Hunter Lecture Series Welcomes Will Allen Feb. 26

Urban Farming Activist, MacArthur Genius Award Winner To Spend 2 Days Here

Monday, February 18, 2013
Will Allen
Will Allen

Urban farming activist and MacArthur “Genius” award-winner, Will Allen, will be the third speaker in the 2012-2013 George T. Hunter Lecture Series on Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. at the UTC Fine Arts Center. 

As the founder and CEO of Growing Power, a two-acre urban farm in Milwaukee, Mr. Allen is transforming the cultivation, production, and delivery of healthy foods to under-served, urban populations. Growing Power produces thousands of pounds of healthy food each year for 10,000 people living in the surrounding low-income neighborhoods and provides training for residents to become community farmers.  

Mr. Allen’s new book, The Good Food Revolution: Growing Healthy Food, People, and Communities, outlines how local food systems can strengthen the health and economy of communities across the nation. His lecture will be focused on the potential of community agriculture to provide fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious food to all people, regardless of their economic circumstances.

Now in its 5th year, The George T. Hunter Lecture Series is sponsored by the Benwood Foundation and UTC.  The lecture series has provided a way for the community to engage around issues affecting the Chattanooga region. Over the past four years, speakers have included have included Doris Kearns Goodwin, Malcolm Gladwell, Mayor Cory Booker, Michelle Rhee and Michael Pollan.

“We are very excited to host Will Allen at UTC,” said UTC interim Chancellor Grady Bogue. “He is a nationally recognized leader on urban agriculture and food policy. We believe that he will bring an important perspective for our campus as an engaged metropolitan university working to build a good economy and cultural partnerships with our community.” 

After a brief career in professional basketball and a number of years in corporate marketing at Procter & Gamble, Mr. Allen returned to his roots as a farmer, using his retirement package to purchase a plot of inner-city land with greenhouses, where he established an urban farm - the non-profit organization, Growing Power.  

At Growing Power and in community food projects across the nation and around the world, Mr. Allen promotes the belief that all people, regardless of their economic circumstances, should have access to fresh, safe, affordable and nutritious foods at all times. Using methods he has developed over a lifetime, Mr. Allen trains community members to become community farmers, assuring them a secure source of good food without regard to political or economic forces. 

In 2008, Mr. Allen was named a John D. and Katherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow, a “genius grant,” only the second farmer ever to be so honored. He is also a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and in February 2010, he was invited to the White House to join First Lady Michelle Obama in launching “Let’s Move!”—her signature leadership program to reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in America. In May 2010, Time magazine named Mr. Allen to the Time 100 World’s Most Influential People.  In 2011, Mr. Allen was named one of the seven World’s Most Influential Foodies by Michael Pollan and Forbes Magazine. He received the 2012 NCAA Theodore Roosevelt award and was also honored with the NEA Security Benefit Corporation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education award in 2012 for his work with children, teachers and schools. 

As part of his time in Chattanooga, he will be touring some of the local farms, meeting with community local food advocates, and speaking with local schools and students who have gardening programs of their own. These events will be co-sponsored by Gaining Ground, an initiative of the Benwood Foundation that is focused on promoting a thriving local food economy in the Chattanooga region.

“Chattanooga has a number of projects in place to improve the availability of healthy and locally grown food in Chattanooga’s food deserts, but there is still work to be done,” said Jeff Pfitzer, director of Gaining Ground.  “We are always looking for inspiration and new ideas to improve the health of our community and Will Allen’s visit provides a great opportunity to discuss the issues and learn from an accomplished community advocate and change-agent.”

This lecture is sponsored by the Benwood Foundation in partnership with UTC. All lectures are free and open to the public, no tickets necessary. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. and doors open at 6 p.m. For more information, visit

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