Urban Farmer & CEO: Growing Power, Milwaukee, WI
Raising: A variety of crops, aquaponics, and awareness.
Time Magazine: 100 Most Important People in The United States
WILL ALLEN, founder and CEO of Growing Power Inc., is recognized as the preeminent practitioner of urban agriculture in America and throughout the world.
Will grew up on a small farm in Maryland, the second-youngest of six children of a sharecropper. Despite a strict rule of his father's – no sports until all farm chores were done – he became a standout basketball player in high school and the first African-American scholarship athlete at the University of Miami. He eventually became the men's basketball team captain, and still holds a number of Miami Hurricanes records. Will graduated with a degree in education.
Will was drafted in both the National Basketball Association and the American Basketall Association. He played in the ABA for a year and then entered the European League, playing for Belgium.
While living in Belgium, Will reconnected with his farming roots. He observed the intensive methods used on small plots by local farmers, and began applying those methods in a garden where he grew food for his family and teammates.
Upon returning to the United States, Will began a career in corporate sales and marketing. Job opportunities brought him to Oak Creek, a suburb of Milwaukee, his wife's hometown and site of her family farm.
Eventually, Will tired of corporate life and took over operation of the farm. In 1993, wanting a place to sell his produce, he located a vacant garden center with three acres on Milwaukee's north side.
As it turned out, the small property was the last tract in the city of Milwaukee still zoned for agriculture. Will realized he could not only sell food from his own farm in Oak Creek, he could grow food on-site in a neighborhood where there was little fresh food to be found.
The ultimate direction of Will's life truly changed when young people from the neighborhood, including kids who lived in the largest low-income public housing project in Milwaukee, began to ask him for advice and assistance with growing their own vegetables. Almost overnight, Will took up the mantle of teacher and trainer, and the impromptu gathering of neighborhood children became the Youth Corps, a program that continues today. In 1995, Growing Power Inc. was born: a not-for-profit center for urban agriculture training and building community food security systems.
Will has been an innovator in methods of composting, vermicomposting (using worms to refine and fertilize compost) and aquaponics (growing fish and food plants in a closed system). These and other intensive practices result in remarkable yields of food, even in a very small area.
Today, Growing Power employs a staff of 65 and is involved in more than 70 projects and outreach programs in Milwaukee, across the United States and throughout the world. Will has trained and taught in the Ukraine, Macedonia and Kenya, and has plans in place to create community food centers in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Haiti. In the U.S., Growing Power has set up 15 Regional Outreach Training Centers throughout the U.S.
In 2008, Will was awarded the John D. and Katherine T. McArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" and named a McArthur Fellow – only the second farmer ever to be so honored.
Will is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. On Feb. 9, 2010, was one of four national spokesmen who stood on the dais with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House to launch her "Let's Move!" initiative to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity by 2015.
In May 2010, Time magazine named Will as one of 100 World's Most Influential People.
Despite his busy schedule as an international ambassador for urban agriculture and universal food security, Will continues to farm his own property in Oak Creek and direct operations at Growing Power, still headquartered in the original location on Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee.
Rancher: Polyface Farms, Swoope, VA
Raising: Cattle, Poultry, Pork, Rabbits and Forestry Products
Salad Bar Beef, Holy Cows & Hog Heaven, You Can Farm, Family Friendly Farming, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, Folks This Aint Normal, Pastured Poultry Profits, Everything I Want to do is Illegal.
Joel Salatin, 54, is a full-time farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas.
The farm services more than 3,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey and forestry products using relationship marketing.
He holds a BA degree in English and writes extensively in magazines such as STOCKMAN GRASS FARMER, ACRES USA, and AMERICAN AGRICULTURALIST.
The family’s farm, Polyface Inc. (“The Farm of Many Faces”) has been featured in SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, GOURMET and countless other radio,television and print media. Profiled on the Lives of the 21st Century series with Peter Jennings on ABC World News, his after-broadcast chat room fielded more hits than any other segment to date. It achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA by food writer guru Michael Pollan.
