Will Allen Came to Town

By Hong Chhuor, Communications Coordinator

_1110507Did you hear? Will Allen — athlete, urban farmer and MacArthur genius — was in town last month and spent a day with Seattle Tilth. It was one of the highlights of 2013! He visited the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, the 8-acre farm we manage in Rainier Valley, gave a presentation to an elementary school that we work closely with, met with local leaders over lunch and shared in a community dinner. Mr. Allen is also the founder and CEO of Milwaukee-based Growing Power, a national nonprofit that sustainably provides healthy, high-quality and affordable food for people from diverse backgrounds. See photos from the day and don’t miss the video below!

Will Allen Day 011We kicked off the day with a visit to South Shore School , the elementary school where all students regularly cultivate and harvest food from our adjacent Rainier Beach Learning Garden. Allen spoke to a full auditorium  about the importance of healthy eating and knowing where your food comes from. About ten students lined up to ask him questions and it seemed that’s when the young students really began to understand the enormous power of his message, and his impressive size did not go unnoticed.

They asked him what types of food he grows (150 varieties of vegetables, fruits, herbs and edible flowers, in case you’re curious) and though they seemed interested in hearing about his chickens, goats and sheep, there was a collective “eewww” when he told them about the “very small livestock” grown at Growing Power’s farms — can you guess? Why, worms of course — 7,000 pounds of them (we’re not sure how he came up with that number). One of the students couldn’t help but sneak in a question about basketball (rightfully so since he had a successful career in professional basketball) before we wrapped things up and headed out to the Rainier Beach Learning Garden.

Will Allen Day 008

After a quick tour of the garden with nervous student guides who knew their kale, we packed up and headed off to the Vision & Leadership Luncheon in downtown Seattle. Mr. Allen spoke with over 100 local policy makers, program partners and philanthropists. He recognized Seattle as a national leader in the healthy food movement, but reminded everyone in attendance that although there is widespread awareness of the problems we face and progress being made to address them, there’s still much work to be done — and that organizations like Seattle Tilth are leading the way and need the support from those in the room. Can’t say we’re unhappy with being put on the spot!

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With lunch out of the way, it was time to head back down to the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, where we had the chance to share everything that we’re doing and plan to do with the 8-acre  plot of land along Lake Washington with this giant in sustainable urban agriculture. Visit our website to learn more.

The evening program was probably the most memorable of the entire day. Down the street at Rainier Beach High School, students were busy building new garden beds with help from the Seattle Youth Garden Works crew. Meanwhile, the after-school cooking club led by our Community Kitchens Northwest program staff were in the kitchen preparing what ended up being a truly magnificent meal for the entire community to cap off the action-filled day.

Once everyone’s tummies were full, we had a chance to hear from some of our inspiring community partners including Rainier Beach High School principal Mr. Dwane Chappelle, Jacqueline Bolles from Tiny Tots and Harry Hoffman, from the Friends of Rainier Beach Urban Farm & Wetlands, as well as Denzel from Seattle Youth Garden Works, and a student from our after-school cooking club. They  knocked our socks off! But Mr. Will Allen was the main attraction of the evening and he rose to the occasion in fine form. “I think everyone knows good food is our medicine.” Watch the video clip below and see some of what he had to say.

Thanks to United Way of King County, JP Morgan Chase & Co. and Farmer Frog for sponsoring this event.

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