The following are excerpts from Will Allen’s poignant and powerful Manifesto. Click on the link above for the full text. And for more information on urban farming, Will Allen, and Growing Power, visit our Urban Farm/Gardening Page.
“For years I have argued that our food system is broken, and I have tried to teach what I believe must be done to fix it. This year, and last, we have begun seeing the unfortunate results of systemic breakdown. We have seen it in higher prices for those who can less afford to pay, in lines at local food pantries, churches and missions, and in the anxious eyes of people who have suddenly become unemployed. We have seen it, too, in nationwide outbreaks of food-borne illness in products as unlikely as spinach and peanuts.
Severe economic recession certainly has not helped matters, but the current economy is not alone to blame. This situation has been spinning toward this day for decades. And while many of my acquaintances tend to point the finger at the big agro-chemical conglomerates as villains, the fault really is with all of us who casually, willingly, even happily surrendered our rights to safe, wholesome, affordable and plentiful food in exchange for over-processed and pre-packaged convenience.
Over the past century, we allowed our agriculture to become more and more industrialized, more and more reliant on unsustainable practices, and much more distant from the source to the consumer. We have allowed corn and soybeans, grown on the finest farmland in the world, to become industrial commodities rather than foodstuffs. We have encouraged a system by which most of the green vegetables we eat come from a few hundred square miles of irrigated semi-desert in California…”
“We have to start subsidizing health and well-being by rewarding sustainable practices in agriculture and assuring a safe, adequate and wholesome food supply to all our citizens. And we need to start this reform process now, as part of the national stimulus toward economic recovery.
“…In my organization, Growing Power Inc. of Milwaukee, we have always before tried to be as self-sustaining as possible and to rely on the market for our success. Typically, I would not want to lean on government support, because part of the lesson we teach is to be self-reliant.
But these are not typical times, as we are now all too well aware…”
“…We produced a proposal for the creation of a public-private enabling institution called the Centers for Urban Agriculture. It would incorporate a national training and outreach center, a large working urban farmstead, a research and development center, a policy institute, and a state-of-the-future urban agriculture demonstration center into which all of these elements would be combined in a functioning community food system scaled to the needs of a large city.
We proposed that this working institution – not a “think tank” but a “do tank” – be based in Milwaukee, where Growing Power has already created an operating model on just two acres. But ultimately, satellite centers would become established in urban areas across the nation. Each would be the hub of a local or regional farm-to-market community food system that would provide sustainable jobs, job training, food production and food distribution to those most in need of nutritional support and security.
This proposal was forwarded in February to our highest officials at the city, state and federal level, and it was greeted with considerable approval. Unfortunately, however, it soon became clear that the way Congress had structured the stimulus package, with funds earmarked for only particular sectors of the economy, chiefly infrastructure, afforded neither our Congressional representatives nor our local leaders with the discretion to direct any significant funds to this innovative plan. It simply had not occurred to anyone that immediate and lasting job creation was plausible in a field such as community-based agriculture.
I am asking Congress today to rectify that oversight, whether by modifying the current guidelines of the Recovery Act or by designating new and dedicated funds to the development of community food systems through the creation of this national Centers for Urban Agriculture.
Our proposal budgeted the initial creation of this CUA at a minimum of $63 million over two years – a droplet compared to the billions being invested in other programs both in the stimulus plan and from year-to-year in the federal budget….”
“…If the main purpose of government is to provide for the common security of its citizens, surely ensuring the security of their food system must be among its paramount duties. And if among our rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we are denied all those rights if our cities become prisons of poverty and malnutrition.
As an African-American farmer, I am calling on the first African-American president of the United States to lead us quickly away from this deepening crisis. Demand, President Obama, that Congress and your own Administration begin without delay the process of reforming our farm and food policies. Start now by correcting the omission in your economic stimulus and recovery act that prevented significant spending on creating new and sustainable jobs for the poor in our urban centers as well as rural farm communities.
It will be an irony, certainly, but a sweet one, if millions of African-Americans whose grandparents left the farms of the South for the factories of the North, only to see those factories close, should now find fulfillment in learning once again to live close to the soil and to the food it gives to all of us.
I would hope that we can move along a continuum to make sure that all of citizens have access to the same fresh, safe, affordable good food regardless of their cultural, social or economic situation….”
Link to the full text of A Good Food Manifesto For America