A sought-after conference speaker, he addresses a wide range of issues, from “creating the farm your children will want” to “making a white collar salary from a pleasant life in the country.” A wordsmith, he describes his occupation as “mob-stocking hervbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization.” His humorous and conviction-based speeches are akin to theatrical performances, often receiving standing ovations.
His speaking and writing reflect dirt-under-the-fingernails experience punctuated with mischievous humor. He passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm.
His mother Lucille, wife Teresa, daughter Rachel, son Daniel, daughter-in-law Sheri, grandsons Travis and Andrew, and granddaughter Lauryn, work full-time together on the family farm.
Author & Advocate: Bay Area, CA
Temra Costa is a nationally recognized sustainable food and farming advocate. Her book, Farmer Jane: Women Changing the Way We Eat, is the product of the 10+ years she has spent engaging eaters, farmers, and food businesses in the local food movement.
In 1998, while studying Horticulture at UW Madison, Temra joined the Center for Food Safety's efforts to protect the integrity of organic standards when USDA was forming the National Organic Program. Upon graduation she moved to Davis, California to work with CAFF as Sacramento Valley Food Systems Coordinator. During this time, she worked to augment their Farm-to-School program and helped launch Capay Valley Grown, a place-based marketing initiative created to support and market food products from the Capay Valley. Shea also started a radio program called Local Dirt on U.C. Davis's KDVS radio station. In 2010 she hosted another radio show with filmmaker Deborah Koons Garcia on San Francisco's Green 960 called "The Queens of Green," that also highlighted food and farming topics and guests.
In 2004 Temra implemented the Sacramento Valley Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) campaign, and in 2006 moved to Oakland to open CAFF's first urban office. It was here that she would help launch the Bay Area BFBL campaign before becoming the program's statewide director. During the six and a half years that Temra spent working with CAFF she was "literally surrounded by women" working to change the food system for the better, but found that their inspiring stories of success were oftentimes not told. Hence, "Farmer Jane" was written to bring the stories of exceptional changemakers to light.
Temra travels frequently to speak about sustainable food and farming at numerous conferences, events and universities throughout the year. During these travels she collects new stories and continues to highlight women in the food movement on her website, FarmerJane.org. She presently lives in Oakland with her husband where she writes and serves on the Advisory Council of City Slicker Farms. In her spare time she helps out on her family's 40-acre subsistence farm in Sonoma County.
Rancher & Farmer: Baker's Green Acres, Marion, MI
Raising: Cattle, Pigs, Chickens, Turkeys
Born in the heart of Revolution country, Massachusetts native Mark Baker began his farming career while still employed full time in the U.S. Air Force, raising hogs in a farrow to freezer operation, chickens, turkeys, and beef. He and his family have raised produce and animals to sustain themselves as well as to sell for over 15 years. When he retired with 20 years military service and moved to Michigan in 2004, Baker's Green Acres become a full time occupation. With a focus on raising animals on pasture, he has centered production on pastured poultry and on heritage Mangalitsa cross-bred pigs. He is a vocal proponent of locally produced food and the use of sustainable production methods. He sees education of consumers and growers as the key to food sovereignty. Mark feels strongly about the revolutionary idea that consumers have the right to eat wholesome, farmer direct food. With that passion, Mark recently took on Michigan's Department of Natural Resources to defend farmers' rights to raise heritage breed hogs. Mark was the Keynote Speaker at the annual Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund Annual Dinner and Fund Raiser recently held in November.
Sean Croxton - Master of Ceremony
Sean Croxton is the host of Underground Wellness Radio, an internet-based podcast focusing on real food, functional medicine, and holistic health. Since 2008, he has conducted weekly interviews with the leading experts in the real health community. In 2012, he hosted the popular online Real Food Summit with presentations by Joel Salatin, Sarah Pope, Dr. Cate Shanahan, and more. He also writes and video blogs on his Underground Wellness website, and is the author of The Dark Side of Fat Loss.