s not enough. “We want to increase the amount of local food consumed in Milwaukee from one percent to 10 percent or more,” says Allen. The ultimate goal, in addition to showing that fresh fruits, vegetables and other foods can be produced in an urban setting, is creating an infrastructure that can be replicated. A three-year research project involving different types of agriculture systems, and the building of the five-story Growing Power Vertical Farm in Milwaukee will serve as helpful models.

“In the future, certain cities like New York, San Francisco, Vancouver that do not have a lot of horizontal land mass will have to learn how to grow food to sustain its people,” says Allen. “Our goal is to build the first vertical farm so that we can study and quantify how we can produce food, so that others can do it on a larger scale.”

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The Fact That Changed Everything: Will Allen and Growing Power Vertical Farm