Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table

Illustrated by Eric-Shabazz Larkin

“Will believed everyone, everywhere, had a right to good food. But how could Will farm in the middle of pavement and parking lots?”

Will Allen grew up on a farm, but began to resent his agricultural lifestyle as he got older and instead chose to become a professional basketball player. After his sports career, Will took a white-collar office job in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He discovered that fresh fruit and vegetables were scarce in the city and began to long for his childhood farm again, but found it difficult to participate in any farming activities within such an urban environment. One day, Will came across six empty greenhouses for sale. He decided to buy them and turn the area into a community farm called Growing Power. Initially, the land was “dirty with chemicals and pollution,” so Will employed a composting technique involving red wiggler worms to rejuvenate the soil before planting. He filled the greenhouses with as many crops as he could and raised animals to help with production. The farm garnered lots of love and attention from the community, with many eagerly supporting the operation’s endeavors until its closure in 2017. To this day, Will travels all over the world, teaching people how to become sustainable farmers. 

Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table can serve as an excellent tool for teaching students about urban farming practices. By highlighting the real-life story of Farmer Will Allen, the book sheds light on the existence of food deserts within urban environments. Many people take food for granted, just like Will did, and reading this book can help teach about the importance of food systems and seeing where our food comes from. Will’s journey shows that farming is not just limited to rural areas but can thrive anywhere. The book introduces various farming techniques like composting, aquaponics, and pollination, which all illustrate the important role that animals have in food production. Furthermore, the book demonstrates how local farming can help foster community connections and engagement by uniting people around a common goal of sustainable food production. Will’s initiatives can inspire students by showing that anyone, regardless of age or background, can become farmers and make a positive impact on their communities and the environment.

©2024 Climate Lit (Alexandra Delacruz)


Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table is the first book of Jacqueline Briggs Martin’s Food Hero series.

Teaching Resources: 

Publisher: Readers to Eaters, 2013

Pages: 32

Lexile Score: AD620L

ISBN: 978-0983661535

Audience: Ages 4-7, Ages 8-13

Format: Biographies, Nonfiction, Picturebooks

Topics: Aquaponics, Community Garden, Composting, Food Deserts, Food Insecurity, Local Food, Pollination, Sustainability, Urban Environments, Urban Farming