Allen, who has gained national attention and earned a MacArthur Genius Grant for his community food system development, was promoting his new book “The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People and Communities.”
Host Stephen Colbert asked Allen, who was the son of a sharecropper and later became a professional basketball player and an executive at KFC and Procter & Gamble, why he chose to start Growing Power.
“Well when I left the farm at 18, I said never will I do this hard work again. All my friends weren’t farming and I was kind of stuck on the farm,” Allen said. “My vision and dream was to play basketball, get a college education and my last professional job was in Belgium.
“I went out on a farm in Belgium with one of my Belgian teammates whose family was in farming,” he said. “As soon as I touched the soil I knew it was something I had missed. I had some hidden passion for growing food.”
Colbert asked why Allen would bring farming into the city, rather than choosing a rural setting.
“For practical reasons. We have many food deserts inside of major cities. Less than 1 percent of the food is locally grown and we have a lot of people that are suffering from eating really bad food,” Allen said.
Growing Power started with a Milwaukee farm Allen purchased in 1993, which is now the international headquarters and a training location where farmers from around the globe learn about intensive urban farming. There are now 17 Growing Power training centers nationwide.
See Allen’s interview here.