Building a Diverse Food Web: Professional Development Training in Sustainable Community Food Systems with a focus on Appropriate Technologies for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Small Scale producers in Rural and Urban Communities

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $75,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Will Allen
Growing Power, Inc.

Information Products


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, community services, community development


    Growing Power received SARE funding during 2006 and 2007 to conduct specialized professional development training sessions at its Milwaukee Community Food Center for State Coordinators in the 12-state SARE North Central Region (NCR-SARE) and their local associates and partners. The broad outcome of the project was to improve the delivery of SARE programs to those of diverse cultures and limited economic resources. Growing Power was an appropriate vehicle to implement the project due to its extensive knowledge of sustainable agriculture techniques appropriate to disadvantaged communities and producers of color, its well-developed use of its Milwaukee facilities for professional/non-professional trainings, and its national reputation and connections to groups and organizations with similar objectives as SARE. Growing Power did not create a separate training structure for the NCR-SARE project, instead choosing to merge the SARE project execution into its core training structure of two-day weekend workshops. Actual participation in the Growing Power trainings among state SARE coordinators and educators was low, due to a number of factors. These included not enough lead time for coordinators to plan on attending, hesitancy over attending a Growing Power training during busy Spring periods, and a lack of clarity among coordinators on how their professional training was separate from the open trainings for all that were conducted simultaneously.

    Project objectives:

    Project inputs


    A primary input that Growing Power supplied to the Building a Diverse Food Web project – and to all of its training programs – is its two-acre facility on the north side of Milwaukee. This combination of restored greenhouses, new hoophouses, livestock pens, beehives and compost piles has evolved over the years, in tandem with the philosophy and methodologies that direct Growing Power’s trainings and workshops in sustainable agriculture. Essentially, understanding the techniques and philosophies being demonstrated on-site at Growing Power is a key to successful attendance at any of its trainings and workshops.

    The Growing Power facilities are, and have always been considered, a work in progress, suggesting to workshop participants that sustainable agriculture thinking must never be rigid, but open to change as new approaches are tested and developed. This idea that Growing Power’s Milwaukee facility is a testing ground for new techniques on sustainable food production made it an appropriate venue to welcome NCR-SARE coordinators and any associates they recruited to attend, and echoes their role as local educators open to conveying new ideas.

    Milwaukee’s central location within the 12-state SARE North Central region made Growing Power, in theory, accessible to representatives from across the region. In practice, however, the size of the North Central region may have made the thought of traveling hundreds of miles something of a deterrent, especially if the value of the Growing Power/SARE training were seen as limited by those coordinators who had attended a Growing Power training in the past.

    Because of the project’s emphasis on giving NCR-SARE coordinators and associates a deeper understanding of social justice and the role that racism plays within local food systems, Growing Power took advantage of America’s Black Holocaust Museum , located several miles from Growing Power, north of downtown Milwaukee. In recent years, Growing Power has leveraged its experience as a successful minority-founded and minority-led food systems organization to become a national leader in promoting the dismantling of racist thought and practice within the systems through which Americans produce and access food. To this end, Growing Power has added the promotion of inclusiveness and anti-racism to many of its training programs. The Black Holocaust Museum, and its affecting portrayal of the Black experience in the US, has been incorporated into this effort, and was utilized in the NCR-SARE trainings.


    In addition to its facilities, the other key input is the quality of Growing Power’s staff. Growing Power lacks a separate educational staff to conduct its trainings and workshops. Instead, veteran employees (including Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Will Allen) are expected to, and willingly conduct workshop segments, in addition to their daily responsibilities of building and maintaining the on-site growing systems and livestock and the facilities in general. For the NCR-SARE project, Growing Power staff welcomed project participants as part of the regular monthly workshop training structure (see below). Erika Allen, Growing Power’s Chicago Projects Manager, conducted separate training sessions on dismantling racism, sometimes in collaboration with representatives of DR Works, a national organization that designs and conducts anti-racism activities for groups and organizations.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.