By Matthew Hoekstra
Will Allen is known as a global superstar to local urban farming advocates. But the towering former pro basketball player isn’t entirely comfortable with his celebrity status.
“I was never planning to be sitting here,” he said over lunch at Terra Nova Rural Park Wednesday. “I was driving down the street, saw the for sale sign and stopped. All I wanted to do was farm.”
Allen is head of the U.S.-based Growing Power, a non-profit organization that aims to provide people with equal access to healthy, high-quality, local, affordable food. He met with organizers of Richmond Sharing Farm this week before delivering a lecture in Vancouver.
That sale sign Allen spotted is now home to a farm and community food centre in Milwaukee, Wis.
Allen said he bought the land in 1993 for “selfish reasons”—a place where he could sell product grown on his wife’s family farm that he had taken over.
But his life changed direction when young people in the neighbourhood, including kids who lived in the largest low-income public housing project in the city, asked him for help with growing their own vegetables.
He became a teacher and trainer almost overnight.
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