*** Part Two of two ***
McArthur “genius prize” winner Will Allen spoke about his work in urban farming on a recent book tour. Here is part two, about his influence on a local non-profit.
In the audience were a number of people deeply involved in our fledgling local food movement. Among them were Melissa Contreras and Art Friedrich of Urban Oasis Project, a non-profit that plants food gardens and runs farmers markets. Their mission is clear and simple: “We believe that good, clean, healthy food should be accessible and affordable to all.”
Project founder Melissa was thrilled to hear Will Allen speak again. His message “energized me to keep moving forward with Urban Oasis Project after its first nine months” when it was just her and Art trying to get others involved. She attended a community food systems workshop at Growing Power in 2009 to learn more. “The work he was doing was so similar to what we were trying to achieve: teach people to grow some of their own food, and increase access to fresh, local produce to be eaten with a day or so after harvest,” she said.
Her commitment to Growing Power’s training didn’t stop after the workshop was over. Melissa explained, “I signed a pledge that I would come back to my community and teach others what I learned there. We have been doing that, but some of it is on hold until we have a place to call our own.”
Market manager Art said their non-profit drew from Will Allen’s work, especially in terms of food justice. Art explained, “He’s the inspiration why we started planting gardens, to create the future leaders of the local food movement, especially in neighborhoods where it’s hard to have access to fresh food. First grow community, then soil, then plants.”
And Miss Shirley, a volunteer who helps at Urban Oasis markets, was thrilled to meet Will. “He’s giving back to his people, he’s giving his time. I learned what soil was made of and how to take care of the earth. And to be grateful for what you have.”